The Most-Viewed Photo of All Time

Ever wonder what the most viewed photograph of all time is? One leading candidate is Bliss, the photograph chosen by Microsoft to be the default wallpaper of Windows XP. Showing rolling green hills in Sonoma County, California, the image was shot by the side of a highway by professional photographer Charles O’Rear using a medium format camera. It has reportedly been viewed by over 1 billion people since it first emerged in 2002.

It’s unknown exactly how much money Bill Gates shelled out for rights to the photograph, but O’Rear has stated that the price was “extraordinary” (guesses, anyone?).

If you’re interested in paying a visit to the location, look up the address 3101 Fremont Dr. (Sonoma Hwy.), Sonoma, CA. The hill’s exact coordinates are 38.250124,-122.410817.

You won’t be the first though: many photographers have journeyed to the spot to recreate the iconic image. Here are some pictures shot at the same location:

Captured by Simon Goldin on November 26, 2006

Captured by Tony Immoos on May 2, 2010

Captured by Google Street View on May 19, 2011

Bliss (via Morts Lindholm via Mashable via HUH)

Image credit: Photograph by Charles O’Rear/Microsoft

  • Antonio Carrasco

    This photo perfectly sums up Microsoft’s utter lack of style

  • Angus McFangus

    What’s interesting about this picture (to me anyway…maybe nobody else) is how it’s a great example of retaining copyright and getting your contract with clients in order.

    As I understand it, this image was shot as part of Charles’ assignment to produce images for a book on wine making. It would have been very easy for him to agree that all the images he shot on that job would be become property of his client, but through good luck or good management he was able to retain the copyright to this image and license it to Microsoft for whatever the fee was.

    When he signed the contract, did he know what was ahead? As he shot the picture, did he know how big it was going to be? No, and that’s why we should always retain copyright to our images; you never know what income you might cut yourself off from later on.


    This is exactly what I was looking for.

  • Samcornwell

    This is my final year project, right here. The extreme dissemenation and reproduction of a single photograph across the globe.

  • Alexander Petricca

    Would the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II (used on all CommonWealth currency, stamps etc) be a close contender for most reproduced and viewed image?

  • rtfe


  • CJK

    wasn’t it more like 2001? at least xp was released that year.

  • DM

    Goes to show, 1 lucky shot can change the future. There was money in stock. Wish I was Charles. As an art director, it goes to show one shot answers the brief. Is that your shot, what’s the brief? Who cares, I shot it, you want it. Lottery win, in perspective

  • harumph

    The funny thing is that the linked article refers to it as the “most famous photograph,” and yet I’d bet that there are plenty of Windows users who wouldn’t recognize it all. I didn’t.* I never leave the wallpaper on the default. It’s one of the first things I do when I get a new computer.

    Anyway, it’s an impossible record to verify. I mean, how could anyone ever know how many people have seen Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, or the Nat Geo Afghan Girl, or any number of celebrity photos over the decades? I’d bet that you’d have a hard time finding somebody who doesn’t recognize the photo of the first footprint on the moon, for instance. But show this generic landscape to a dozen people and how many are actually going to recognize it?

    *Although I did recognize it as Northern California, since I live just a few miles from where the shot was taken.

  • Keiran Blackwell

    Really? Win8 Metro lacks style? The XBOX lacks style? The Surface lacks style?

  • checkmate

    Says the guy with a blurry profile pic….

  • Marc

    I find it hilarious that the allegedly most viewed photo has been so ungracefully compressed by microsoft, even at this size you can spot the ugly violet jpeg artifacts in the shadows… It always bothered me.

  • Jo Mama

    Yeah…meaning it doesn’t have an Apple logo on it. lol

  • cbfeel

    Ur an idiot…how bout u go ask a dozen people and I bet 9/10 Kno what it is…

  • harumph

    Lol. F***in’ numbers, how do they work? How about you ask 5 people how to spell remedial words such as “you’re” and “know,” and I bet 3/7 get them wrong.

  • Duh

    I agree with cbfeel. This photo is iconic. If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past 10 years, you should be able to recognize this.

  • Andrew Bowman

    not a photo.

  • Andrew Bowman

    It is a wise photographer who knows when to sell his copyright.

  • Paul M. Watson

    Surely something like Earthrise, which would have been broadcast extensively, be a better candidate? Windows XP is influential but there are many, many people who have televisions and no PC. Shared or communal TVs etc.

    Also you could probably just head over to India or China and find a photograph few of us Westerners have seen being viewed by billions.

  • SiggFeee

    I think you may be onto something dude.
    Total-Privacy dot US

  • paul land

    I’ll bet this is also the most frequently *rejected* photo in history.

  • lakawak

    Wow…how pathetic. I love how you thought your comment made Microsoft look bad.

