Published on July 20th, 2012 | by Matthew Murray5
Mapping geotagged smartphone photos with Flickr
How cool would it be to have smartphone photos taken by the public popping up on a map as an event happens in your town?
In this post I will look at how you can set up a Flickr account to accept geotagged photos by email straight from that amazing device sitting in your pocket – your smartphone.
Why map geotagged photos?
Let’s have a look at a few uses for mapping geotagged photos.
- During an event such as a festival, you could encourage users to email in their photos from different venues across your town.
- During an extreme weather event such as flooding, storms or snow, you could use the map of geotagged photos to give situational awareness to your team to see what’s going on where.
- You could use it on an ongoing basis to map the public’s favourite places in your region.
- You could use it on an ongoing basis as a way for people to report problems such as graffiti or illegal waste.
It’s worth noting that people sending in photos do not need a Flickr account, just an iPhone / Android / Blackberry / Windows phone with the ability to geotag photos and send an email.
Sound cool? It’s easier than you think. Let’s crack on!
1) Set up your Flickr account
The first thing you need is a Flickr account.
If you already have a Flickr account for your organisation, you will probably want to set up a new one for your project.
Each Yahoo! ID can only have one Flickr account, so you will need to set up a new Yahoo! ID and Flickr screen name. This is the most tedious part of the entire process. Make note of the details as it’s easy to forget them.
2) Check your account settings
Once all that is set up, to enable geotagged photos to be emailed to your Flickr photostream, you will need to change some of Flickr’s default settings. To access these settings, click your Flickr screen name at the top of the window or click You – Your account.
On the ‘Privacy & Permissions’ tab, scroll down to the ‘Defaults for new uploads’ heading and click on the edit link next to ‘Who will be able to see your stuff on a map‘. This takes you to the Geo Preferences page, choose Anyone (recommended).
Beware that any photos you upload with geotags from now on will show on the map, so be very careful not to take any photos near your house unless you want people to know where you live.
Return to your account page and click on the edit link for ‘Import EXIF location data‘. Change it to yes.
Custom web address
While you’re on the account settings page, you may as well grab your own custom web address – http://www.flickr.com/photos/[your-organisation/project-name]. This URL can be the same as your Flickr screen name or something different, depending on name availability.
Flickr upload email address
Back on your account page, click on the ‘Emails & Notifications’ tab. There is a heading on this page called ‘Upload by Email options’. Click on the ‘Create an upload-to-flickr email address‘ link. This generates a randomly created Flickr upload email address (see below).
The email address that I’ve been given is every80care@ photos.flickr.com.
If you don’t like the sound of the Flickr upload email address you’ve been given, you can reset it to another randomly generated address, though they’re all fairly similar.
If you don’t like the idea of people using the randomly generated Flickr upload email address, you can set up an account at your organisation to auto-forward all emails to it instead.
Ask your IT techs to create an email address such as firstname.lastname@example.org/.au/.uk which has an automatic re-direct to the upload-to-flickr email address above.
Ask them to disable any disclaimer notices that are added to outbound mail as these will show up in the description field on your photo.
3) Smartphone settings
Steps 3 and 4 are the parts of the process you will need to tell the public / staff / volunteers.
Enable location services on your phone and for your camera app.
Take a photo.
4) Email your photo to Flickr
Select your photo from your photo album and email it to your upload-to-flickr email address.
The subject of the email becomes the photo’s title. The body of the email becomes the photo’s description.
5) Check your photostream
Your photo should appear within a few minutes.
When it appears, click on it. On the right hand side a map will show where you took the photo.
6) Manually adding geotag data to photos and videos
If you don’t see a map in step 5 above, but see a link saying ‘Add this photo to your map’, you didn’t enable location services on your phone so Flickr can’t pick up the location. This is easy to fix though as you can add a location using the Flickr interface.
Click on the link and you can then search for your location and drag the photo to the correct place on the map.
You can use hybrid or satellite views while doing this, see below.
7) Try it out!
If you’d like to try it out without all the hassle of setting up a new Yahoo / Flickr account, here’s what you can do.
- Make sure location services are enabled on your phone – both for your phone and for the camera app you use.
- Take a photo.
- Attach it to a new email on your phone.
- Put the image title in the subject box and add your name and / or a description to the body of the email.
- Send it to every80care@ photos.flickr.com
- Wait for a minute or two and check if it’s appeared in the photostream http://www.flickr.com/photos/matthewmurrayblog/
- If it has, then have a look at the map http://www.flickr.com/photos/matthewmurrayblog/map/. I’ve emailed some iPhone photos from Australia, Singapore and the UK to this photostream, so you will need to zoom in or use the filmstrip images in the bottom left hand corner to find your photo.
- If it appears in the photostream, but not on the map, the photo hasn’t been geotagged i.e. location services weren’t turned on when you took the photo. With your own map you can fix this by adding it to your map manually (see step 6), though when you send it to someone else’s photostream, you can’t.
GEORSS and KML feeds
The fun doesn’t end there. Flickr has some amazing functionality available out of the box, including automatically spitting out GEORSS and KML feeds of your geotagged photos.
To find the links to these feeds, click You – Your photostream. Below the first page of photos are small links to geoFeed and KML.
You could ask the GIS specialist in your organisation to link your corporate GIS system to the Flickr geoFeed. This means that the data can be displayed on your corporate maps as a new layer. Linking to the feed ensures that new photos added to the Flickr photostream will be included.
KML files can be downloaded and used in mapping tools such as Google Places and Google Earth. Once the file is downloaded though, it is a static version of the data and does not update automatically once new photos are added.
Hope you enjoyed this post, let me know if you have any questions or if you are going to try this out at your organisation.