Google streetview has been hitting the slopes in Canada to record the locations that are used for the winter Olympics. Streetview now has extensive coverage in Europe and the US and has the ambition to cover the World. This will take many years as even recording a single city will take months. Despite the time consuming effort of streetview the project does lead to the question: What if there are pictures of everything? What if all major venues, attractions, cities etc are covere, in 360 degrees? What if you can zoom in and out, even see locations in different seasons? Google is planning to shoot the inside of stores and is looking to get into the real estate market with images of houses. The ambitions are high, the span is Global and the opportunities will start to show in the coming years.
What customers expect of the imagery seems to change; instead of a commissioned shot of a house or a shop, having a real time, 360 view now does the same job. It’s less about the quality of the photography, more about the quantity of descriptive information in the image. Users of images will happily point to a streetmap picture of their store or home and don’t need a photographer to come out and make the shot. For travel photographers or those shooting the same subjects that are now available on streetview this is bad news. Even a traditional ‘stockshot’ of a palmtree on a beach will exist in 1000’s of varieties, including Google’s version. For those needing a quick image the choice is simply getting a lot bigger. Now objects and locations can be described in a variety of ways, many of which are freely available.
Google also adds user generated images to streetview. These images allow to dig deeper into a subject. Perhaps this is where Google streetview can help image buyers find underlying photography. Google streetview could be a roadmap (literally) to find locations. From these locations it will then be possible to dig deeper and find related images, and maybe even video. This is where part of the opportunity comes back to photographers. If their images can be found through streetview both users and creators of images have a new, practical and smooth way to target content in a compelling visual way. This allows users to find infinite numbers of both free and paid for images and photographers the ability (and responsibility) to create images that stand out and justify a premium.