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How to search for breaking news photos on Twitter

This article originally appeared on the author’s blog “Six Times an Hour.”

Remember the first three words of my earlier post on searching for breaking news videos on YouTube?

“Keywords are king.” That’s true for any kind of search you do regardless of which social media platform you use, including Twitter.

Twitter is pretty smart as to how it handles keyword searches: Twitter’s search engine, unlike others, will allow a person to include URLs, and portions of URLs, in its searches.

THAT makes searching for breaking news photos much easier, which I’ll demonstrate in this tutorial.

SCENARIO: There’s an explosion. Somewhere. I dunno, let’s just pretend you’ve been tasked with search for explosion photos on Twitter for whatever reason.

FIRST: Log in to Twitter, then head to

SECOND: Type in the keyword “explosion,” followed by the word yfrog.

Adding yfrog to the search will pull up a timeline of all photos uploaded with the popular yfrog service. You can replace yfrog with twitpic or lockerz, which are other photo services recognized by Twitter.

Sidebar: Recently, Twitter reformatted its keyword search to perform much like YouTube searches: That is, Twitter’s computer believes it knows how to conduct effective searches by showing a person relevant searches.

With that in mind, THIRD: Change the way the tweets appear in the timeline from “Top” to “All.”

This will not only show you all the tweets in a timeline, it will remove the filter that aggregates only the top tweets from people you follow. This is essential for finding breaking news photos from outside your circle of Twitter sources.

FOURTH: Clicking on the white space within a tweet should open a slide to the right of the tweet, which will reveal the piece of media. It should look something like this:


  • The above method also works if you want to search Twitter for YouTube videos, as opposed to searching YouTube for YouTube videos. Replace yfrog or twitpic with the word or youtube. Also try searching twitvid for videos uploaded to the Twitvid service.
  • Twitpic and yfrog images that are retweeted may be truncated with the or shortners. These will appear in the timelines.
  • Be specific and get creative with keyword searches when browsing Twitter timelines. “Explosion” and “fire” are commonly used outside of the news sphere to describe things like desserts, etc. When searching for a fire in a particular neighborhood, searching “fire tribeca yfrog” will probably show better results for fires in the New York TriBeCa neighborhood than searching “fire yfrog” itself.
  • Search Twitter hashtags associated with an event (example: damage #eqnz twitpic or #eqnz yfrog).
  • Search early — usually the best time to search for photos on Twitter is within 15-30 minutes of a small- to medium-size news event and 15 minutes to an hour of a large-scale news event. After that, Twitter users may begin publishing photos they find on news websites or retweeting one piece of media multiple times, which sometimes makes it difficult to track down the original owner.
  • Save your searches for faster recalls by clicking the “Save this search” button at the top of the page if the story appears as if it will develop over a larger period of time.
  • If re-tweeting an image, be sure to cite the username of the person who photographed and published it.

There are also a few “Twitter search engines” for multimedia, including twipho and twicsy.  Both search engines offer the ability to customize searches for Twitter photos.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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