The Complete Guide to Reverse Image Search

A computer showing Google Reverse Image search results

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Have you ever found a beautiful landscape photo that took your breath away and you wanted to know where it was taken? How about a picture of a celebrity doing something you know for sure they had never done? Or an unbelievable picture of a lawnmower flying in the air? Well, you are in luck. There’s a convenient and easy-to-use bunch of tools out there called Reverse Image Search that can quickly analyze an image and identify it among the billions of images on the web.

What is Reverse Image Search?

Reverse Image Search is where you feed a computer an image and it will inspect it to see if it can cross-reference with a database of images to find the closest match. It is a step up from searching purely with keywords since you would only need one piece of input instead of multiple strings of text.

The most well-known use of Reverse Image Search is the feature in Google Images. Google Search Help’s reverse image search documentation tells us that you can look up an image to find out what it is or what kinds of things are in it, which website it came from, or even what other kinds of images look like it.

This feature is available to use on popular web browsers such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Apple Safari. Luckily the process for reverse image searching is almost the same regardless of which web browser you decide to use.

  1. First, open your browser of choice.
  2. Next, navigate to the Google Images website.
  3. Find, choose, and upload the image you want to reverse search with. You can do this by manually opening up a dialogue box that can navigate your computer’s directories or dragging and dropping in an image by clicking on the image you want to look up and, while holding down the left mouse button, dragging the cursor over to the specified drop area on Google Images. In this case, the drop area should be the Google search bar.
  4. Depending on your internet connection’s overall speeds and the status of your internet service, wait until you get back a possible match for your images as well as additional matches should the first presented match be wrong.

What can Affect Reverse Image Search?

It is important to note that Reverse Image Search is not a perfect technology. Multiple factors can influence the accuracy of your search results.

Image File Quality

An image’s quality is an overlooked but important factor in how well Reverse Image Search can recognize it. Let us think of an analogy. Say you were blindfolded in an experiment and asked to identify an object placed in your mouth by chewing and tasting it. Considering that the human mind relies heavily on its visual capabilities to recognize the taste, it makes no sense for you to be immediately able to recognize a random piece of food if it even is food, placed into your mouth.

Likewise, how can we expect a computer, something regularly compared to the human brain in terms of its capabilities and abilities, to fare any better in similar conditions to the blind taste experiment analogy? If you can barely make out an image, what makes you think a computer is likely to do any better in determining what that image is, or even what is in it?

To ensure your reverse image searches are as accurate as possible, make sure to keep these brief tips in mind:

  • A common indicator of file size is an image’s dimensions in pixels. Try to ensure your image’s dimensions are at least 200 pixels wide and 200 pixels long.
  • In rare instances, an image can be the right size but still be too unrecognizable even for Reverse Image Search. If you’re working in an image editing tool such as Adobe Photoshop or Paint.NET double-check to see if your image compression settings are too high upon exporting your image.
  • If all else fails, nothing beats opening up the image on your computer yourself and seeing with your own eyes how its quality is.

Unique and/or Unrecognizable Objects

You have probably often seen news articles about neural network training. Without getting into too many details, any service that offers Reverse Image Search needs to train its computers to identify objects in an image. The problem is that we have only gotten object recognition to a usable state for the consumer market within the last ten years, and as a result, computers still have not seen everything that possibly exists in this world.

At the moment the best way to make sure Google or any other service can adequately identify object elements in your image is to upload images with commonly known objects. Apples, cars, trees, you name it. Anything that a toddler can name from a picture book is something a computer can probably name as well.

But there is no need for concern about only reverse looking up images with easy-to-know objects. Every day there are more and more breakthroughs in the Reverse Image Search world. Can you imagine a world where a computer can recognize anything? This world is coming sooner than you think!

