A real-time, geotagged Flickr map? Here’s how.

When reporters are in the field with their smartphones and they have a story to tell where both photo and location are vital, a stream of Flickr photos imported into a Google Map will do the trick.

In light of Los Angeles’ recent Carmageddon, above is a geotagged Flickr map of the empty 405 highway.

For example, if you have a reporter covering a huge parade, a bike tour, travelling along the coastline, taking a wine tour across the country, or you want to collect reader photos from a highway closure — really, the use cases are endless — an easy way to get interactive, live content from the field is through a Flickr map. And, you can accomplish it all from email, with no extra apps or training required.

Before you get started

  • Make sure your reporter is using a smartphone with location services enabled.
  • Set up your organization’s Flickr account. Check your “settings” page to make sure your account is enabled to automatically grab geolocation metadata from your photos upon upload. Under the “Privacy and Permissions” tab, check the box for “Import EXIF location data.”
  • Make sure you set an email address for uploading via email. In your “Email and Notifications” tab, make note of the address beneath “Upload by Email options.” If you want the photos to automatically send to a blog and/or Twitter, as well as the Google map, make note of those email addresses as well.
  • Choose a unique tag that you want to use for each map you select. You’ll use that tag as your unique identifier when you pull the photos from your feed.

Now, you’re ready.

Step 1

Grab the geoFeed URL from the bottom of your Flickr photostream page or your Flickr group page if you’re soliciting photos from multiple reporters or a group of users/readers. Below, I’ve pasted a sample feed from the Mediabistro Flickr account.

Example: http://api.flickr.com/services/feeds/geo/?id=21823823@N05&lang=en-us&format=rss_200

Step 2

Append the unique tag you’re going to use (&tags=tag1%2tag2) to the end of the query string.

Example: http://api.flickr.com/services/feeds/geo/?id=21823823@N05&lang=en-us&format=rss_200&tags=sanfrancisco

*Note: You have to use tags to specify a group of content for the feed. Geolocation feeds don’t recognize ID numbers for photosets.

Step 3

Paste full URL into Google Maps search bar. You should see points plotted on the map if you’ve already uploaded geotagged photos to your stream. If you haven’t yet, this would be a good time to do so.

Step 4

Click the “link” icon in the top right of Google Maps. Adjust your zoom amount, width and height, then grab the embed code.


When submitting photos remotely via email, the title of the email becomes the photo title, the title body becomes the description, “tags:” specifies tags (in either the subject or body) and photo geolocation metadata is pulled from the photo itself if a smartphone is used. If you want to send the photos to a Twitter stream as well as upload them to your Flickr map, make sure to use the correct email address from your settings page.

Happy geotagging!