Microsoft Pro Photo Tools

By William LaMartin, Editor, Tampa PC Users Group
lamartin@tampabay.rr.com

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You can now record the exact location of those photos you took yesterday with your digital camera or even years ago with your film camera (and scanned into a digital file). That is, you can if you can pinpoint the location on an aerial photo. Microsoft has a new free tool named Pro Photo Tools that lets you enter meta data about an image, such as location, description, etc., in addition to any camera data that your digital camera automatically recorded, like the date and time and the camera settings. The big feature, though, is being able to write the longitude and latitude to the photo file’s header of whatever point you indicate on an online aerial or map in the program, as seen in the screen capture below.

C C Coffee Shop aerial

For those of you who work only with JPEG (.jpg) files, certainly the tool works with these files. I did a test and found that it also works with TIFF (.tif) files. Such information is stored in what is known as the header of the file, and writing this sort of information to the file does not affect the image portion of the file in any way.

The program can be downloaded at this very long URL: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=3acbe51c-9d63-48ff-9614-5f30d76061b4&DisplayLang=en. And I thank Merle Nicholson for alerting me to it.

In the screen capture above, I am adding longitude and latitude information to each of the thumbnails at the bottom. This is accomplished by first finding the general location of your images on a map by zooming in from a world map or by putting an approximate address in the search box. Since I started by geo-tagging (as this is termed) on Charters St. in New Orleans, that is the address you see there. Once in the general area of the photo site, you zoom in until you can find the exact location you want. Sometimes switching to “Bird’s eye” view will help in locating a particular building. Once you have the location for a particular thumbnail image, you right-click on the image and tell the program to set the GPS location for that image. It will put the red pushpin in the center of the map, and you can then position it more exactly where you want. Do this for each of the thumbnails (if you can find their locations) and then save the results and you are ready to geo-tag another batch of images.

The image I have tagged above is of the C C Coffee Shop at the intersection of Royal and St. Phillip in the French Quarter, New Orleans, La.

You might recall that I did something similar a couple of years back when I wrote an article about using a program I created for my PocketPC to record the longitude and latitude each time I took a photo. I then used that data to create a map in Microsoft Streets and Trips. The article with an accompanying map is at http://www.tpcug.org/newsletter/nl_2006/June2006/photography_GPS_programming.htm. Unfortunately I have misplaced the data used to do that, since it would be a great aid in finding map locations if I want to geo-tag those images.

What we are doing with Pro Photo Tools is different. The photos have already been taken, and we are then finding their position on a map and having the Pro Photo Tools program write that information to the files header.

So, what can we do with information? Well, we can create a map with a bunch of pushpins on it that records the locations of certain photos. I have done that for about 50 of the photos I have taken around my neighborhood in Tampa. The result is at http://www.oldhydeparkfl.org/HydeParkVirtualEarth/HPVEMap.htm. If you hover your mouse over a pin, it will provide you with information about the photo (just a description, time and date of the photograph, along with a little blue link to click on to see the image). A small section of that aerial is shown below.

Hyde Park Map with pins

This sort of aerial map is not part of Pro Photo Tools. To create such a map, you need to use Microsoft’s Virtual Earth Map Control 6.1 (http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb429619.aspx). And, here comes the big thing—you need to be able to retrieve the GPS information from each of the photos you want to use. Of course, you could use the Pro Photo Tools to open each image and copy its longitude and latitude and, if you wanted them, the date and time. This could get old fast. So, I wrote a program to extract such information for all such images in a folder and put the information into an xml file in the form that Virtual Earth likes to find it. Below is what the entry for one particular image would look like:

<item>

<link>http://www.oldhydeparkfl.org/HydeParkVirtualEarth/images/DSC_0567.jpg</link>
<title>Spiral stairs on Inman</title>
<description>Photo taken: 2004-05-08T15:34:21.80-04:00</description>
<geo:long>-82.4719673395157</geo:long>
<lt;geo:lat>27.9360691931094</geo:lat>

</item>

If you view the source code for the page in question, you can see the JavaScript that produces the map. This uses Microsoft’s map control. A similar thing could be done using the mapping ability provided by Google. Google and Microsoft are competing in mapping. I like the Street View that Google has for some cities like Tampa, and I like the Bird’s Eye View that Microsoft has for even more cities. And both allow you to customize their maps that you put at your web sites.

Get Microsoft’s Pro Photo Tools and start geo-tagging.

Using this program got me to thinking. Possibly I could create a web-based application that would allow you to locate a place on a Microsoft Virtual Earth map, select it, say, with a double-click, so that its latitude and longitude are recorded, enter some sort of description in a text box, and, at the press of a button, store this data in a database. Then I would create a companion program to open the database and put pushpins at all the locations you had geo-tagged such that when you hovered over a pin with your mouse, the description would be displayed. Think of it sort of as a display of all the places in the world of special interest to you for some reason. u