The Number of Websites that Share or Host the Image

Remember how we mentioned Reverse Image Search services need to train their computers to recognize objects? Well, that is not always the case. Sometimes if you are fortunate enough you have a complex or currently unrecognizable image that is shared widely across the web. Other times you have a well-known location that photographers flock to and take similar photos of to upload on their online profiles on photo-sharing social media sites.

Either way, the more samples a computer has, the more times it can practice recognizing those samples. Let us go into two scenarios and see how a simple phenomenon can have a major impact on the reverse search of an image.

Is Reverse Image Search Usable?

Regardless, these small and negligible issues should not deter you from actively using and taking advantage of such a powerful tool for professional and everyday use. Here’s why you should do a reverse image search and how it can help you.

Why You Should Reverse Image Search

Using reverse image search is easy and free, whether you use TinEye – the trailblazer program that innovated the field – or Google Image Search, or the various other tools available on the web. Both TinEye and Google Image have browser extensions that allow the process to be streamlined even more efficiently, allowing any user to search an image as easily as right-clicking the online image and sending the search request through. Other services such as Image Raider can be considered a meta-service, where the program will search the image not only on Google but also Bing and Yandex in addition to upwards of 20 images per search; though this is a bit overkill. For the majority of your needs, a simple Google or TinEye search will serve you just fine.

So why exactly do you need a reverse image? Well, there are several reasons to do some, among them are:

Tracking Image Use

If you have any sort of online presence, whether it’s a website, or you post copyrighted photos online, it’s easy to assume that your images will be, in some form, used by someone else. The reverse image allows you to see exactly when and where these images were used, allowing the user to determine whether or not the reuse is legitimate.

Malicious use aside, reverse searching also allows you to see how much traction your press releases or blog posts got. There is even the added benefit of uncovering any foreign coverage of your content, something that a typical engine search would likely not find.

If you find copyrighted photos that you did not allow for re-use, using reverse image allows you to find this infraction and allows you to take the appropriate action necessary.

Regardless of your purpose or intentions, the reverse image allows you to scour the web for your images or content in ways that traditional searches simply cannot.

Authenticating Images

With photo altering technology on the rise, you can never be sure if an image is real or if it’s fake. Photoshop antics aside, information such as how old the picture it, where it came from, or other details surrounding it often aren’t sources or stated in the initial source you find them.

There are countless examples where a quick reverse image search has allowed someone to avoid these classic pitfalls with images they find online. Sometimes images are misattributed – a black and white photo is attributed to one event, but depicts an entirely different one. This is much more common with images posted on social media, where misinformation is ripe, but sometimes even news stories get the captions wrong.

Perhaps an image looks too odd to be true? If an image has been doctored, reverse image search usually brings up dozens of images that either look similar or sources from satirical or image-tampering sites.

Now reverse image search is a critical step for any serious publication, including and especially news organizations – and given how quick and simple it is, there seems to be no reason not to do so.

Authenticating People

Reverse image search doesn’t just work for verifying images, it also works for verifying people – especially on social media. For example, a quick reverse image search on a person who cold messages you on LinkedIn could reveal that instead of being a hiring manager interesting in your skills, it could easily be a hacker phishing for your account information.

Often, searching a seemingly innocuous person’s profile picture online reveals that these are scammers, using the picture of a model or actor to seem more legitimate. When a quick reverse image search could save you from getting scammed, there’s no good reason not to use it

How Reverse Image Search Works

Searching an image using Google is easy, by uploading an image or object into the reverse image search, you can look up results with the aforementioned object in the image, images that are similar to the one you uploaded, or websites that use the image or a similar image.

Google’s reverse image search is compatible with most browsers, such as Chrome, Firefox, or Safari. The process is fairly simple, and there are three different ways to search for an image.

