Suppose you have an image and want to know if there are larger, higher resolution versions available. Sometimes you want to know where an image came from or where else it is used on the web, maybe you want to check whether an image is public domain or has copyright restrictions on its use. Sometimes you want to know whether someone’s social media profile picture is real or fake. A reverse image search can be used to find out all of these things.

Normally we use search engines like Bing to find images on the web. We enter some text like ‘cute cat’ and the result is a page of thumbnail images containing cute cats.

A reverse image search starts with an image and the result is text (and more images). It sort of works in reverse.

Provide a search engine with an image and they are able to analyze it and understand what is in it. They can then show other images that are the same or similar, larger or smaller, newer or older and so on.

Let’s take a look at how it works.

Bing reverse image search

Open a web browser and go to www.bing.com. Click Images in the toolbar at the top because we want to perform an image search.

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Ignore the search box. That is used to perform a normal search. Instead, click the Image Match button at the right side of the search box.

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The Image Match panel opens and there is a link to upload an image. Click the link and then select an image on the computer’s disk. Click the Open button to upload it.

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Bing searches using the image and displays a page of results. There is a main image and below is a collection of related images.

This is very useful if you need images similar to the one you have. Here are more eagles in different poses.

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Scroll down the page and there are links to show the image in different sizes – Extra large, Large, and Medium. Click the links if you need the image in a different size. Extra large images are high resolution and are suitable for print projects for example.

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Below the images are links to other web pages that use the image. By following these links you can see how other people and websites have used the image, and perhaps track down its owner or confirm that it is public domain.

In this example, 20 other pages were found using the image.

TinEye reverse image search

Other search engines can perform similar reverse image searches and Google is the obvious choice, but let’s take a look at an alternative, TinEye.

Go to the TinEye website (www.tineye.com) and click the button to the left of the search box.

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Just as with Bing, it prompts you to select an image on the computer’s disk. Select an image and click Open as you did with Bing.

Information is displayed about the image and in this case 59 results found. It found that three three results belong to image collections. The links, further down the page, show these and following them will tell you whether the image is public domain or copyright.

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TinEye shows the sites where the image you search on is used and the results can be sorted by date, size, similarity and so on. It is a very useful tool for researching images.

~ Roland Waddilove