  • lakawak

    No..the article is about Most VIEWED photo. And you had to view it at least once if you had XP.

  • lakawak

    Again…it is always great when idiots post something that they THINK will make others look bad but only make themselves look like childish idiots.

  • Ameer Gittens

    All these years and I never realized that was an actual photograph. It looked so cartoonish. Perhaps that’s because it was associated with an operating system that is child’s play–compared to OS-X.

  • harumph

    Reading comprehension, how does it work? If you click through to the original article–as I said above–then you’ll see the “most famous” claim.

    Funny what computer nerds will get worked up over.

  • lakawak

    I love how you make idiotic claism and then think you win a debate by making more and then spewing juvenile insults.

    Plain and simple…none of the photos you have suggested have been seen by a billion people.

  • lakawak

    Ooooh! You showed them! All those 99% of business that increased productivity by huge amounts with XP sure are upset that they didn’t have OS-X.
    Dude…Steve Jobs is dead. Has been for awhile. IT is doubtful he has any semen left for you to swallow.

  • harumph

    The only actual claims I made were that I didn’t recognize the xp wallpaper, and that something like “most viewed” or “most famous” is impossible to verify. I don’t see that either of those points has been disproven.

    And your definitive claim that a billion people haven’t seen any of the photos that I mentioned is just silly. There’s obviously no way anyone can know that.

  • bored

    haha when youve got nothing else… turn to criticising grammar. Awesome.

  • Pym

    Have an issue with the trees on the pictures: 2006 : Trees, 2010 : No trees, 2011 Trees…

  • Drew Sanocki

    Childs play? Really in what world? Windows xp has made billions of dollars for companys, has ran on some of the more iconic computers the world over. Mac OSX based on BSD is all in all a fairly good OS.They have dumbed it down to allow the masses to use it, and from how you speak I would guess you have no idea how to fully use the power you are so proud of having. But calling XP childs play is no where near what you should be calling it. If anything apple proved that they made their macs for children, please review the PC vs Mac commercials. PC is heaver set business man in a suit ready to do some work and make some money. Mac is to be the laid back college/rich kid, just looking to have some fun. Now I say this knowing Mac is a good platform please don’t misunderstand me. But comparing Windows XP and Mac OSX? They are not even in the same zip code, they are worlds apart and they show it, now come to vista/7 and what ever Apple is calling OSX this time that is a lot closer as the markets move into more of a even split you could compare the two systems. But On the flip side to all of this a unix system Trumps everything.


    Unix – Where it all started, and still on top
    Linux – All of the Unix, more usability
    BSD (OSX) – All of the Unix, Tons of head aches to do what should be easy.
    Windows – The OS the world knows and Honestly if the world knows it then you have won the game.

    Windows XP Trumps OSX,
    Vista/7 On par with OSX.

  • Jack Xiao

    For me, the Kechara Tibetan Art was the most view picture for me as it hang on the wall at my living room ~ For every time at the living room I will also have a look on it ~ Its mor than the “bliss” from window ~

  • karmicbilling

    Your posts are proof of that.

  • Realist

    You make the incorrect assumption that Microsoft’s intent was to display the image with maximum detail viewable, rather than take into account the tradeoffs associated with computing efficiency. Storing the image in a reasonably small amount of bytes was likely more important than appealing to the 0.001% of the population who shares your concerns.

  • brianjoecurry

    I never realized the picture was of a real scene! Thanks for the interesting storie.

  • Made Bali

    I thought that picture was photoshoped!

  • AlexKach

    This is most common wrong usage of statistics when dignity of the Microsoft created soft used by millions of people mix up with the fact of wallpaper’s author not known and not actually deserved any attention. Me and all of my friends started usage of this Microsoft OS deleting and substituting this picture.

  • günter

    “The most-viewed picture”
    I think you have seen the picture at least once before you desided to delete the wallpaper?

  • Roy

    It probably was.

  • Me

    You may also notice the mountains move up and down. Conspiracy, or photos not taken from the exact same place each time

  • LouisDoench

    “photoshopped” is practically a scare word. Any image meant for display on a computer has been manipulated in some fashion. Don’t equate photoshop with cheating. ;)

  • Made Bali

    thanks for the heads up Louis :D

  • Samcornwell

    Besides, it’s not the same picture on every stamp / coin / note. She ages, y’know.

  • jessica

    I thought this photo is not real… thqanx for the interesting story

  • MI Photographer

    Interesting how with the passage of time, mountains grew in the background (last shot)

  • NetDost Social Network

    the style was acquired recently

  • NetDost Social Network

    this picture has been seen so many times, i m sure most people have begun to hate it

  • chai

    I cant look at this pic and not think of the Teletubbies! lol!