Google Street Photography Fail

Seen on the Web, Street Photography


Share this post


I’ve often wondered why Google Image searches for Street Photography always return pages of black and white street photography results with virtually no colour street images at all. It crossed my mind that historically Street Photography has been made in black and white for many more years than it has in colour and the results reflect this but in actual fact the results rarely feature historical old Street Photographs.

I look at a great deal of Street Photography online and the vast majority that I find is made in colour so why does Googles search ignore those colour images when returning results? I understand that the Google computer can’t ‘see’ photographs, it relies on meta data, adjacent text descriptions and alt texts to ‘know’ what they contain, I therefore can only assume that some dumb human at google has actively made this determination at some time in the past and we are doomed by it ever since.

Interestingly a normal web search for ‘Street Photography’ returns sites with a majority of colour Street Photographs so I believe a Google prejudice for black and white is unmasked here…it makes me wonder if Bruce Gilden is moonlighting at Google during the night.

If you have any other explanations of this I would love to hear them so please do leave them in the comments below.


Google Street Photography results grab


11 Responses to this post
  1. Posted on December 28, 2012 by Guido Steenkamp

    Technically all of these images are colour images. I doubt that the result set for something as irrelevant as SP was hand-edited by Google.

  2. Posted on December 29, 2012 by David Goode

    Web crawlers, like Google’s, can now ‘see’ photographs – I have no idea whether Google do this or not but the technology is there so they do not have to rely on, or take any notice of, the metadata. This actually strengthens your point – Google can’t blame the metadata but they must have set the search criteria directly or indirectly, deliberately or inadvertently, in a way that is biased towards B&W

  3. Posted on December 30, 2012 by Cindy McMillion

    Interesting observation about the b & w results. I tend to see b & w as more “classic street photography.” There is something timeless and appealing about it.

  4. Posted on January 5, 2013 by Adrian Boliston

    I have noticed that street on Google image search is mainly BW, and I use Google image search quite a lot, but I’m not too worried as I mainly prefer BW photography since moving from digital to film, so mainly tend to look at BW images as a result – definitely has a “classic” look to it.

  5. Posted on January 7, 2013 by Dennis Freeland

    I am on Google+ and can say that b &w street photography is much more popular on there than colour. The Google+ search just reflects that. The wider Google search gives a more proportionate result for b & w and colour

  6. Posted on January 7, 2013 by Nick Turpin

    Dennis I don’t really use Google+ but I have an account and I just searched for Street Photography groups, the biggest I could find had 13016 members so I went through the first 100 images and 55 were colour and 45 were Black and White. Even if this is a small sample, I find it hard to see how the image search can deliver almost 100% Black and White given that finding. I remain convinced that something is up!

  7. Posted on January 8, 2013 by Nick Turpin

    Interestingly an image search for ‘Street Photography’ on Googles rival search engine Bing produces a result of almost half and half, black and white and colour which leads me even further towards the conclusion that Googles image search has an inherent bias or human intervention.

    Needles to say I have been unable to contact anyone at Google but whatever the reason their results seem to be inferior and less accurate than those of Bing.

  8. Posted on January 8, 2013 by Nico

    I can only notice none of my pictures appear in the search results… whether b/w or colour

  9. Posted on February 5, 2013 by This week around the photo Web – part 2

    [...] that’s what author is eluding to, yet, well, probably not many people get it writ away.According to Nick Turpin, Google Images favors B&W street photographyJust for technical interest, why indeed, would you find only black and white images when you search [...]

  10. Posted on May 21, 2013 by Jürgen Metzler

    Hi Nick, Google is not really searching for streetphotography photos, Google delivers results where users clicked on when they searched for the word streetphotogaphy, example, if the search for this word returns 300k results,and 50k times the user clicked on some links to HCB, then Google combined the photos on this websites with the searchstring “Streetphotography”. Of course the Google-algorithmics are much more complex but in the end it works like this. If you look at your results you shown above, i would guess that 70% of the images are from famous streetphotographers.

    BTW, thanks for your article “Feel the force”, definetely the best lines I ever read about street photography

    Saludos de Barcelona

  11. Posted on February 5, 2014 by Alessandro

    Must add this (ok I’m late to the party…): google search results are personalized, because they keep track of our “online behaviour”. What I find is different from what you find. It’s what they think will better suit us, based on our previous searches, location and all those info they are getting about us…

Add your comment