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Why photographers should be using Panoramio.

Paul Anthony / April 9, 2011

Posted in: Archive

Google’s Panoramio is a often forgotten acquisition by the search giant -they don’t exactly push hard at the marketing of it. I’m predicting that over time it will play a much bigger role along with Picasa as an element in their social strategy going forward.

For now though, Panoramio offers photographers, and those of us with location based imagery a huge opportunity that is missed, often in favour of the cooler more widely adopted Flickr. Although Panoramio has various shortcomings, with the lack of an API for bulk uploads; their current API only supporting the getting of images, not the uploading of them. It does however have traffic and exposure benefits that you should be aware of .

With Google using Panoramio data in a variety of places, its worth examine just how your content could end up getting used by Google, and how you can turn that back into traffic and exposure for yourself. Crucially, Panoramio has great support for geodata, and in the majority of cases below, this is how and why Google use it.  The following post should highlight why I think the product is worth a closer look, particular for those of you running any kind of business related to photography.

As you can see below, Panoramio photos are used inside Google maps, when a “photo” search is selected from the left toolbar, Google pulls back a selection of photography for the current place you are looking at. Due to the fact that the photos are Geo-tagged in the first instance, Google can easily tie each shot to a particular location on the map.

To add to that, Google also implement a selection of image based content when you move to utilising Streetview. Dragging Pegman onto the map shows a selection of predefined hotspots (the little blue highlighted dots) on the map which are photos of interest, again utilising Panoramio for the content.

When you release Pegman, and move to Streetview itself, image content starts to get pulled from a couple of sources. From my own research into this, at present Flickr, Picasa, and again Panoramio are used, with the source varying depending on availability of imagery. From my own (very rough estimate, having selected 10 places on the map at random) – Flickr seems to get around the 30% mark, with photos being sourced from Picasa and Panoramio the remainder of the time.  Surprising considering Flickr’s market share, but perhaps not that surprising considering Google’s internal involvement with the latter. More scientific research into that would be needed to try and work out what Google’s internal algorithm is for showing content, but you can bet your life that if they can use a ‘Google’ image, they will.

You can see this for yourself when you see the following photo icon appearing as an overlay on Streetview:

Links back to the respective author are provided as well, providing significant opportunities for photographers to increase their exposure. This collection for example was taken by Cedric Joffroy, and hosted inside Picasa.

Google also pull information from their vast collection of photos to do some pretty impressive stuff with 3D photography, bringing them up to par with Microsoft’s PhotoSynth offering which is available inside Bing Maps as well. This service has been directly pinched from the pockets of Panoramio, and now implemented in maps.

The video below shows how your images are being used around the web to provide additional perspective on top of Streetview. These photos too, are coming from the three photo sources previously mentioned.

Google Places has received much more of a push as part of Google’s overall move into consumer driven results together now with HotPot, it is my own personal belief that together with improvements in algorithms (including semantic analysis ) – Google will be able to deliver more relevant results. One of the many sources of photos for particular places in Google places, is again Panoramio. You can see from this listing below that all of the photos have been sourced from that Google owned service, and as such, it makes sense to provide access to your own data via this service to increase the likelihood of your images being used.

It’s also worth mentioning that if you have claimed the profile of a business listing, that any uploads you perform for that business, go straight into your PicasaWeb account, and in turn are geo-tagged as being at that place location for use in other Google products. It’s not yet clear exactly why Google need both Picasa and Panoramio, and it would make complete sense for them to work on integrating the products into a image service for all things Google. PicasaWeb is already a part of Google profiles, and an integral part of Blogger.

Google Earth is another one of the Google products that is fully integrated with Panoramio, its photo layer in Earth bringing back popular and interesting photos from all over the world. A selection of which can be seen on this URL, including the photos that haven’t been selected for use (uploads from users who choose to not have their work distributed on other Google products).

Overall, you can see that Panoramio plays a massive part in the way Google curate images for their other web products. It goes without saying that putting all of your eggs into the Flickr basket isn’t necessarily the best scenario for marketing your photos, and there is definitely benefits in being on both.

Coupled with the fact that Panoramio allows you to link back from the image to your website in the comment stream, you could find that distributing on that platform as well may have a massive impact on the traffic on your own website, with third hand traffic coming from Google directly, to Panoramio, and then to you.

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