My colleague Kelly was working with her client on a new website. And the client found an image they absolutely wanted on their site.
But her client didn’t know where the image came from. Kelly knew she needed to confirm the image could be used on the site.
Where could she start looking? Kelly posted in one of the online forums I belong to:
Any idea how to find the original source for an image?
Sure, I have a few recommendations.
Why You Don’t Want to Download a Copy of the Image
When you find an image online, whether through a search or in a site template, you want to confirm you can use it.
The image may be copyrighted or it may have a Creative Commons license, with specific guidelines for usage.
In addition, your design might need a different size of the image than the one you found online.
Locating the original source of the image allows you to create alternate sizes, crop the image, and make different orientations of the image.
And that’s why you want to know about reverse image search engines.
Reverse Image Search
I discovered reverse image search sites a few years ago when one of our Refresh Detroit members explained how it worked.
At that time (I think it was late 2000’s), it seemed only one reverse image search site was available.
Today, there are several reverse image search sites and they all work in a similar manner:
- You upload a file to their online site or provide the URL to the page that includes the image
- Their search engine goes to work locating copies of the image
- You get a results page with versions of the image, and where the image has been used online
Some sleuthing may be required on your part to discover the first use for the image.
Key things to look for in the results page: the image with the largest dimensions and the oldest date.
three two of my favorite reverse image search sites. (Sadly, Image Raider is no longer available online.)
One of the best known and oldest reverse image search sites is TinEye. It’s free and easy to use.
- Info on where the image came from
- How the image is used
- Modified versions of the image
- Higher resolution versions of the image
TinEye uses image recognition to search for images and it doesn’t reveal its algorithm.
According to their website, TinEye is the
first image search engine on the web to use image identification technology rather than keywords, metadata or watermarks.
You can use TinEye without an account, though a free personal account TinEye gives you a heads-up on new features, ability to share your search results, and keep track of images you search for.
As of November 2016, TinEye has indexed 16.5 billion images.
2. Google Reverse Image Search
While you may have used Google’s image search in the past, many people aren’t aware Google can conduct a reverse image search.
Visit Google Images and select the camera icon in the search box.
The input box will change, allowing you to paste the image URL or upload an image from your computer.
Select search by image and Google will display the results of the search. Additionally, Google will display similar images.
Reverse image search engines provide a critical service for anyone trying to find the original source for an image. They work quickly to scan their image index and provide you with fast results.
When I searched for a photo I used on my blog last week on the two search sites. Google Reverse Images was the only site that found it.
My advice: if you’re not able to find an image with one of the reverse image sites, try the other one.
As with any search engine, your mileage may vary for your searches. Good luck!
Have you used a reverse image search engine? What were your results? Share your experience in the comments.Originally published on November 14, 2016