I am increasingly drawn to geotagging. GPS is standard on all smartphones / tablets and is appearing on dedicated cameras too. It’s obviously the way forward and it allows us to use a map view of locations to visualise and access our photos in a new, graphical and intuitive way.
In this post I will talk about the geotagging capabilities of Daminion and Photo Station and how far they integrate with each other.
And because this is a long post, the summary table is presented here. You have a choice to make! After the summary table you can read on for:
- A workflow to support the recommended approach
- A detailed explanation of my recommendations
Daminion and Photo Station Geotagging Options and Recommendations
The structured view of ‘Place’ with Country, Region, City and Location looks like a tired and out-of-date approach when geotagging and a map display can give so much more precision as well as a visualisation capability that goes way beyond words. A map view with locator pins and a zoom capability gives you all the categorisation that you need, doesn’t it?
Well yes, when the library is hosted on a NAS drive it’s an obvious way to present your library, but because we’re using a NAS not a Windows server, Daminion’s Map View (above) is only available in the PC client. But Daminion’s map view is still my preferred approach.
Photo Station Map View
So how does Photo Station’s map view compare? Can it be used instead?
Well it’s no surprise that it looks very similar. It lacks the ‘number of photos’ indicator that Daminion’s has but that’s about all. On the face of it there seemed to be no reason NOT to use it.
To find out I how it performed I did something that I had previously avoided due to the perceived effort involved – I geotagged my library. I started to do this in Daminion but soon discovered that Photo Station will only provide location labels for geotags applied through its own geolocation feature and, unlike Daminion, labels are mandatory. This meant that while it would display locator pins on its map, it would not create any entries in the Location Tag page.
I switched to Photo Station’s geotag feature. Tagging took less effort than I had anticipated because I was able to use my Daminion Places keyword tags to group photos by location.
There’s a saying, “The devil is in the detail,” and I am sorry to say that is how it turned out as I dug deeper into Photo Station’s geotagging.’
- Search results are often inaccurate, difficult to find or badly labelled.
- The result is often close but not exactly where you want to be.
- The results are heavily weighted towards:
- US locations
- Business locations
- Recognition of previously used locations is very patchy. It’s bizarre, but if you type too much of a known location’s name Photo Station fails to find the previously located place, even when you type accurately. Remove some characters and a match is found. In this case it seems less really is more.
- There is no ability to fine tune a search result – you cannot move the geolocator to your preferred place.
- The label attached to the search result is uneditable at the point of creation and normally is not what you want to see in your library. For example, I searched for and got a match to a UK postcode and the postcode became the label. You can change the label after the event in Settings > Photos> Manage Tags but that is not intuitive.
Because of Photo Station’s Map View limitations the easier way to view geotagged photos is through the Smart Album > Location Tag. You still have to apply the geotags by searching on the map but you view them via labels and thumbnails (which is why the labels need to be better than the search results give).
Rendering the pages takes time and there’s no caching so moving backward and forwards through the pages always takes time. This could be improved dramatically if the geotag labels were structured Country > Region > City > Location. This is the information in the Place metadata in Daminion. What a shame they can’t be linked in some way.
However, all those issues can be tolerated or have workarounds. Unfortunately there’s a bigger issue – the Photo Station Map is a hidden feature, only accessible in the Album views. If you are in any of the Smart Albums you cannot access a map view.
Note -15th Mar 2017: The previous Photo Station Map View limitation of 5,000 images no longer applies.
Daminion’s Map View
Daminion’s Map View functionality is far superior in some areas:
- You can fine tune search results to precisely where you want them.
- You can link a GPS coordinate to a Daminion Place if you want (but remember, Photo Station doesn’t recognise that tag.)
- You can view all your images – there’s no limit.
- You can choose from several mapping services
But, and it’s a big BUT, for Photo Station users, Daminion’s map view is not visible. Only Daminion desktop users can view it.
A Fusion of Geotags and Daminion Place
Along with others on the Daminion forum, I believe that as the technology has moved on, a fresh approach is required to geotags and Place. These classes of metadata are completely complementary and should be seamless.
Instead of users having to manually maintain structured Place entries, the information could be derived automatically from the GPS coordinates and assigned to the Place metadata. Satnav systems do this the other way round all the time. You enter a city, street, number and it derives the GPS location. Why can’t that be done in reverse?
If I tag an image or group of images with a location from the Place tags, any geotag assigned to the location should automatically be assigned to the image(s). To support Photo Station’s approach to keywords we would need the option to auto-build the Place structure in a keyword group. Any new entries in the Daminion tags would be treated as an unapproved tag, as they are today.
That way the effort of manually maintaining the structured Place metadata could be almost eliminated, and when a geotag is already attached to a location, the effort of searching a map to obtain the geotag could also be eliminated.
This approach is not without its own issues. For example what happens to extremely close locations?
Example 1: The GPS coordinates at the end of my back garden and the front of my driveway will be different, but they all refer to a common Place location – my home address.
Example 2: I live close to Hadrian’s Wall which has about ten visitor sites along its length. Some of those sites are big and as I move around taking photos the GPS coordinates will change. But I need all those images grouped under a single location. When I drive half a mile down the road to another site I expect there to be a new group.
Both those examples have a common solution. One location entry in ‘Place‘ needs to be able to record multiple GPS coordinates. That would have to be a manual process because I can’t see a way in which an app could decide which nearby GPS coordinates represent a common location.
But there’s a further challenge – Photo Station users cannot use the dedicated Place tag. We have to use a Place Keyword Group instead so we would need to be able to carry out all our geotag to place connections there instead!
Place taken versus Subject Location
As I mentioned earlier, you cannot adjust the tag point offered by the Photo Station. And there’s another situation where you might need to adjust a geolocation – from the location where the photo was taken to the subject’s location.
This is important when you are taking photos of subjects from a distance – you may be miles away when you take a photo of a mountain. Well, that’s my opinion – others believe that you should use the camera location so that you can return to the same place to retake the photo. Others say that there may be several subjects. And if you take a photo of the moon, what is its geolocation?
I take a practical view that as owner of the photos, it is my choice:
- Whether to geolocate by camera or by subject depending on the image content.
- To decide what the main subject is.
- And if I take a picture of an object in the sky I will geotag using the camera location.
According to Phil Harvey, the author of ExifTool (which I will talk about in a later post):
“The new IPTC for XMP extension adds GPS tags for both LocationCreated and LocationShown. Presumably the former is for the camera and the latter is the subject.”
We will have to see how / if Daminion and Synology implement the new geotags. For now the answer is to geotag manually using your own definition of locations
Update: Since this article was written, Synology have launched a new photo app called Moments.
If you decide to use Synology Moments instead of Photo Station (see this article for the reasons for and against using Moments) you will find that it assumes that all images have GPS coordinates when they are loaded into the app. There are NO facilities to add missing GPS coordinates in Moments – you will need to use Daminion to do that.
If you have any questions, comments, ideas or suggestions please post them in the Daminion User Forum