A more inclusive mapping party setup, for same-day imagery collection and mapathons.

Posted by GOwin on 1/18/2024


Guests who show up during mapping activities don’t always have the same level of motivation, equipment, or goals for participating. Some may like to just learn and collect imagery, but are not keen to edit. Some may prefer to just edit, and not go out in the field.

Nobody is even sure if you’d see the same faces again in the next event, so investing too much time on specific (or “better”) tools are deferred, to focus on simpler tools that gets the job done.

A collage of sample photos taken with OpenCamera

The Toolset

  • a smartphone with OpenCamera - an open-source camera app for Android smartphones, specifically for the following features
    • auto-level - when mobile (i.e., walking, or especially on bikes), to automatically keep level camera shots
    • infinity focus to for a clearer photo of the scene, rather than detected or nearby objects.
    • capture photos at set intervals (e.g. 5s) and unlimited repeats
    • designate a folder for storing photos (i.e. a different folder to capture sequences, separate from your regular photos)
    • I don’t use iOS, so I’m not yet aware of camera app options on that offers a feature-set similar to OpenCamera.
  • Panoramax/GeoVisio - a set of of open source tools to serve, host georeferenced photos, similar to KartaView and Mapillary.
  • a selfie-stick, or smartphone holder or harness for bikers - selfie stick is optional for folks on foot, but for user safety, some kind of holder or harness is strongly recommended for those on bikes or scooters.
  • For a low-tech setup, consider using FieldPapers for assigning coverage, and for actual data collection.
    • Mobile apps may be good enough for basic editing or digitizing POIs collected from the field.


  • Training is stream-lined, with everyone using the same app.
  • Optional signup for hosting geo-referenced photos.
    • Photos can then be collected immediately after data collection and uploaded by the organizers, or a different user (e.g. a separate account for images collected by users without accounts.)

Smartphone caddy

Most folks don’t have action cameras, but most smartphones are more than adequate for the job.

I found this silicone caddy, that securely holds a smartphone and attaches to the handlebar, even on badly paved roads.

About ~2 USD. Cheap enough to get a few, for lending out during activities.

A ~2 USD caddy - secure, cheap and effective!

My bike has a Mickey Mouse handlebar, and some parts actually showed up slightly in the photo, but since the camera is set to infinity focus, the rest of the visible scene remained sharp.


Photos uploaded to Panoramax are immediately available a few minutes after upload, and they can be used for editing OpenStreetMap on iD or JOSM

Screenshot of the Panoramax website.

At the moment, regions outside France don’t render at lower zoom levels. May, or may not work for you, depending on what you’re doing.

Mapathon, Digitizing Data

When access to computers are limited, mobile phones and tablets may be good enough for digitizing simple POIs.

Thematic mapathons are fun, and simple quests may be developed for SCEE/StreetComplete, to make the most out of the app, and engage with new users with easy, simple tools that can help improve the map.

SCEE with a FieldPaper Snapshot as a background layer.

Another fun thematic editor candidate is MapComplete, which is a web-based app, with lots of built-in themes all ready for use, like this theme for hydrants and fire stations.

MapComplete theme showing Fire Stations and Hydrants

There’s also the powerful Vespucci editor, especially when paired with a mouse, for Android tablets. JOSM users will be very at home with it.

Edit: * The initial version of this post had a link to a photo gallery because I encountered issues displaying them. It seems to be working fine now, so I’m restoring the photos.