Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • GPS coordinates are embedded in the metadata of photos taken with smartphones and digital cameras, allowing you to see where the photo was taken.
  • You can view the location data on both Android and iPhone devices by accessing the photo’s details.
  • To view GPS data o Windows, right-click the image and hit “Properties.” On a Mac, open the image, click the “i” button, then go to the “GPS” tab.

Modern smartphones (and many digital cameras) embed GPS coordinates in each photo they take. Yes, those photos you’re taking have location data embedded in them — at least by default. You may want to hide this information when sharing sensitive photos online.

Find the GPS Coordinates

GPS coordinates are stored as “metadata” embedded in the photo files themselves. All you have to do is view the file’s properties and look for it. It’s a bit like the potentially incriminating information that can be stored along with Microsoft Office documents or PDF files.

Check Location Data on an Android Phone

To check a photo’s location data on Android, open the image in the Photos app and tap the three-dot menu item.

This example uses the Photos app, which is the default gallery app on stock Android devices, including Google’s Pixel line of devices. Phones from other manufacturers, most notably Samsung, use a different gallery app. In general, you should be looking for a three-dot menu and a “Details” option.

Tap the three-dot menu icon in the top right corner.

Then scroll down a bit. You’ll see a ton of metadata about the image, including the location data.

The GPS coordinates are displayed under the map in the Photos app.

Check Location Data on an iPhone

To view a photo’s location data on an iPhone, just tap the “i” menu icon.

Tap the small "i" icon in your photo gallery.

You won’t see the actual GPS coordinates, but you can see where the photo was taken on a map.

The location of the photo displayed on an iPhone.

Find Location Data on a Windows PC

In Windows, all you have to do is right-click a picture file, select “Properties,” and then click the “Details” tab in the properties window. Look for the Latitude and Longitude coordinates under GPS.

The Properties window in Windows 10 and Windows 11 will not correctly display GPS coordinates. If you live in the western hemisphere your longitude coordinates should have a negative sign preceding them, or a “W” (for West) following them. If you live below the equator, your latitude coordinates should have a negative in front of them or an “S” (for South) following them. You’ll need to manually add those in when you enter the coordinates into your favourite map software.

The Properties window in Windows 11.

View Location Data on a Mac

In macOS, right-click the image file (or Control+click it), and select “Get Info.” You’ll see the Latitude and Longitude coordinates under the “More Info” section.

You can also open the image, click the “i” button at the top, click the “i” button that appears in the new popup, then select the “GPS” tab.

The MacOS GPS data.

Sure, you may be able to see this information with an “EXIF viewer” application, but most operating systems have this feature built-in.

GPS coordinates are not embedded in every single photo. The person who took the photo may have disabled this feature on their phone or manually removed the EXIF details afterward. Many image-sharing services online — but not all of them — automatically strip the geolocation details for privacy reasons. If you don’t see these details, they’ve been stripped from (or never included in) the image file.

Match the Coordinates to a Location on a Map

These are standard GPS coordinates, so you just need to match them to a location on a map to find where the photo was actually taken. Many mapping services offer this feature — you can plug the coordinates straight into Google Maps, for example. Google offers instructions for properly formatting the coordinates for Google Maps.

An example Google Maps image.

Keep in mind that this is just metadata and could be faked, but it’s pretty rare that someone would bother to fake metadata instead of stripping it entirely. It’s also possible for the GPS location to be off a bit. A phone or digital camera may just have been using its last known location if it couldn’t get an up-to-date GPS signal while taking the photo.

How to Stop Embedding GPS Coordinates in Your Photos

If you want to disable adding GPS data entirely, you can go into your phone’s Camera app and disable the location setting. You can also remove the embedded EXIF data before sharing potentially sensitive photos. Tools are built directly into Windows, macOS, and other operating systems for this — just follow our guide for more details.

On an iPhone, head to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > Camera, and then select “Never” for the “Allow Location Access” option. The Camera app won’t have access to your location and won’t be able to embed it in photos.

The iPhone setting to disable GPS metadata on photos.

On Android, this process varies from phone to phone. Different manufacturers include their own custom Camera apps, and it may even vary between different versions of the same camera app. Dig around your camera app’s quick settings toggles or settings screen and look for an option that disables this feature — or just perform a quick web search to find out how to disable it on your phone and its camera app.

Enable or disable "Save Location" on Android.

Bear in mind, though, that GPS coordinates can be really useful, too. For example, with a service like Google Photos, Yahoo! Flickr, or Apple iCloud Photo Library, you can organize your photos and view them according to where they were taken, making it really easy to browse photos taken on a particular vacation or at a favorite landmark. You can always strip out the location information on your own if you want to share a photo — that’s why so many services automatically remove the geolocation details when you share the photo with someone else.

The EXIF metadata stored along with photos also includes some other details. For example, you can see exactly which model of camera (or smartphone) the person used to take the photo. You can also examine exposure settings and other details. Most of these details aren’t considered anywhere near as sensitive as GPS location details — although professional photographers may want to keep their tricks and settings secret.

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By John P.

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