Lightroom: Display GPS coordinates with more precision

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This conversation has been merged. Please reference the main conversation: Lightroom: Metadata panel shows GPS coordinates incorrectly rounded to nearest second

For those, such as biologists, who also use LR to keep precise GPS data associated with specific photographs (which is such a helpful feature), ensuring that LR maintains the original precision of the data entered would be a very desirable upgrade.

I recently obtained excellent help from Victoria Bampton ( in figuring out how to manually enter GPS coordinates into LR, which I now use for the very specific reason mentioned above. Therefore, precision of the data is of utmost importance. However, in the process of then entering my data I have noticed three things in LR:
1) Lightroom actually rounds up the coordinates after they are entered before accepting them; 45o49'05.5''N77o00'52.9''W therefore actually becomes 45o49'6''N77o00'53''W. So that's a small loss in precision.

2) It's possible to convert coordinates to the degrees-decimals format (45o49'05.5''N77o00'52.9''W therefore becomes 45.81819N-77.01469) and Lightroom will accept them as well. However, it will not keep them recorded in degrees decimals, but convert them back to degrees-minutes-seconds, and round them up again in the process, still loosing precision.

3) Interestingly enough, it rounds them slightly differently and the result is now 45o49'5''N77o00'53''W. A very minor difference, but still.

I don't know if geotagging data that is associated in LR with photographs with the many available apps also gets rounded that way, but I would certainly suggest an update in LR that ensure that any coordinates entered, either manually or through geotagging applications or other means, retain the original precision with which they were entered in LR, whatever that precision is, without any rounding applied.

Adobe, through the addition of GPS data to Lightroom, has knowingly or unknowingly, created an incredible tool that goes far beyond remembering where a picture was taken an seeing it on a map. And I'm certain that there are many other groups, other than biologists, that also see in this function a godsend in being able to keep precise data associated with pictures, in something as user-friendly as the metadata interface in Lightroom, and use it directly without having to use other applications.

Best regards.
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David Rodrigue

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Posted 8 years ago

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John R. Ellis, Champion

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See this similar request:

LR is actually storing the lat/long with more precision and rounding it only for display. (Use Exiftool to examine the photo's metadata.) So you can at least be confident that what you enter will be stored properly in the photo's metadata.

Here's what happens when you input with fractional seconds:

Input to LR: 45o49'05.5''N77o00'52.9''W
Displayed in LR: 45°49'6" N 77°0'53" W
Stored in metadata: 45 deg 49' 5.50" N, 77 deg 0' 52.90" W

The stored lat/long hasn't lost precision.

If you use fractional degrees with one more digit of precision than what you used, then what gets stored is also precise:

Input to LR: 45.818194N 77.014694W
Displayed in LR: 45°49'5" N 77°0'53" W
Stored in metadata: 45 deg 49' 5.50" N, 77 deg 0' 52.90" W

LR still rounds the lat down to 5" on display rather than up to 6". Most likely this is because the stored seconds are probably closer to 5.499999", so if you round that to hundreds of a second (as Exiftool does), it becomes 5.50, but if you round it to seconds, it becomes 5".
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J Brunk

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In LR 4.1, the only way the GPS data appears to be displayed in degrees, minutes and seconds. This has the problem of being too large to depict close photos. At 40°, one second of latitude is 30.8 m while 1 second of longitude is 23.3m. It appears that the format is rounded since any attempt to enter decimal minutes or decimal seconds reverts to the DMS display.

Is the geo-location data kept in a more precise format internally?

Is there a way to display the GPS data in other formats? It was possible in LR3. Decimal Minutes with 3 decimal places is 6 feet latitude and 4.6 feet longitude at 40°. Decimal seconds with 1 decimal is 10.1 feet latitude and 7.7 feet longitude at 40°. All of these formats are better than commercial GPS accuracy.


This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled
LR4.1 GPS data format is too large.
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Chris Packrat

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This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled Lightroom: please display precise GPS coordinates.

By default, LR 4.1rc2 appears to display GPS coordinates :

- only in D°M'S" format; it would be nice to be able to toggle between various display modes (at least D.DDDDD°, and D°M.MMM'). No need for a PhD in mathematics.

