By Roger (4 October 2015)
There are so many capabilities within Lightroom that it can be a bit overwhelming to new users. But the program is really pretty straight forward, if you don't let yourself get flustered by the seemingly endless options. Just learn it one feature at a time.
However, there are many tools that most photographers never put to good use. One of my favorites in that category is the Map module. We mentioned it when it was added to Lightroom, but we haven't discussed it in a couple of years. I love being able to look at the map of the world to see the locations of my photos.
Why do you need this module? Well, although it pains me to admit this, you don't. You can survive your entire photographic career and never use it. Still, for me, it is an important part of my metadata. You can find the data in the photo's EXIF readout.
I have always kept locational data on my photos, even prior to Lightroom. Since Nikon came out with the GPS-1, I have used it to input my locations directly into the camera's metadata each time I press the shutter button. Since the data is already there, when I upload my photos, I can go to the Map module, and the data is displayed, showing me where I was. There is no additional work I need to do.
When I zoom into the Map module, I can see where I spent my day, in this example, at Appomattox. I use two monitors during my Lightroom sessions, so, if I click on one of those bubbles, on my main screen, the first of the photos at that location will be displayed on my second monitor. The yellow bubble shows the location of that photo, and the orange bubbles show all the locations of the other photos within your current map window.
You can set your map display to show a street map view, satellite view, or hybrid view. The hybrid view looks like a satellite view, with many labels from the street map view. This is my preferred view.
If you don't have a GPS device to provide your locational information, you can add the information inside the map module. This comes in real handy for old photos, like this one of former President Gerald Ford and famous golfer, Arnold Palmer. This is a scanned slide from the 1980 Crosby Pro/Am Golf Tournament, in Pebble Beach, California. The GPS satellites were not even in orbit for years later. I had the information from my old 3x5 cards I kept on my negatives and slides.
To add the locational data to your photos, you need to find them in the Library module – yes, you can highlight more than one – and click into the Map module. Once you are there, you can enter a location in the dialog box (upper right), and a map will appear, with your search location centered. The Map module uses Google Maps as its source, so the data is detailed and current.
If you want the most detailed information, zoom into the map to the exact position you made the photo; highlight the photo; and right-click on that location. The dialog box to add the GPS data will appear. If you don't want to be that exact (or don't remember), you can choose a center point and use that location for all your photos from that location.
I have a smart collection to point out any photos in my databases that have no GPS information. When I have some downtime, I'll go in and catch up on the laggards. There will be some photos – especially the old family photos – where I don't even have the city data. Those photos will just never be geo-tagged. If I can't get to the proper city, I just rely on the state data I have entered in the IPTC metadata for my locations.
Should you begin to enter your GPS data? As always, that is your decision. I do because it makes this whole photography thing more enjoyable.