HoudahGeo 6 review: Mac geotagging app now plays nice with Apple Photos

Add geotags to photos shot using DSLR cameras without built-in GPS hardware, or edit geotag information embedded in existing digital photos.

Credit: Houdah Software

No matter how many cameras get added to future iPhones, Apple is unlikely to ever match the quality of images captured by a true single-lens reflex (SLR) camera. With the market for point-and-shoot cameras demolished, smartphones have been deemed good enough for most, while enthusiasts and pros will always hold out for optical image sensors and interchangeable lenses.

One downside is that most affordable digital SLRs ship without built-in GPS, making it more of a headache than it should be to add accurate geolocation metadata to photos taken with such cameras.

HoudahGeo is a Mac app for adding, editing, or removing GPS metadata from digital photos, including those taken with DSLR cameras that lack the ability to capture latitude, longitude, and altitude data on their own. This can be done manually by searching for a known address, landmark, or city, using reference photos taken with a GPS-enabled smartphone, or importing geographic data from a mobile app or hardware track logger.

houdahgeo 6 process mode IDG

Whether importing scanned prints or those taken from a DSLR without GPS, HoudahGeo 6 makes it easy to geocode digital photos.

Although dedicated GPS track loggers provide the most accurate results, they run upwards of $100 or more, but I’ve had remarkably good luck using HoudahGeo with other methods too. On a recent family nature hike through a remote area where getting accurate results from a manual search wouldn’t work, we enlisted a slick iPhone app called Geotag Photos Pro 2 to log our journey. (The first three trips are free.)

When the hike was over, the resulting GPX file was AirDropped to an iMac, then imported into HoudahGeo 6 alongside images from a Canon Rebel T3i DSLR. After confirming the current camera time (an important step for automatic geocoding), the software matched existing timestamps in the JPEG files against our track log and we were able to quickly add new EXIF metadata to the original files. (If you don’t want to modify camera originals, there’s an option to make copies instead.)

houdahgeo 6 export metadata IDG

HoudahGeo 6 extracts more metadata from Apple libraries, so iPhoto and Aperture users can easily migrate to newer software.

After importing the geotagged DSLR files into Apple Photos, everything fell right into place in sequential order alongside other images taken during the same hike with an iPhone 11 Pro Max and iPhone 7 Plus. The whole process was quick and easy, but by this point the lack of a companion iOS app for capturing track logs (or even a full mobile edition of HoudahGeo) really feels like a lost opportunity.

Image browser

With the release of version 6.0, HoudahGeo finally plays nice with Apple Photos, while continuing to support aging applications iPhoto, Aperture, and Adobe Lightroom Classic as well. (Pro tip: You can now import even more metadata from Apple libraries and write them to EXIF/XMP, which comes in handy for migrating to newer software.) The previous version of HoudahGeo required geocoding images prior to importing into Photos, but thankfully that is no longer the case.

That’s because your Photos library now appears on the sidebar in Load mode (slowly in many cases), so you can drag and drop one or more images from the media browser for processing. Import a track log file from disk or connected GPS logger, geocode images in Process mode, switch to Output mode and click Notify Photos Library from the toolbar. Changes made to your library images will then be reflected in Apple Photos without modifying the original files.

houdahgeo 6 load mode IDG

Your Apple Photos library now shows up in the sidebar for easy drag-and-drop when loading images for geotagging.

HoudahGeo 6 also now taps into Apple Maps, a huge improvement over previous versions which relied on buggy and often unreliable open source map data. Not only do map, satellite, and hybrid views look better than ever, they’re also more detailed and attractive, too.

Other small but welcome features: JPEG+RAW pairs are finally treated as a single photo, while weather (ambient temperature, humidity, air pressure) and water depth data is now supported via manual entry or from imported KESTREL and UDDF log files, a welcome addition for nature lovers and scuba divers alike. This version also checks off the feature most-requested by users: An option to select the time zone when writing times to EXIF or XMP.

houdahgeo 6 satellite view IDG

HoudahGeo 6 now includes support for Apple Maps, so satellite views look more beautiful and detailed than ever.

Bottom line

HoudahGeo 6 finally plays nice with your Apple Photos library while delivering plenty of other improvements like Apple Maps support and more geocoding data, but where’s the mobile companion app?

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J.R. Bookwalter

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