Jun 11, 2014 Allie Wenner Uncategorized
Now that the weather is getting nicer, a number of people are beginning to flock to Central New York to enjoy it – including representatives from Google.
Adam Hilker is a trusted Google photographer from Ithaca. His job is to visit villages, towns and cities in upstate New York and northern Pennsylvania, taking pictures of the sidewalks, storefronts, parks and the inside of businesses along the way.
“I get to see cool things, meet cool people and see the inside of some neat businesses,” said Hilker. “There is no typical workday and I like that. Every town is different, so my job is different every day.”
Contrary to popular belief, Hilker doesn’t actually work for Google. He has his own business, called Places Mobile, and he and his two coworkers are certified by Google to be part of the street view team. He, like the thousands of other Google trusted photographers, is a subcontractor, responsible for taking photos within a particular region of the world.
But don’t confuse his job with that of the Google Street View Car, which only photographs pictures from the streets, including residential neighborhoods. Hilker and his fellow coworkers are responsible for capturing the areas that the car cannot. And although photography is a skill necessary for success at his job, he said it’s just as much of a sales position.
“I actually don’t have a big photography background,” Hilker said, who’s been a subcontractor for Google since 2012. “I have more of a background in business than anything else. I applied for the job and had to take several tests to prove I could do it. Because we don’t get paid by Google, all of our profits come from businesses who want to be a part of the program.”
In 2012, Google introduced a feature for businesses within Google Maps which allows users to not only zoom in and see actual streets in the community, but to go a step further and “walk in” to businesses by being able to access a panoramic view inside the store.
The price starts at $96 dollars a year for businesses that are relatively small in area and goes up from there. Hilker said the price depends on how many panoramic or 360-degree photographs have to be taken, and that close to 50 percent of business owners he talks to agree to participate.
It can take Hilker and his team anywhere from a couple hours to a couple days to finish photographing a certain place. He estimated that it would take about one to two hours to do the villages of Manlius and Fayetteville, depending on how many business owners were interested. But not every project is quite so simple.
“It took us three days and three full time photographers to do Destiny USA,” he said. “But we couldn’t do full days because it got so busy. We would start as soon as the mall opened, around 10 a.m., and work for about two hours before it got too crowded. An average business does three to five spins – we did almost 500 at Destiny. It’s still the largest inside project Google has ever done.”
Hilker said that during the winter months, he and his team do the bigger indoor projects, like malls, and wait until the summer months to focus on the storefronts and smaller businesses.
“The Google Street Car might come on a cloudy, rainy day, whereas we come on a nice day when the town is looking good,” he said. “If we can, we like to let people know ahead of time that we’re coming. That way people can spruce everything up to portray their towns the best possible way.”
So far, locally, the Google trusted photographers have captured Cazenovia and Baldwinsville along with Fayetteville and Manlius. They’ll be returning next week to photograph **, and to follow up with any businesses in the F-M area that may have not been prepared to have their pictures taken when they first came through on June 5.
He said that most people react either one of two ways after seeing his tripod and camera set up: by either smiling and waving, or insisting that they not be included in the photo. And during his time travelling around with a camera, he has met some interesting folks.
“When we did Hamilton College, there was a guy dressed up in a pink gorilla suit and he followed us throughout the entire campus,” he said. “He actually got in a lot of the pictures – he’s somewhat hidden, but you can just make out a pink gorilla in many of them.”
Hilker is excited about a new development they’ve working on for Google Maps, called Google Virtual Area Guides, which will essentially provide virtual tours of each area photographed by Google trusted photographers. He expects it to be available by the end of the year.
“It’ll be available for Chambers of Commerce or villages and towns to buy, and they’ll be able to post it on their website,” he said. “So if someone’s planning to visit Fayetteville, they could take a virtual tour of the village with a navigation bar, which will tell them where everything is and how to get there.”
He anticipates that the photos taken in the F-M area will be live on Google Maps by the end of the following week and is hoping to have the Virtual Guide built by the end of the month.
For more information about the Google Street View program, contact Hiker at 605-564-7479.