- with limited precision (no decimals) although the info is indeed in the metadata internals; would be nice to display decimals too.
No need for displaying the tenth decimal: rounding the values to 0.1 second should do the job, it's about 3 meters in any direction - a precision standard GPS now routinely achieve and which has some use.
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Fredrick Orkin

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This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled GPS data format inaccurate.

Bottom line
1. LR takes the GPS data (residing in the image's metadata) & (at least in the case of Nikon-derived data) changes the format of that GPS data; and,
2. Much to my annoyance, as part of the data-format conversion, LR renders that Nikon-derived GPS data with less precision.

I spend half of my time in a New Hampshire lakeside community ( which is very protective of its lake, lest invasive vegetation turn it into a swamp. Among multiple relevant initiatives, we do a decennial lake survey: A team inspects the shoreline from a boat, collecting vegetation specimens, making observations, photographing, & recording clock time & GPS coordinates.

I was the photographer in the team this summer: I used a Nikon D810 with Nikon's GPS accessory (GP-1). Here is typical set of GPS coordinates visible on the camera's screen:
N 43 30.954; W 72 06.862.
However, once that image is imported into LR, its GPS data (as viewed in LR's metadata panel) has undergone a seemingly unimportant format conversion:
N 43 deg 30'57"; W 72 deg 06'52".
Most photographers will not care about this data conversion, since they are likely interested only in the mapping application. Also, their capture sites are probably much more dispersed.

Why do I care? Our lake-survey project involves hundreds of images captured from locations that are not terribly far from each other. When I perused the images in LR, it became apparent that a fair number of lake locations had the same GPS coordinates. However, when I put the memory cards back into the camera, to read the GPS coordinates, it was clear that, among images with the same GPS coordinates in LR, there were differences in the third decimal point. As a result, fewer images had the same GPS coordinates when data were review in the camera.

Thus, coincident with the LR-derived GPS data-format conversion, the GPS data loses precision, at least in terms of data values that are displayed. Although it is quite likely that if LR displayed the 'second' value with a decimal (e.g., 30'57.2), the same precision in the location would exist; however, the typical LR user cannot view or benefit from that greater precision. (BTW: Many handheld GPS devices display GPS data in the same, higher-precision format as my Nikon camera.)
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John R. Ellis, Champion

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As described above, LR is storing the full-precision coordinates in the catalog but rounding to lower precision for display:

If you export one of the photos and then examine its metadata, you should see the full-precision coordinates.

It sure would be nice if LR displayed full precision (and also provided the option for decimal-degrees formatting).
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Jim Elder

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This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled LR: Is there a way to view the full GPS coordinate as stored in the metadata?.

LR5 appears to display GPS data only at partial resolution, eg., degree.minute.second. Why not display all the data??

A 'second' of latitude has a resolution of only about 30 m (100 ft), yet the GPS location stored in the photo's metadata has higher resolution, typically about 3 m (10 ft) -- but full resolution is not displayed, as far as I can tell, even though it is in the metadata.

Is there a way to display the full GPS information?

My goal is to be able to copy-and-paste the GPS location information from a photo being displayed in LR to another application. Right now, the best I can do (I think) is display the 'Location' metadata panel, highlight the 'GPS' field to select it, copy, and then paste in another application -- but all I get is part of the GPS information, only -- I don't get all the precise, full GPS info from the photo's metadata.

Also, I'd like to be able to get it in decimal format (eg., dd.dddddd) or UTM; are either of those possible using LR5?

Is there a way to copy the full GPS info of a photo from LR5?
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Others have addressed the precision of GPS data stored in Lightroom, but I think an additional point is that it's possible to export GPS coordinates from Lightroom in both degrees/minutes/decimal seconds and decimal degrees (dd.dddddd). 

e.g. using the LR/Transporter plugin to export metadata, Lightroom yields both the following for an image file from Thailand:
Location 9°39'26.82" N 99°39'58.23" E
LongLat 99.666175 9.65745

I've used this method to export the locations for large sets of ecological field survey photographs, but I imagine there must be other plugins and ways to do this.
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Alan Harper

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This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled Can Lightroom show GPS coordinates in decimal degrees?.