Uploading a Picture for Reverse Search

  1. Go to Google Images and click “Search by image”
  2. Click “upload an image” -> “Choose File” or “Browse
  3. Upload the image that you want to search from your computer
  4. Click Open or Choose

Dragging and Dropping a Picture for Reverse Search

  1. Similar to the first method, go to Google Images
  2. On your computer, find the image you want to look up.
  3. Click on the image and hold down the mouse key. While holding down the mouse key, drag the picture over to the search box and then let go of the mouse key once the image is over the search box

Search with URL for Reverse Search

  1. Find the image you want to look up on the website
  2. Right click on the picture and click “Copy image address”
  3. Open Google Images, click “Search by Image,” followed by “paste image URL”
  4. In the text box that opens, paste the URL that you copied earlier, then click “Search by image”

There is a different method if you have a Chrome browser. With the Chrome browser, go to the website containing the picture you want to look up, right-click the picture, and click “Search Google for an image.” The results for this image will open up in a new tab

Alternatives to Google Images

You can use Google or there are many alternatives.

Yandex

Yandex is the leading search engine in Russia (based on market share) and, thanks to recent legal changes (Google lost several lawsuits in Russian courts), is also making great strides in mobile, accounting for the majority of market share.

Yandex isn’t just a search engine, it offers a browser (YaBrowser), email, news, maps, paid advertising, and translator services to the Russian market, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Turkey. All of these features are great, but reverse image search is one of the most effective services on the market. Yandex reverse image utilizes different tools than American-based reverse search engines do and as a result can often look up things that traditional reverse image searches struggle with, such as landscapes or facial recognition. We’ll find out later why this is true.

Yandex may be more difficult to use than other North-American based reverse search engines – if you’re given the Russian interface, then look for the Выберите файл (Choose file) or Введите адрес картинки (Enter image address) buttons to use your preferred method of searching. Найти (Search) will allow you to look up your image after submitting it.

Following up on your search, you can use Похожие картинки (Similar images), and Ещё похожие (More similar) to tighten up your search.

Yandex’s key strength is facial recognition. Yandex will search up any photographs containing a face that’s similar to the one you look up; not only that, but the system will adjust its algorithm based on the lighting, background, and positions of images that it compares it to. Other search engines like TinEye and Google may look for photos of persons with similar clothing and general facial features, but Yandex will search for those photos in addition to photographs containing a facial match.

Yandex is based in Moscow, Russia, and is an entirely Russian service – thus some people have some concerns that these ties to Moscow will compromise their data in some way. This is certainly a distinct possibility, though not a definite one. Regardless, we advise you to use Yandex at your own risk.

TinEye

TinEye was the original pioneer of reverse image searching technology. TinEye is a reverse image search engine that helps you search for the source of an image and find where it appears on the web. The tool allows you to search by both URL and uploaded images. Simply click on the arrow icon in front of the search box and upload an image from your computer to find where it appears online. By uploading an image or searching through the image’s URL (or even dragging and dropping the contents into the search), TinEye will crawl throughout the web to look for images that are similar to your submission. TinEye’s index is over 44.8 billion images.

An advantage to using TinEye is that the image you submit will never be indexed or saved by TinEye’s server. Searching with TinEye will guarantee the safety and privacy of whatever image you search up.

One other noteworthy feature of TinEye is that it features a browser extension. By downloading the extension through the Firefox, Chrome, or Opera browser, you can skip many of the steps required to search up an image and simply right-click an image you find on your browser to immediately send it to TinEye’s query

The final and possibly most important technology that TinEye has is called “TinEye Alerts.” TinEye Alerts tracks images that you want it to and constantly scans the web daily to show you exactly where these images have appeared in the last 24 hours. TinEye can find these images even if they’ve been slightly modified and gives you a daily report so you can take a look to see how your images are currently being used. There is no functional limit to how many images you upload to TinEye. This feature is especially useful for artists, who often have their work uploaded online without their permission and TinEye gives them a tool to identify these and fight back.

TinEye Alert is also used by major companies such as Philips, The Home Depot, Vodafone, and many more.

