The internet runs on pictures. Whether they’re from blogs, social media sites, or the dozens of stock image providers available, there are billions of images simply floating around in the ether — copied, edited, and shared a million times more. If you happen to get your hands on a copy of a certain image, will you be able to find its original version amidst countless copies circulating the internet?
With the help of a reverse image search tool, yes, you can. Reverse image search websites and apps are powerful instruments that can help you trace the history of an image on the internet and find exactly what you’re looking for.
Table of Contents
- What can I do with a reverse image search tool?
- Online tools to find out where an image came from
What can I do with a reverse image search tool?
A quick and easy search using a reverse image search tool can already give you a bounty of information about a particular image and its internet origins. Here are a few use cases where you can utilize the potential of a reverse image search tool.
Identify an image’s copyright details and whether it’s free to use.
Remember that not all images on the internet are free to use. Most are protected by copyright, preventing you from using that image for commercial purposes. To spare yourself from future legal issues, do a reverse image search and identify whether the image is copyrighted or is free to use.
If an image is copyrighted but you’re still keen on using it, a reverse image search will also bring you to the appropriate channels to obtain a license or ask for permission from the owner.
Find the original source of an image for crediting purposes.
Even if you’re using an image with a Creative Commons license (read: free to use and distribute) or under fair use, it is still highly recommended to give credit where credit is due. A quick reverse search is more than likely to give you the name of the image’s owner and where they posted the image.
Find visually similar images.
A reverse image search is an easy way to find alternatives to a picture you may already have. This is incredibly useful if the image is copyrighted, and you want to substitute it with a visually similar yet free-to-use alternative.
Check whether your copyrighted work is being used without your permission.
If you’re a creator like a photographer or a blogger, you may have uploaded dozens of images online that you now want to check if they are being used elsewhere on the internet without your permission. A reverse image search makes this process very easy, so you can focus on what actions to take if you find a site infringing on your copyright.
We’ve assembled seven (7) of the best reverse image search tools, based on ease of use and reliability of results. All of them are free, although a few may require you to create an account or pay a small fee for more premium features.
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Online tools to find out where an image came from
We begin with TinEye, our pick for the best reverse image search tool available today. It’s simple, reliable, and 100% free to use. TinEye’s index is over 56 billion of the internet’s images, and it brings back a search result that is clean and navigable.
There is also a smart sort feature that you can use to identify the best match, the biggest image, or the oldest search result (helpful if you’re looking for the image’s original source). TinEye also makes reverse image searching especially easy by offering browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge. Just right-click on any image you encounter on the internet, and TinEye can do a reverse search for you.
Next on our list is perhaps the default reverse image search tool for most of us. Google Images is a no-brainer choice for those who use Google Chrome as their browser. It’s familiar, it’s convenient, and it searches within the largest index (over 1.5 trillion images).
The Google Images result includes visually similar images, plus pages with matching images, the top result of which is often the image’s original source.
The image search feature, however, is not automatically accessible within Google’s initial search bar. Instead, it is accessed via the separate Images search page. Google makes up for this lapse by making it super quick to search for an image while browsing. When you right-click on any image on Chrome, you can simply click “Search Google for image” to do an easy reverse image search.
Bing Image Search
Google Search may be the dominant search engine by a mile, but other engines also have reliable features that can rival the former. In the case of Bing, its reverse image search feature is already embedded in the initial search bar, making the feature decidedly more intuitive than Google’s.
The search results are compactly presented and include pages with matching images (which you can sort by date), and related content. While Bing’s search index is smaller compared to Google’s, its reverse image search tool is just as reliable and convenient.
Reverse Image Search
Sometimes it takes searching through multiple search engines to find exactly what you’re looking for, especially when you’re dealing with a dodgier or more obscure image. Instead of manually visiting each search engine, try using Reverse Image Search instead.
Reverse Image Search acts like an image search switchboard operator, allowing you to reverse search for your desired image through four major search engines: Google, Bing, Baidu (the largest search engine in China and 4th worldwide), and Yandex (the largest in Russia and 5th worldwide). While reverse image searching through just one search engine already casts a wide net, Reverse Image Search empowers you to cast an even wider net to get those harder-to-find images.
Pre Post SEO
Pre Post SEO is a free, all-in-one website that marketers, bloggers, and other content creators can get a lot of value out of. It has a reverse image search tool that pools from multiple search engines like Google and Yandex (much like Reverse Image Search, although not as powerful.) If you’re looking for an image without a reference, you can also search via keywords or via URL You can even filter your search to certain categories, such as nature images, for example.
Aside from its reverse image search feature, Pre Post SEO also has a host of other tools for writing, domain management, and website management, among others. Most of these tools are free to use, but more premium features are available on an annual subscription.
If you’re looking for a reverse image search tool to check for copyright infringement of your work, then Pixsy is the one for you. This app is specifically designed to find and fight image theft, helping you pinpoint accurate matches of your images that are floating online. You will need to create an account before you can use Pixsy, but it is free and easy to get started.
For a fee, Pixsy can also assist you in doing the necessary actions when you have identified matches, such as issuing takedown notices or recovering compensation and damages. If you’re an artist, photographer, or content creator with an extensive online portfolio, Pixsy may be a worthwhile investment to protect your visual work from theft.
Getty Images is a big name in stock and editorial photography, but did you know that it also has its own reverse image search tool? This feature is best used for searching Getty Images’ extensive in-house library of over 80 million images to look for similar images that you might want to purchase a license for professional use.
That said, Getty Images’ reverse image search tool is not helpful in finding an image’s source and other details. For this purpose, it’s recommended to use some of the other alternatives mentioned above like TinEye or Google Images.
Whatever your goal is for doing a reverse image search — whether you’re looking for an image’s owner or finding visually similar photos — there are several free tools available that you can use to find exactly what you’re searching for.