It’s not uncommon to find images a bit more difficult to search for on the Internet than other types of content. After all, they have a lot of nuances that aren’t always easy to neatly put into words. What are they depicting? Where are they (supposedly) situated? What colors are they? What sizes are they? Are they photographs, or perhaps drawings, paintings, or animations?
Fortunately, in addition to some advanced techniques, there are tools you can use to zero in on the pictures you’re looking for online. Many of the most popular search engines have advanced functions that can let you specify the attributes of images you want to find, or even find an image based on another image. There are even some specialized search engines that are dedicated to finding images!
So, in this article, we’ll help you grow your online image search skills by covering these topics:
- How to do a Google Images advanced search
- How to do a Google reverse image search
- Why use an advanced or reverse image search?
- The top 5 advanced image search engines
Well, let’s get started – you don’t find something unless you look!
How to do a Google Images advanced search
As an example of how to conduct an advanced image search, we’ll show you how to do one on Google Search. We picked Google Search because it’s one of the most well-known search engines, but exact options may vary a bit from service to service.
1. Go to Google Search and switch to image mode.
Start off by entering www.google.com in your browser’s address bar and clicking the “go” button beside it. Then, click Images in the upper-right corner of the main page.
2. Search for pretty much anything you want.
Next, you’ll have to actually search for an image. Click inside the search box, type in whatever you want (or, to make this easier, something related to what you actually want to look for), and then click the magnifying glass icon.
3. Access advanced image search options from the Settings menu.
Now that you’ve searched for something, you’re able to start an advanced image search. To do this, click Settings, and then click Advanced Search in the drop-down menu that appears.
4. Type in words related (or not) to what you want to find.
The first advanced searching options you’ll have relate to keywords associated with an image: tags, titles, captions, and so on. Click in each of the highlighted boxes and type in words based on what you want to find.
- “All These Words” – searches for images that have all of the words you type in associated with them, but not necessarily in any order.
- “This Exact Word or Phrase” – will return images that are tagged with all of the words you type, in the exact order you type them in. It’s useful if you’re looking for a quote or other specific piece of information.
- “Any of These Words” – looks for pictures that are related to any of the words you type in. So the images that are returned as results may be related to some of the terms you use, but not necessarily all of them. It’s handy if you’re looking for multiple specific things at once. For instance, in our example, we could type in “Labrador” and “terrier” to find pictures of puppies that are either Labradors or terriers.
- “None of These Words” – lets you exclude certain terms from your search, so images tagged with the words you choose will not show up in your search results. Use it when your main search terms could have multiple meanings by filling in words related to the meanings that you aren’t looking for. So, for our sample, we could type in “bulldog” to avoid seeing pictures of bulldog puppies in our search results.
5. Fine-tune your other advanced search options, and then conduct your search.
Below the advanced keyword settings, you have a whole host of other criteria you can put on your search.
- “Image Size” – lets you search for pictures of a general size, or those that are above specific dimensions or resolutions.
- “Aspect Ratio” – allows you to search for pictures of a specific shape: tall, wide, square, or panoramic (very wide).
- “Colors in the Image” – lets you look for images that are full color or black & white. You can also look for images with transparent backgrounds (useful for finding logos and other symbols), or that have a specific color in them – click the colored box next to that button and select the color you want to search for.
- “Type of Image” – permits you to specify a general class of image to look for, such as a portrait or non-portrait photo, vector graphic (“clip art”), drawing, or animation.
- “Region” – narrows your search to images that were uploaded from, or tagged with, a certain country or region of the world.
- “Site or Domain” – lets you specify what kinds of web pages you want to search for images on. For example, typing in “techboomers.com” will cause you to only search for pictures on web pages that belong to the TechBoomers website. Or, typing in “.edu” will limit your search for images to websites belonging to American colleges and universities. Our explanation of the different parts of a URL may help you understand this function better.
- “SafeSearch” – you can choose to filter out images that show explicit violence or sexuality, or to show these images in your results if they’re relevant to your search in some way.
- “File Type” – lets you search for images that are a particular file format.
- “Usage Rights” – allows you to limit your search to images that can be used beyond a personal, private context. For example, some images can be copied and/or shared with the public, or even modified or used for business purposes! You may still need to credit the original author in some way, though, so be sure to check the copyright license to see the specific restrictions and requirements. If you need a hand, here’s a handy infographic on how to identify and attribute Creative Commons material.
When you’re all done, click the Advanced Search button.
If an advanced image search doesn’t quite get you what you need, you may want to try a reverse image search instead. We’ll demonstrate how to do that now, once again relying on good old Google Search.
How to do a Google reverse image search
A reverse image search is where you search for images by actually using another image as your key term. Then the search engine looks for pictures with similar attributes. This is a handy way to check if a photo has been plagiarized, doctored, or taken out of context, like so many related to the news stories of 2017 were.
Here’s an example of how it works:
1. Go to Google Search and then switch over to Google Images.
Like when doing an advanced image search, you want to start out at www.google.com and then click Images in the upper-right corner to go to Google Images.
2. Click the camera icon to search by image.
Now, instead of typing your keywords into the search bar, simply click the camera icon to bring up the interface for searching for images with another image.
From here, you have two choices as to where to get the image you want to search with. You can either pull it from somewhere else on the Internet, or you can send it from your device’s internal storage.
3a. Enter the Internet address of the image you want to search by (copying and pasting it is easiest).
