Yesterday, Google announced that it will be sending professional photographers to business in an effort to beef up the quality and quantity of content in listings on Google Places. Apparently, the company isn't satisfied with satellite photos, street views, a camera-equipped bicycle, and even a snowmobile for helping people find things in the real world. They are now interesting in actually going inside the businesses they list.

To feed this insatiable lust for information, Google has hired professional photographers in select cities in the United States, Australia and Japan. Businesses can apply for a photo shoot at the Google Business Photos site. Apparently, the shoots will take about an hour, and will be minimally disruptive for pretty much all types of businesses. And best of all, like most things Google, the photo shoots have the competitive price of $0.00 (which, regardless of the exchange rate, is also ¥0 in Tokyo and Kyoto).

If you're a business owner considering applying, you're probably wondering what Google plans to do with these images. "Why would some internet company pay good money for professional photographers to take pictures of my business?," you may ask yourself.

For the time being, Google will use the photos to populate the Places Page (Local Business Center listing) for your company. We assume that the reasoning behind this is to make the site more useful for potential costumers of a business, who would love to see high-quality photos of a hotel, restaurant, store, etc. before deciding to go there. By paying for photographers at certain locations, Google probably hopes to get the ball rolling, pressuring competitors to get their own photos on the site since every little thing adds up in the local search landscape.

Interestingly, the FAQs page for Google Business Photos suggests that they may be working on new applications for this type of photos behind the scenes. It may be part of a standard disclaimer, but the page specifically mentions that these photos "...over time may be stitched together into a panoramic view."

Perhaps they are working on some app to compete with Microsoft's entirely awesome PhotoSynth?

Regardless of the company's future plans, we recommend that you apply for one of these photo shoots ASAP. This is doubly true if your business is in one of the metro areas that Google has mentioned, or if you operate in a high search-volume industry, like hospitality, dining or nightlife.