An Illustrated Guide To Searching For Shared, Tweeted & “Realtime” Images

Looking for images that are being shared and posted in realtime? That image search space has gotten more competitive, as Nachofoto reenters the field. Below, what it offers, along with general realtime image searching tips using other services like Topsy, Google Realtime Search and Twitter itself.

I’ve used realtime search tools often, in order to see if people are tweeting and sharing images from news events, such as when the tsunami hit Crescent City. At times, they can provide a faster way to see images before news outlets themselves.


Nachofoto launched in April 2010 but closed a few months ago to rework the site. Now it’s back and is completely focused on providing fresh images from across the web. It aims to be the primary destination for anyone seeking photos being shared through realtime services, be that via Twitter, blog posts or as part of new web pages.

The site’s home page offers a number of suggested queries that are supposed to reflect news topics that also have many images being shared:

“Aflac Duck” is among the Hot Topics that are trending? Really? Yes. If you drill in by clicking on that link, you get images plus a timeline that shows a recent spike:

Click on the tall bar at the end, and you can drill in more:

Selecting an actual photo brings you to the site with the image –  in the case of CBS, a story about how comedian Gilbert Gottfried, the voice of Aflac’s duck, was fired after making jokes about the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Oddly, the picture in the story doesn’t match the picture the Nachofoto showed — but there is a matching photo that is hosted on CBS, so it might have been changed after the initial publication.

Searching For Realtime Images With Nachofoto

How well does Nachofoto work if you’re after a particular image? I haven’t done any large scale testing, but I still like the options that Topsy offers better. More on that further in the story. First, let’s do search at Nachofoto.

While Japan is in the news right now, the image stream is pretty polluted by pictures people are taking of TV images, pictures shared from past earthquakes and more. There are ways to address this, but I thought a search for Bahrain might be more instructive, where protests are happening, resulting in a government crackdown.

With Nachofoto, I can do search for bahrain and get back a timeline view:

What I immediately dislike is that most of the images tend to be from media sources, while I personally often want to use realtime image search to see what citizen journalists are recording. Ideally, I’d like an option to restrict my search to one of the main realtime photo sharing sites or by date range.

Searching At Topsy

I love how Topsy makes realtime image searching easy. From the Topsy photos area, just enter your search, in this case, for bahrain:

The arrows show how you can toggle to see the most recent results first or by other time ranges, such as over the past hour. I’ve found having these time options incredibly useful, when I’m seeking the most recent images.

The images also don’t all seem to be from media outlets. However, it can still be difficult to tell if images are coming directly from those tweeting them. I usually try to hunt back to the originating Twitter account and see if there’s a location being associated with someone’s tweets or other clues, such as if they’ve tweeted additional photos, to better tell.

Using Google Realtime Search

Over at Google, the company’s Google Realtime Search service allows you search through recently shared material and narrow down to those containing images:

You just have to make sure you click on the “Updates with images” option as I’ve pointed to in the screenshot above.

Unfortunately, the display of images isn’t as nice or as compact with Topsy, and using the “Timeline” feature in the top right corner isn’t as easy, to me, as Topsy’s hour / day / week / month buttons.

Searching By Location With Google

Google, however, has a great trick that neither Nachofoto or Topsy can do — it can find pictures based on location. Imagine you want pictures about Bahrain from people actually in Bahrain. This is where search by location can help:

Over on the left, I’ve entered “Bahrain” as a location. That causes Google to only show tweets that come from Bahrain and also which have images.

Searching By Location With Twitter

There are two downsides to searching by location for images at Google. First, some people might be sharing images from Bahrain but not reporting a location with those images. If you filter by location, you won’t see any of those non-location tagged images. There’s no easy solution to that.

The second issue is that some might be sharing images from Bahrain but not using that word (or that word in English). Google Realtime Search doesn’t allow you to do a “blank” search for anything by location. Twitter Search, however, does. Using its advanced search page, you can enter a location:

Then you get back tweets that come only from Bahrain:

Sadly, there’s no option to narrow these tweets down to those containing images. Instead, you have to search for words that are associated with images. For example, consider this:

In the search above, I’ve told Twitter to search for tweets that are within 15 miles of Bahrain (it probably uses a radius out of the center of the country for this) and which have the word “twitpic” in them — which is part of the URL used by the popular Twitpic sharing service.

