After several months of waiting, Flickr has come out with its own method for geotagging and showing photos on a map. For quite some time, many enterprising programmers have been developing hacks to allow people to georeference photos and tag them with coordinates (geotagging). Flickr finally realized this was important, and in December they hired one of the most innovative developers – a guy named Rev Dan Cant who did a site called Geobloggers.com – and the results have been released in the form of the Flickr Map: flickr.com/map. The new interface uses a Yahoo-based map (Flickr was acquired by Yahoo), and there are several innovative features. I like the new web-based map interface for viewing the photos (see a brief review down below).
For the best method of geotagging, I recommend using the new Picasa 2.5 beta to organize and enhance your photos on your computer and Google Earth with Picasa 2.5 to geotag your photos. This new feature writes the coordinates in the photo’s EXIF data. (Here’s a mini-tutorial on geotagging with GE). If you do this, when you upload your photos to Flickr the new Flickr Map can be set to automatically pick up the EXIFgeotags. Using GE to geotag is more fun, faster (you can zoom in faster in GE), and can be more accurate (thanks to the better quality aerial and satellite photos). Plus, you can export your geotagged photos to Google Earth, the new PicasaWeb, Flickr Map, or wherever you want. (Note: here’s another overview of this technique).
Although I recommend Google Earth for geotagging, I still like the new Flickr Map interface for showing photos. The map shows dots for locations of photos which match your current search. The center of the dot shows the number of photos in a location and the size is bigger for more photos. If there are a lot of photos at a given zoom level you see there are several pages of photos in the upper left corner of the map (just like in a normal search). You can search based on tags – search for all pictures of “cats” for example. When you click on a dot containing photos, you get a mini browser which lets you quickly scroll through thumbnails of the photos (just like on Flickr). You can click on the thumbnails and see bigger versions of the photo and then see the normal Flickr interface for viewing your photos.
You can also use Google Earth to browse photos from Flickr (here are three tools – I recommend the one from Metaltoad). But, as Rev Dan Cant has pointed out, these third-party tools have to scan the Flickr database for photos and will find it hard to keep up with the pace of new geotagged photos. There are already over 1 million photos which have been recently geotagged since Flickr Map came out. So, give Flickr Map a whirl.
When you are uploading your photos to Flickr you can choose a level of privacy for the photos. If you are showing photos of your home, you may only want friends and family to see the geotag. This makes a lot of sense, and I’m glad to see Flickr did this.
By the way, here’s a list of Google Maps mashups for mapping photos – source: GoogleMapsMania.