DupliChecker

With billions and billions of photos on the web, it can be difficult to find exactly the image you are looking for, the source (photo match), and accompanying information in all of them. It can also be difficult to resize the images you already have, crop the thumbnails, or find other websites that use the same photos. But this is where “reverse image search” can help: to use DupliChecker’s image search on iPhone or Android, you simply upload an image from your phone or computer device, but another way is to paste the URL of the image into the space provided and The idea is to attach (please enter the URL). Now DupliChecker brings you more ease to find images in a keyword search by reverse image search.

Reverse image search can be done on smartphones as well as on desktop computers. Today, sites are becoming more friendly towards mobile users, which is why people can put these online tools to use anytime and anywhere.

Image Search on Mobile

It’s less hassle than searching for photos on a computer. People are looking for similar products online by taking images of products through their phones, checking prices/stock availability, and looking for recipes to cook with. Just open your browser and head to the reverse image search. Tap on the ‘upload’ icon in the tool or upload the photo by specifying the URL. To get the URL, you can switch tabs after opening the image individually in a window until you’re given the option to save the image, or you can save via tap and hold. Once you have uploaded the snap, all you need to do is tap on ‘Find similar images’ and then wait for the results.

Android: Reverse Image Search on Mobile

To search for an image on your phone using Google’s reverse image search, you’ll need to.

  1. Use your Android phone to open up the Google app
  2. Tap “Discover” near the bottom of the app and tap Google Lens once the search bar open up

Using your phone, there are two separate methods of searching for an image. You can opt to take a photo using your phone or you can upload an existing image that you already have on your phone.

If you only want to search for a part of the area within your search, tap the “use an object in the image” button which will allow you to select an object in your file or folder. Alternatively, you can tap the “use part of an image” to select an image area to look up instead. After entering all of this information, scroll down to find your search results.

Workarounds

As with all things that pertain to technology, things don’t always go according to plan. Image search is no exception. This section helps users do basic reverse image search through Google if you don’t have access to all of the fancy tools that we outlined above.

At its core, image search is just having a keyword in your mind, and looking for images that best encapsulate that keyword. Most search engines offer this. But what if you have an image and you want to know its source? Or what if you want to find a similar photo? That’s what reverse image search is all about.

Google’s reverse image search is easy to do on your desktop computer – go to images.google.com, click on the icon for the camera and paste the URL of the image you saw online, upload the image from your hard drive or the image from another window.

You can do this with Google, Yahoo, Bing, and more. But what about the inverse? Or if you have an image and you want to learn more about that image? That is the value of a reverse image search.

Google’s reverse image search is extremely simple and takes less than 1 minute for the entire process.

Navigate to your web browser – go to images.google.com.

Click the camera icon and put in the URL of the image you saw online, or upload the image if you have it saved.

Keep in mind, that the camera icon is not visible if you are on a mobile device.

To get this icon, you need to load the desktop version of the site to your mobile device. Don’t worry, it’s super simple! All you have to do is navigate to the bottom and press the three-dot menu and click ‘Request Desktop Site’.

Voila, you have just opened the desktop version and you can do a reverse image search by clicking the camera icon. If you have older mobile devices, your browser may also support reverse image search.

You can test if you have this functionality by holding down on an image you want to reverse search. If a pop-up menu pops up with functionality that says “Search on Google”, then you can just use this shortcut for reverse image search. Newer iPhones have this functionality removed, and from our tests, we found that it can only be done on Chrome web browsers.

Either way, you will see the results of a reverse image search. There are also options to narrow down the results, such as searching for animated GIFs or clipart equivalents or searching by the color scheme used in the initial image.

Huntress Reverse Image Search is a Google Chrome extension that allows you to screenshot a web page and select a portion of it for reverse image search. This is useful if you have multiple images combined and you want to do a reverse image search of only part of the combined image. Additionally, you can reverse image search a video by pausing the video, taking a screenshot, and then reverse image searching the screenshot.

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