How to Perform a Google Images Reverse Search
Do you have a picture stored on your phone or computer, but don’t know its source? Or are you a photographer looking to identify if your work is published online without your permission?
If the image is hosted on the internet, a google image reverse search can likely track it down.
Playing the role of Sherlock Holmes, search engines can mine the photo’s image content to discover visual clues that help identify websites that host the image or display related images. Today, we’ll show you how to perform a reverse image search and provide some tips and tricks to make your hunt more effective.
What is a Google Image Reverse Search?
With a normal Google search, a user types a text query into the search bar—it could be to ask a question, go directly to a website, or discover more information on a topic. After hitting enter, Google takes you to the results page and then allows you to filter the search according to different parameters like news, images, maps, and videos.
For instance, if you type in ‘Lamborghini Aventador,’ Google’s All page will display the following results:
- Lamborghini’s website
- “People also ask” rich-featured snippet
- Images tab for Lamborghini Aventador
- Car and Driver’s 2022 Lamborghini Aventador Review
- Lamborghini Aventador Wiki page
Conversely, Google Search by Image lets you use a photo or image URL as the contextual basis of its investigation instead of a written query. With a reverse image search, users can upload an image file or image link and Google will find the sites where the particular image originated.
Continuing with our example, let’s say you had saved the picture of a Lamborghini tail light but didn’t know what year or model it was from. By performing a reverse image search, you could find the source image and discover more information about that specific car.
How Does a Reverse Image Search Work?
Google reverse image search relies on a technique that’s known as a content-based image retrieval (CBIR) query. This computer vision technology was created by front end developers to make it easier for search engines to trawl massive content databases by limiting the scope of queries to images, not search terms. If you’re not familiar with the career of a front end developer or the average front end developer salary, then you can rely on our resource center to help familiarize yourself with this line of work.
Restricting the search saves algorithms from having to use processing power to guess certain keywords or terms that may not be related to the search. Instead, they can focus solely on the content.
You might reasonably assume that the “content” a reverse image search relies on relates to image metadata like keywords, tags, or descriptions. But that’s not the case.
The metadata across a practically infinite number of images is neither reliable nor do they provide the necessary specificity to filter through millions of similar photos. Such a process would depend entirely on the quality and completeness of manual metadata image annotations.
It would be like trying to find the needle in the haystack—except the entire haystack was made up of different types of needles.
So, instead of metadata, the content in this context refers to the visual elements of the photo, such as the shapes, colors, and textures.
How Do You Perform a Google Search?
Do you have a photo you want to perform a reverse Google Image search on? Here are several ways you can do that.
Most browsers will allow you to search with an image on Google, including Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer.
From there, you can select one of four methods to perform the image search:
1. Uploading the picture
- Type in images.google.com
- Click on the camera symbol to search by image
- Select upload an image
- Choose file or browse
- Find the photo you want to upload from your device storage
- Click open
2. Searching with a URL
- Locate the website that hosts the picture you want to search
- Right-click on the picture to pull up the secondary menu
- Select copy image addresses
- Go to images.google.com
- Paste the image URL into the text box
- Press search by the image
3. Dragging and dropping
- Go to images.google.com
- Find the image file you want to search
- Click on the image and hold down
- Drag the picture and drop it into the search box
- Press enter
4. Searching a picture from a website
- Go to the website with the image you want to search
- Right-click on the picture to pull up the secondary menu
- Click Search Google for image
- Go to the new tab to see the results
Can You Perform a Google Images Reverse Search on Mobile?
An image search on a desktop is easy. But what about on your mobile phone or tablet? While there is some reverse image search functionality, it’s not built into mobile search.
If you type images.google.com into the search bar, you won’t be able to see the camera icon if you’re on iOS or Android. Instead, you’ll need to access the desktop version of Google search from your mobile device:
- Using Safari – At the bottom of the page, next to the image address, you’ll see the aA icon. Click that and select request desktop website. This will upload the desktop version of Google, which will have the camera icon. Click that and upload a photo from your camera roll.
- Using Google Chrome – At the bottom of the Google Images search page, tap on the three dots icon (…), scroll to the bottom of the pop-up menu, and select request desktop site. This action will take you to the desktop version of Google, which will have the camera icon. Click that and upload a photo from your camera roll.
Reasons To Perform a Google Image Search
On the surface, a reverse image search may seem like a straightforward tool. But, with the right knowledge, it can be a swiss knife in your hands, enabling you to:
- Find the image source – If you have a picture saved but don’t know where it originally came from, a search could help you locate the webpage where the image appears.
- Discover a higher resolution version of the image – Is the copy of your image grainy and low quality? Google allows you to filter images according to resolution and file size.
- Identify the artist, photographer, or content creator – Perhaps there’s a piece of digital art or a snippet from a video that you saw on a website, but the creator wasn’t credited for their work. You could perform an image search to discover the artist’s social media pages and website.
- Flag manipulated or derivative versions of the image – Are you an artist and want to protect your work from unauthorized use? Searching Google images for each piece will allow you to identify whether a website is hosting your art or if a stranger is trying to pass off your work as their own. Unfortunately, you cannot block websites on Chrome to prevent them from stealing your images.
- Find more details about the image – As mentioned with the Lamborghini tail light example, performing a reverse image search could reveal more information about the context of the photo.
- Discover related images – You can also perform a reverse image search to find similar images. For instance, if you have a picture of a flower, but don’t know its name or genus, there are likely hundreds of other photos that contain pictures and details about that type of flower.
Google Lens: An Additional Reverse Image Search Tool
Google Lens is another helpful image-based search application that you can use to search images, although its purpose isn’t exactly the same as reverse image search. Per Google:
“Google Lens is a set of vision-based computing capabilities that can understand what you’re looking at and use that information to copy or translate text, identify plants and animals, explore locales or menus, discover products, find a visually similar image, and take other useful actions.”
This powerful technology uses AI and deep machine learning to detect an image on your camera and then provide further actions like:
For example, you know the pesky SSID sticker on the back of your WiFi router? You no longer need to manually input each number and letter. Instead, Google Lens can take a picture of the sticker and automatically connect to the internet.
Google Lens is more accommodating to Android users than iOS users. You can use the dedicated Google Lens app, Google Photos app, or even the camera App to access Lens functionality. On the other hand, with the iPhone, you’re limited to just the Google App.
Power Your Website with WP Engine
A reverse image search is just one of the many ways Google’s search engine helps to connect users to their ultimate search query. You can use it to find the original source of an image, discover an image’s background and context, or even protect your own work from plagiarism.
Want to discover more about how you can leverage Google and rank higher on visual search results?
At WP Engine, education is just one of the many resources we provide. Whether you need enterprise WordPress hosting and solutions for your business, or simply want to deepen your understanding of the way Google’s algorithm works, we’re here to help you learn and grow your business.
- Google Patents. Image Retrieval Method. https://patents.google.com/patent/EP1221662A3
- Google Lens. What Is Google Lens? https://lens.google/howlensworks/