If the image you want to search by is on the Internet already, click Paste Image URL. Then click in the box that appears and type in the image’s exact Internet address.
As a shortcut, you can right-click on the image and select Copy Image Location from the menu that appears. Then right-click on the URL box in Google Images and click Paste.
Finish up by clicking Search by Image.
3b. Upload the image you want to search by from your device.
You can also search using an image that’s stored as a file on the device you’re using. To do so, click the Upload an Image tab, and then click the Browse button.
This will open an explorer window, where you can look through your device’s files for a suitable picture. When you find one, click on it to select it, and then click Open.
Google Images will automatically conduct a search based on the image you chose. No need to click anything else!
So now that you know how to do an advanced image search and a reverse image search, you may be asking, “What’s the point of all that? When would functions like those come in handy?” We’re glad you asked (even if you actually didn’t), because next we have some situations in which you may want to use outside-the-box search tricks.
Why use an advanced or reverse image search?
1. It helps you find images that fit specific criteria.
The most obvious use of an advanced or reverse image search is to find pictures that more closely fit your needs, including what you wish to represent. As we demonstrated in our advanced image search instructions, you can use advanced search tricks if you’re looking to adopt a dog, for instance. You can choose to only see pictures of specific breeds, or to exclude pictures of breeds you’re not interested in.
2. It can help you determine the authenticity of particular pictures.
It’s no secret that there are many popular image-editing computer programs on the market. That means pictures you see on the Internet may not always be quite what they seem. Running suspicious images through an advanced or reverse image search can show you other instances of that picture, which you can compare to see if it’s been modified, copied, or divorced from its original context.
This is a useful strategy for identifying fake news stories. It’s also a handy trick for avoiding “catfishing,” a nasty practice where someone steals another’s identity and uses it to deceive people online. Catfishing is most prevalent in online dating, so you can use these image search techniques to check if someone who wants to have a relationship with you is really who they claim to be.
3. It can help you find pictures that you can use – or that may have been misused – with respect to copyright.
This one mostly applies to content creators, but others may find it useful too. If you’re looking to create some sort of published work – a web page, a blog post, a video, a newspaper, a slideshow, etc. – then you can use advanced image search functions to find pictures that the creators have allowed people to copy, change, or even use to sell something. You may or may not have to reference the original creator in some way, though, so be sure to look into that.
On the other side of the coin, if you’re someone who has created an image – by drawing it, painting it, shooting it with a camera, etc. – and you suspect it’s being used improperly, you can plug it into a reverse image search to see where it shows up on the Internet. Then, if you find someone using it without your permission, without giving you credit, or for commercial purposes that you didn’t allow, you can file a request to have the image taken down. You can also just do this with pictures of yourself to remove them from places on the Internet where you don’t want them.
Now that you know how to do an advanced image search and why you would want to do one, the question becomes: where can I do one? Well, as we have shown, Google Search is one option. However, there are others; some are well known, while others are less common but more specialized. Here are five popular picks.
Top 5 advanced image search engines
1. Google Search
We’ve already shown you quite a bit of what Google Search can do for finding images. It lets you conduct reverse image searches using a file on your device or a picture you find on the Internet. If you don’t have a visual reference point for what you’re looking for, Google Search has you covered there, too. It allows you to use all the standard Boolean operators to search for keywords associated with an image, and it has a whole bunch of other parameters you can search by – picture size, file type, or even where in the world it was created or uploaded from!
TinEye is one of the most popular search engines specialized for reverse image searches. One of its unique features is that, in addition to allowing you to filter your results by website, it can also conveniently tell you if they are stock photos or part of copyrighted collections. Plus, you can use “Compare” mode to quickly switch between your original image and one of your search results, making it easy to spot any differences. You can even install the TinEye browser extension and use it to perform a reverse image search on any picture on the Internet with just two quick clicks!
Bing, Microsoft’s search engine, takes a more personalized approach to image searches. It contains many of the same advanced filtering options that Google Search does, such as image size, color, class, aspect ratio, and usage rights. It also allows you to do reverse image searches. What makes it stand out, though, is its feature that lets you save search results and interests, and then organize them into collections. This not only helps you keep track of what you’ve already found, but also helps you find more images that are similar to the ones you commonly search for!
Berify is a relatively new specialized reverse image search engine. It allows you to upload photos from your computer, mobile device, website, or social media feed to check for duplicates elsewhere online. In addition to checking Google Search, Bing, Yandex, Baidu, and other major search engines, it also uses its own unique search algorithm. It can even check thumbnails in videos to see if your clips have been copied – no other search engine does that! It then compiles easy-to-read reports (and sends you email updates) on where your images are being used. Note that the free version only allows you to upload up to 5 images, and only 1 image at a time.
5. Yandex Search
This Russian-based search engine is kind of a cross between Google Search and Bing. It contains functions for storing, organizing, and sharing images you’ve looked for previously, like Bing does. However, it also contains many of the powerful filtering options that Google Search has. It can do reverse image searches, too. One of its really neat features is that it can calculate the size of your computer screen, and then search for images of exactly that size so you can use them as desktop backgrounds!
That’s it for our lesson on how to do advanced image searches and some of the best search engines for doing them. Oh, and one more thing: if you’re worried about privacy and would rather not have your image searches tracked, consider using TinEye – it never saves your searches or indexes the pictures you use. Or, consider trying one of many popular private search engines.
In the meantime, there’s much more to learn about how to find the information you’re looking for on the Internet. Our Research Tools section will walk you through some of the more common sites for doing so.