Realtime Photo Sharing: Flickr Photo Session

This is a guest post by Jason Gabriele. Jason is a developer from the Yahoo! Mobile Platform/CPG team, who has worked in the mobile space for years developing on devices ranging from a Motorola V3 flip phone to modern devices like the iPhone. Over the past few months, his focus has been on the Photo Session project working mostly on the frontend UI.

Photo Session started as a Hack Day project by Iain Huxley. The idea came from the desire to share and discuss photos live with friends, like being able to share photos from a recent vacation with his mother in Australia. He then created a demo which could provide realtime photo viewing synced across multiple users located anywhere in the world. At a Yahoo! Hack Day event, Photo Session was selected as a winner and Iain was awarded a Yahoo-branded beach towel. Later, the project evolved into a Flickr photo sharing project with chat provided by Yahoo! Messenger.

Photo Session

Photo Session allows you to share photos in realtime with your friends. You can slide through photos, draw on them, zoom in and out, and send messages with others present in the session using the built-in chat window. Users without Flickr accounts can still join as guests but can’t use certain features like the drawing tool or chat. Given the requirement to allow guest participants, we had to limit the photos to publicly-accessible photos only for the first release.

The Basics

  • Create a Photo Session by visiting a set or photo stream and clicking on “Start a Photo Session” under the share menu
  • Once in the photo session, advance through photos by clicking and dragging or using the arrow buttons (desktop only)
  • Start drawing mode by clicking the pencil icon (must be logged into Flickr) and begin drawing on the photo. Your drawing will be shared with others in the session but will be cleared as soon as drawing mode is disabled
  • Zoom in by using the +/- buttons or using the scroll wheel on the desktop, or by pinch-zooming on the iPhone and iPad
  • You can view details about the photo using the Information icon in the lower-left on desktop browsers, or by clicking the “i” icon in the lower-right on the iPhone
  • You can leave the group at any time and browse on your own using the “Browse on your own” button (not available on the iPhone). Return to the group session by simply clicking the button again
  • You can hide the Photo Session toolbars by doing a single click on the current photo. Click again to bring them back

Browser Support

Since the primary use of Photo Session is sharing photos, we wanted to make sure the experience felt fast and responsive. This meant we would need to use features like CSS transforms and other CSS3 properties only available in the latest browsers. We also needed the rendering to be fast enough to support users rapidly advancing through photos. We decided to support Chrome, Firefox, IE9, Safari and iOS for our first launch. This would also simplify the QA process. We plan on adding support for Android in the future.


Photo Session is in preview mode, so we may change features in the future depending on how people use them. We already have plans for some new features, but we would still love to hear from you so please provide feedback in the Flickr forums. We hope Photo Session makes sharing photos with your family and friends a more social and interactive experience!