Today at the Social-Loco conference in San Francisco, Google announced a new feature: Google Business Photos. Google will send photographers to select local businesses to photograph the interior and then place those photos on the businesses’s Google Places pages.

This could be a great marketing tool for small and local businesses that rely on their atmosphere and decor to get a leg up on their competitors. Restaurants, clothes stores, and coffee shops are sure to benefit from this.

Small businesses can apply and Google will select which companies to cover based on demand. If you don’t want to wait for Google to choose you, you can upload your own photos to your Google Places page. If Google takes the pictures, those images will eventually be stitched together in a panoramic shot.

This new service is starting in the U.S., Japan, Australia and New Zealand. U.S. test cities currently are:

  • Orange County, CA
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • San Francisco Bay Area, CA
  • San Antonio, TX
  • St. Petersburg, FL

You can still apply if your business isn’t in one of these areas as Google will be expanding this service over time. A complete FAQ for the new service is available on Google’s site.