36 Photo APIs

Online photo sites have steadily grown in popularity. Millions of people use Flickr, Smugmug, Picasa, AOL Pictures, and other sites to post and share all kinds of pictures. What many people don't know is just how many of these sites offer APIs that can be used to build mashups, photo tools, and other applications.

There are many different types of photo APIs, including photo sharing and management APIs, image editing APIs, and APIs that specialize in image slideshows, geolocation, and mapping. In fact, there are so many APIs that there's now a ProgrammableWeb Photo API and Mashup Dashboard to keep track of them all in one place. In this post, we'll take a look at the breadth and power of the 36 photo-related APIs and 415 photo mashups in our directory.

Photo sharing and management

About half of the available photo APIs help you manage and share your photos. The Flickr API is the standout in this category, offering API methods that can be accessed using multiple standard protocols (REST, SOAP, XML- RPC). The Flickr API lets you manage and retrieve everything from photos to contacts to comments and geographical locations. The API is well documented and their developer site links to examples in over a dozen programming languages. It's no wonder that more than 300 mashups have already been developed using the Flickr API.

The 23 API is modeled after the Flickr API, with the objective of standardizing photo APIs and providing interoperability between photo sharing sites. Other popular photo APIs include the Google Picasa API, the Smugmug API, the Buzznet API, and the AOL Pictures API.

Image editing APIs

Snipshot APIIf you'd like to offer visitors to your Web site the ability to edit their images online, there are several APIs available that will help you accomplish this. The Snipshot API is simple to apply. You send the API the URL of the image to be edited, a Callback URL, and the name of the file to be output (after the user has finished editing the image). The Snipshot Services page provides plenty of example code to get you started.

The FotoFlexer API provides access to a particularly rich online image editor. The API, which can be accessed using standard JavaScript, can be extended using server-side scripting technologies such as PHP. The Picnik and Pixenate APIs also provide access to powerful online image editing tools.

Slideshows, geolocation, and mapping

imageLoop APIThere are a few specialized photo APIs as well. The imageLoop API lets you create photo slideshows. imageLoop includes more than 80 well-documented functions, and can be accessed using standard protocols. Developer kits are available for programming in Java, PHP, Javascript, .NET/SOAP, and ActionScript.

The Panoramio API enables digital photographers to geolocate, store, and organize their photos, and view the photos in Google Earth and Google Maps applications. Panoramio uses JSON data formats and the REST protocol. Panoramio was acquired by Google last year.

If you live in Great Britain and you're wondering what you're looking at, the GetMapping API is available to assist you. The GetMapping API provides imagery that can be accessed by Web-enabled mobile phones for any location in Great Britain. You can select your location using postal code, town/village, street name, motorway junction, or East and North position. The GetMapping photos zoom to as close as 12.5 cm per pixel, which lets you see details as small as garden furniture and road markings, anywhere in the country.

Photo mashups

With more than 400 photo mashups available, there's a good chance you'll find many of interest. One of the best known and most popular is Big Huge Labs, home of “fd’s Flickr Toys”. As we reported last year, it’s a great mix of over two dozen toys, games and utilities for your photos.

Some of the other more popular directory listings for photo mashups include:

  • FlickrSudoku: Mashup of a popular online sudoku player and images from Flickr (more at our profile)
  • Tagnautica: Experimental navigation tool for exploring the space of related Flickr tags. Type in one start tag and dive into tag space (our profile).
  • A fun experiment in finding Flickr photos by color comes from Jim Bumgardner in Color Fields Colr Pickr. You can select colors directly or use the slider to adjust lightness and darkness (our profile).

The Current Photo API List

To give you a sense of the scope, here's the list of photo-related API entries in the directory:

  • 23: Photo sharing service
  • Alexa Site Thumbnail: Thumbnail images of web site home pages
  • AOL Pictures: Online photo management
  • Buzznet: Photo sharing
  • Cellblock: Real-time Multimedia File Sharing
  • Faces.com: Photo and media sharing service
  • Flickr: Photo sharing service
  • FotoFlexer: Online image editor
  • Fotolia: Royalty free stock photos
  • Geograph: British Isles photo service
  • GetMapping: Aerial photography and mapping service
  • Google Picasa: Photo management and sharing service
  • imageLoop: Animated slideshow service
  • Ipernity: Media sharing service
  • Nirvanix: Internet storage service
  • Orb: Digital media remote access and management
  • Pando: File delivery and management services
  • Panoramio: photo upload site with organizer and geolocation
  • Phanfare: Photo and video sharing service
  • Picnik: Online photo editing service
  • Pikeo: Picture sharing service
  • Pixagogo: Online photo services
  • Pixenate: Online photo editing
  • Riya: Photo search
  • ShutterPoint: Stock photography service
  • SimpleAPI: Web site thumbnail image creation
  • Smugmug: Photo sharing service
  • Snipshot: Online photo editing service
  • WebShots: Photo sharing service
  • Windows Live Spaces Photo: Photo management services
  • Windows Live Spaces Photo Control: Programmable widget for blog photos
  • XmgImage: Photo sharing and editing
  • Yahoo Image Search: Image search services
  • Zoto: Photo sharing service
  • Summary

    The spectrum of available photo APIs is broad and continues to grow. Check the new ProgrammableWeb Photo Mashup Dashboard for the latest on photo APIs and mashups.

    Be sure to read the next API article: When ToS Enforce the Word of God