Posted Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Flickr Tip: How to Find Photos Taken with a Specific Camera (and Much More)

Happy Fifth of July! To mah fellow 'maricans, I hope your July 4 celebrations were enjoyable ones and that your hearing is still intact.

July 4 Parade, Mendocino, CAMe, I headed eight miles north to the town of Mendocino for its oh-so-special July 4 parade. And, of course, I shot photos, which now live in their own set on Flickr. I met up with my friend and eBay coauthor Toby Malina and her entourage, and a beer-soaked time was had by all.

Judging from Flickr's Tags page, I wasn't alone in photographing July 4 festivities. Tags such as fourthofjuly are among the most heavily used on Flickr in the last 24 hours.

Beyond Tags
Tags are a great way to categorize and locate photos on Flickr. (Read Flickr's help topic on the subject.)

But what if you want to search for other criteria? For example, what if you want to search for all photos taken with a specific model of camera? Maybe you're considering buying one and you'd like to see some sample shots. Or maybe you'd like to make contact with folks who use the same gear.

You can't do this kind of search within Flickr, but you can do it using a search site you've probably heard of: Google.

Just add the site:Flickr argument to your search query. For example, to locate all photos taken using a Sony DSC-F828, use this query: "taken with a sony dsc-f828"

You don't even have to be this verbose. A simpler query containing only the camera's make and model, such as "canon powershot s50" also works, although you'll get the most precise results if you include the text taken with a in your query. (And don't forget to use quotes around that series of words.)

How it Works
How does Flickr know what camera was used for a shot? Metadata, baby.

Each of your digital camera photos is tagged with data describing its camera settings, date and time, and much more. (You can read about this data in the iPhoto chapter of my book.)

Flickr, in its brilliance, makes this data available to Google's search spiders, and that makes it available to all of us. And because Google ranks pages in part based on their popularity, you'll see the most popular photos from that brand of camera at the top of the list.

Variations on the Theme
Want to do a search of Flickr photos that were taken at a high ISO setting, such as 1600? That gets a little trickier, though the query +iso +1600 works pretty well.

You can also search for photos taken on a specific date—even if the photographers weren't courteous enough to tag the photos. Who shot photos on Valentines Day? The query "taken on february 14, 2005" tells all.

Metadata: it's the 21st Century equivalent of turning a photo upside-down and writing the technical details on the back. Combine it with the might of Flickr and Google, and you have a global photo album.

As I say in the iPhoto segment of my book's instructional DVD, "Is this a great time to be a photographer, or what?"