It would be very useful if Lightroom could display the latitude and longitude of photos in (a) degrees-minutes-seconds, as it does now, (b) degrees and decimal minutes, and (c) decimal degrees. Unfortunately, all three are in general use, and there are good reasons to favor one over another in different situations. This could be a preference, and change both the value shown in the metadata panel, as well as the values exported when latitude or longitude is included in the file name.

And I suspect that most of Lightroom's users outside of the antiquarian United States would love to show altitude in meters and not feet.
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Alan Harper

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I'm not sure if your complaint is addressed to me, but l did not merge these comments. Someone else, with higher authority, did this. You will see many complaints in other posts about inappropriate merging, but I think in this case, it was done for good reasons.

If you look the exiftool documentation and wikipedia you will see that the latitude and longitude are stored in the file (and, hence, I assume in the Lightroom database) as one hundredths of a second (or about ±0.000003°), while decimal degrees are usually displayed to ±0.00001°). So your questions about Lightroom's accuracy are not about what it is storing, but what it is displaying.

If you really care about this, I would download exiftool and experiment to see if you can get Lightroom to enter lat/lon to the accuracy you need, and then think about using other means to display it when you need it. While Lightroom only displays locations to ±1”, it is almost certainly keeping more digits of precision in the photo.
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John R. Ellis, Champion

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LR stores latitude/longitude internally as degrees, using 64-bit floating-point numbers.  This provides precision of +/- 1 x 10^-12 degrees, about six orders of magnitude more than the precision allowed in the EXIF standard.  LR completely preserves the precision of EXIF coordinates, and it preserves the precision of coordinates entered in the Metadata panel (up to +/- 1 x 10^-12). As you reinforce, the problem is with LR's display of coordinates.
(By the way, the Show Catalog Metadata plugin displays all the internal photo metadata stored in the catalog that's available to plugins.)
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John R. Ellis, Champion

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"And I suspect that most of Lightroom's users outside of the antiquarian United States would love to show altitude in meters and not feet."

LR gets this right.  On Mac, it uses the setting in System Preferences > Language & Region > Advanced > Measurement Units to determine whether to use English or metric units.  On Windows, it uses Windows Settings > Time & Language > Additional Date, Time, & Regional Settings > Change Date, Time or Number Formats > Formats > Additional Settings > Numbers > Measurement System (whew!).
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Bob Trlin

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Off topic, I know but you should know that in the entire world there are only three countries that do not use metric units.  They are Burma, Liberia and the good old USA.  At the same time, the US military, aerospace and auto industry are entirely metric.  Go figure!
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Alan Harper

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Hi John

While Lightroom might record internal numbers at very high precision, based on the Wikipedia article I cited above, lat/lon in the file are encoded as a triplet of three rational numbers. A rational number is a ratio of two integers (16 bit, I believe). However, looking at the example given, I think the divisors of the three numbers are, by convention, 1, 1, and 100. This allows precion to 1/100 seconds, or, approximately, decimeters.

I really enjoy your comments here.

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Alan Harper

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My request was merged into this thread. While my request is not relevant to the original question, it is similar to some of the follow-up questions (which I didn't see when I searched before posting), so that is probably a good thing.

To respond to Jim Elder's question, and partially to answer my own request, let me point out

1) LR/Transporter will allow you to output the lat/lon to a sidecar text file. It is encoded in decimal degrees ±0.00001°, or about ±1 m.

2) If you are comfortable doing shell programming (or its equivalent in Windows), you could use something like the following command to move the gps latitude and longitude into an unused metadata field, and then use that field for renaming the file or naming exported images:
# exiftool -s3 -n -gpslatitude -gpslongitude "my image.jpg" | tr '\n' ' ' | exiftool '-transmissionreference<=-' "my image.jpg"
I can't be sure how rounding between decimal seconds and decimal degrees works in Lightroom or in exiftool, but this suggests that it may be possible to get about 1 m accuracy into images in Lightroom and extract it in ways that are useful. Of course, 1 m accuracy is much better than any hand-held gps unit will achieve.

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