Notice especially the third tweet. It says nothing about “Bahrain” in it — but by using location plus “twitpic,” I was able to turn it up.

Easier Picture Previewing On Twitter

Unfortunately, Twitter Search doesn’t make it easy to see the images, compared to the way that searching on Twitter itself does. To better understand the difference between searching using Twitter Search versus, see my previous post: The New Twitter & Search, An Illustrated Guide.

One solution is to do a search on Twitter Search, such as I did above, and then copy and paste the search terms into Twitter, like this:

In the example above, I pasted this:

near:bahrain within:15mi twitpic

Into the search box at When the results appeared, I could then easily click on them and make the picture appear on the right.

Ideally, Twitter would make Twitter Search work the same way. Until then — or if it never happens — you can copy-and-paste or learn some of the advanced search commands for Twitter Search and use them directly at

Other Real-Time Image Search Engines

Beyond the services above, there are a few other real-time image search engines you might want to check out.

Twitcaps: Search across multiple sharing services using keywords, over the past day. You can filter by language or by a particular service. Narrowing by location is offered by hard to use. You can’t do a “blank” search by location.

PicFog: Promises to let you search by keyword and narrow by location across various sharing services, but its inability to find anything for a search on “bahrain” made me sadly doubt it’s that helpful in general.

Roooby: Another search engine that lets you search across several photo sharing sites. There’s no way to narrow by location.

Photo Sharing Sites

You can, of course, try searching at some of the popular photo sharing sites used by those on Twitter. Below are some of the more popular ones and the searching options they offer.

I’ve listed them in the order I see them suggested in both the Twitter iPhone and iPad apps, which is one indication of how popular they are (those at the top are likely used more). I also included Instagram at the end, as I know it’s another popular sharing tool.

TwitPic: Search by keyword, sort results by most recent, popular or “mixed.”

yFrog: Search by keyword, results sorted by date, by default. You can also sort by most popular and narrow to popularity over the past hour, day or month.

Plixi: Search by keyword, results sorted by date, by default. There’s an option to see “Most Viewed” pictures, and this seems to be most viewed over the past week.

Mobypicture: Search by keyword, plus through advanced search, the ability to do a “blank” search by country or location, with sorting by date, relevance or views. A pretty impressive range of options.

Twitgoo: Search by keyword, get results sorted apparently by most recent first.

Posterous: If it offers search, this isn’t available for non-logged in users. It appears to offer no search feature.

Instagram: It appears to offer no search feature. You can’t even browse pictures from the home page. Oddly makes me feel bad for even trying to view it on the web. Maybe that big iTunes App Store button gives me that “get off my lawn” feeling.

Where’s Flickr? While it’s a great photo sharing site, I haven’t personally found or seen that it has gained much traction as a place where people try to share images within seconds after taking them.

All the best with your real-time image searching!

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Google: Real Time Search | How To: Twitter | Search Engines: Photo & Image Search | Search Engines: Real Time Search | Top News | Topsy | Twitter


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • Michael Dorausch

    Get detailed list. Now if someone could bundle all those tools together and deliver results on one domain I’d be set. But I guess that’s why we have bookmarks.

  • Anuj Agarwal

    Thanks Danny for the post. A quick note, NachoFoto does not use data from twitter and other photo sharing websites and is not competing in realtime image space. Our startup is focused on finding fresh “Related searches” for high volume queries.

  • trendspottr

    You can also try out TrendSpottr ( which identifies and curates the top trending content (links, images, videos, hashtags, places, phrases) for any search term or topic of interest from the real-time Web.

    TrendSpottr will identify the most trending images being shared right now across teh social Web based on such factors as recency, frequency, amplification and velocity. We’re currently in private alpha so please request an invitation code at our site.

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