Is there a way to set up an automated photo import from a network folder in QGIS?

Specifically, I would like to push a custom button and select a root folder, and as images populate the folder I would like them to import into QGIS. Intervals of 30 min to 1 hour for automated import but with the option of manually refreshing and importing if there are new files.

Is this even possible? Not looking for hand holding or completed answer, maybe a nudge in the right direction.

  • 2
    It is possible, but will need some custom python scripting -- there's no out of the box tool to do this
    – ndawson
    Feb 6 '19 at 0:00
  • It is a bit unclear for me what you want to do. Is this georeferenced images or is it photos that should somehow be used in a gis-application? In the first case, any georeferenced pictures are immidetely available in QGIS, but I assume you want them into a project? If so do you expect the projectfile to be updated even if no QGIS application is running or would it be OK if all images are added when the project is opened? Sep 5 at 19:34

You could definitely write a custom script to auto-download files from the internet or a network folder using cron (if you're a unix/linux user) or schtasks (if you're a windows person), which lets you execute scripts at specific times of day. For importing them into QGIS, you could use cron functions/schtasks cmdlets to execute a download to a folder and then subsequently execute another script to add it as a QGIS layer or whatever using the QGIS API for Python. There's also the QGIS network module that has the contentfetcher method for HTTP servers, but idk if that will work for your network folder since it is an HTTP protocol for getting data from a URL.

As far as having the option to do it manually, you would just want to save the script and make it executable so you could execute it from the terminal/CMD whenever you like. I've included the links to the cron, schtasks and QGIS network docs below, which should put you on the right path. If you don't have experience with scripting just yet, I'd start with the basics of a language that you can then use to solve solutions like this regularly instead of finding ad hoc applications - it's well worth the time.

If you add some more details like the programming languages you're familiar with, your OS, how you want to store your data (data layer, map document, jpeg, etc), you will get a lot more detailed and helpful answer.

https://qgis.org/pyqgis/3.0/core/Network/index.html https://help.ubuntu.com/community/CronHowto https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/desktop/taskschd/schtasks


I do this on Windows. You could write it from scratch using python and some of the libraries available to process jpeg files, but I've implemented it using batch files, exiftool (https://exiftool.org/), and basic QGIS. In this set-up, it's best if you split it into steps.

First, create a shell script/batch file that maintains a list of the photos in the target directory, together with their GPS coordinates and other relevant metadata, as a CSV file. I use the following Windows batch file, which you will have to adapt:

@echo off
rem %1 is directory to process

if x%1x==xx goto needdir

cd "%~dp0%"
set inputdir="%~f1\*.jp*"
set outputfile="%~dp0%~n1_raw.csv"
if exist %outputfile% (copy %outputfile% %outputfile%.bak)
echo Processing %inputdir% to %outputfile%

"%USERPROFILE%\Executables\exiftool.exe" -printFormat exiftool_qgis_new.fmt -m -f -api MissingTagValue=0 %inputdir% > %outputfile%
exit /b

set /p "inputdir= Full directory to process? "
"%~f0" "%inputdir%"

You'll have to point properly to where you store the exiftool executable if not in your path. The .fmt file provides instructions to exiftool which tags to write to the csv file. I use the following, which may well be overkill for you:

#This outputs exif tags in format suitable for QGIS importing, with post processing in QGIS
"$Filename",${DateTimeOriginal#;DateFmt("%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S")},${GPSLongitude#;$_=sprintf('%.6f',$_)},${GPSLatitude#;$_=sprintf('%.6f',$_)},${GPSAltitude#;$_=sprintf('%.1f',$_)},${GPSImgDirection#;$_=sprintf('%.1f',$_)},"$Directory\$Filename",${Orientation#;if($_==3){$_=2}elsif($_==6){$_=1}elsif($_==8){$_=3}else{$_=0}},"$ImageDescription",$GimbalPitchDegree,$CameraYawDegree
#needs -f -api MissingTagValue=0 to avoid missing long and lat which then make QGis choke. As sideeffect missing PhotoDate is coded as 0 rather than null.

This batch file can be invoked manually from the terminal window in QGIS. You can also set up an operating system scheduled task to run it daily. It takes a couple of minutes on my SSD drive with 3000 photos.

You can then directly add the csv file to QGIS as a vector layer (as a delimited text layer), and use all of QGIS styling power to display it. For instance, you can display the photo in Form view or even as an HTML map tip, use the date/age of the photo to change the color or symbol in the canvas, even draw angles of view, etc. That's outside the scope of this question/answer. If you run the script that generates it manually, it's a good idea to specify Watch file when adding it as the delimited text layer.

In my .fmt file above, I have "Photo" (the filename, no directory) and "SourceFile" (with full directory included) as separate attributes. You may not need both.

Finally, be aware that the script would clobber any changes you make to the csv file within QGIS (and it's not a good idea to write-edit csv files anyway). So you may find it useful to maintain a separate Master layer (say in a gpkg) which builds on the Raw csv file but lets you e.g. categorize or add other info on photos, move them around (in case GPS was wrong), etc. In that case, you will need a processing algorithm to append new entries from the raw file to the master file. The magic incantation that worked for me was a SQL query along the lines of:

SELECT * FROM raw WHERE Photo NOT IN (SELECT master.Photo FROM master INNER JOIN raw WHERE master.Photo=raw.Photo) 

(I use this embedded in a more complex Model designer model.)

Finally, I should mention I've cobbled this together over 2 years or so. Meanwhile, QGIS has added features/plugins. So for instance it is now easier to append features in processing. And the ImportPhotos plugin can do some of the heavy lifting. I haven't gone back to explore if I could coerce them to do precisely what I want, but you might want to look first if you can use that more easily than some of the above.

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