Tutorial – How to Use the Lightroom Map Module

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The Lightroom Map Module lets you add your photos to a map so you can search and organize them by location. It’s quite a cool feature, so let’s take a look at the best ways to make use of it.

1. Using the Lightroom Map module if your camera has built-in GPS

Photos taken with a camera or mobile that has built-in GPS are the easiest to work with in the Lightroom Map module. As long as GPS is enabled, the camera saves the exact location an image was shot in the photo’s EXIF data. Lightroom reads the data when you import the photos and automatically adds them to the map.

For example, I made this photo using an iPhone SE.

Lightroom map module

Lightroom automatically reads the GPS coordinates embedded in the photo’s EXIF data. The yellow square marks the spot where the photo in the filmstrip was taken.

Lightroom map module

Note: Lightroom uses Google maps and an internet connection is required for the Map module to work.

2. If you have a secondary GPS unit

Some camera manufacturers make GPS units that you can connect to the camera body. If you have one of these it does exactly the same as a built-in GPS unit. It embeds the camera’s coordinates in the EXIF data of your images. That data is then read by Lightroom when you import the photos.

3. If you have an app or sports device that records your movements in a GPS file

Most mobile phones have built-in GPS. You can download apps that record your route and let you export that information in a GPS tracklog (extension type .gpx) file that you can import into Lightroom. Some fitness devices like sports watches and fitness bands have the same functionality.

The effectiveness of this depends on how often the app or device records your location. If your camera has built-in GPS, for example, the location of the camera is always recorded accurately as the camera takes a GPS reading when you press the shutter.

When you use an app to do so, the app doesn’t record your location continuously. Instead, it takes a reading every few seconds. This creates a set of dots that can be joined together to show your approximate route. It’s how apps that record walking routes or running times work. That means that you can’t rely on this method for pinpoint precision, but it does help you with an approximate location.

The screenshot below shows a series of photos taken on a Canon camera that does not have GPS. The location information came from a .gpx file generated by a tracking app on my phone.

Lightroom map module

4. If your camera doesn’t have GPS but your mobile phone does

Here’s an easy method to add GPS data to your photos if you have a mobile phone with built-in GPS. All you have to do, whenever you take a photo with your camera, is remember to take an additional photo with your mobile phone. You can import these into Lightroom and add them to the same Collection. Once you have done so, simply drag the photos taken with your camera, those without GPS data, to the locations on the map indicated by the photos that do have GPS data (those taken with your phone).

Here’s a landscape photo I took in northern Spain.

Lightroom map module

Here’s another that I took with my mobile phone.

Lightroom map module

This screenshot shows exactly where I took the photo with my mobile phone.

Lightroom map module

The other photo in the Collection was made with my Fujifilm X-T1 camera, which doesn’t have GPS. I added location data to the Fuji image by dragging it onto the icon representing the location of the photo taken with my mobile phone at the same spot. The yellow icon now displays the number 2 to indicate that there are two photos in that location with the same GPS coordinates, as seen in the Lightroom Map Module below.

Lightroom map module

Lightroom automatically adds the GPS coordinates to the photo’s EXIF data.

Lightroom map module

This method requires the most effort and relies on you to remember to take a photo with your phone whenever you take one with your camera. This isn’t always practical and is most suited for landscape photography, where you have the time to take an additional photo with a mobile phone.

Conclusion

The Lightroom Map module is an often under-utilized but surprisingly useful tool. Using these ideas you can add Gcoordinatestes to any photo, even those taken by a camera without GPS. In years to come, you can find out exactly where your photos were taken, even if you can’t remember. It makes revisiting your favorite locations a much easier and more enjoyable task.

Do you have any questions about the Lightroom Map Module? Please let me know in the comments below.


Would you like to learn about Lightroom’s under-appreciated features? Then check out my Mastering Lightrooom ebooks and start getting more out of Lightroom now.

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Andrew S. Gibson is a writer, photographer, traveler and workshop leader. He's an experienced teacher who enjoys helping people learn about photography and Lightroom. Enroll in his new Lightroom course for free, or download his free Creative Fade Presets for Lightroom.

  • Richard Doktor

    I have an 700D and no GPS integrated, but practicing a solution after reading about using the iOS App MotionX-GPS. Simply start the App before shooting and stop it afterwards. Export the data and use it in Lightroom (“Load Tracklog”) to tag the photos with the recorded GPS data. I find it quite reliable and the tracking data is sufficient for this kind of task.

  • If you have an Android, check out Handy GPS. Start it before shooting, and import the tracklog and match it with the Lightroom library using the jf Geocoding plugin. Works perfectly.

  • Thanks for the tip. I’ll check out the jf Geocoding plugin too.

  • That sounds like a great app to use with the Map module. I’m going to try it out.

  • Richard Doktor

    If this app is used (almost) exclusively for this kind of task, there is the possibility to set it up to send the tracklog automatically per email after it is saved to the device. This way, when coming home, it should be already in the inbox. This also makes an great backup in case of an accidentally deleting (or other accident) of the tracklog on the device.

  • Thijs

    I use gps4cam for a few years now, and this works great for me: it generates a QR code with location info on your mobile phone. You take a picture of that QR code with your SLR and the desktop software adds the location info to your photo’s.

  • Arthur_P_Dent

    Have you considered using the sync metadata function to copy the phone photo’s GPS data to the other photo?

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  • Russell

    I think it is important to note that if you don’t have the data recorded at the time of the shoot, you can still load the map module and Ctrl-Click or Cmd-Click on the map to geotag a photo or selection of photos. It’s quick and easy, and sometimes more accurate than the camera’s GPS data.

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  • That’s another way of doing it. Good tip!

  • That’s right, if you know the location where the photos were taken you can add the GPS co-ordinates that way.

  • Sounds interesting, will take a look.

  • The purpose of the Map module is to locate where you took a photo. Today most of the camera or phone/camera have GPS data for each photo, which makes it easy for Lightroom to tell you where your photo was taken. It is a way to organize your photos.

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