We take a closer look at Google’s reverse image search feature, explaining what it does, why it’s useful and how to use it.

Google reverse image search, more accurately called Google Search by Images, is a service the internet giant has provided since 2011. It’s accessible from the Google Images search box, and can be incredibly useful once you understand how to use it, whether you’re a photographer, on holiday in a foreign country, or if you’ve come across something unfamiliar that’s in some way piqued your interest.

Here, we take a closer look at why you might want to use it and how to do so.

What is Google reverse image search?

Google reverse image search, officially called Google Search by Image, is a service provided by Google that allows a user to search for images using an image as the starting point, rather than a written or spoken search query. 

You simply upload an image, or provide a link to an image that can be found online, and Google will try to find related images. These will typically be similar images, or a mix of similar images and exact copies. 

How do I do a Google reverse image search?

Just head to Google Images and click on the camera icon in the search box. You will then be able to upload an image from your computer, or paste a link to an image online.

To paste a link to a image found online, just right-click on the image and select Copy Image Address. This can then be pasted into the search box, which should be set to Paste Image URL at default.

If you’re using Chrome or Firefox browsers, you’ll also be able to drag an image from your computer into the search box.

Chrome users have another advantage, namely the ability to perform a reverse image search whenever they come across an image on a website. Anyone wanting to do so simply needs to right-click on the image and select Search Google for Image.

How is it different from Google Images searches?

Normally, when searching Google Images, you input a term such a flowers or landscape and Google will aim to show you the most relevant images related to that search term.

With reverse image search, however, you start off by uploading an image, or inputting the URL of an online image. This gives Google a clear idea of what it is you’re looking for, and allows it to find images and information speficially related to that image.

How does reverse image search work?

As Google explains in this video, an image that’s used for a reverse search is analyzed for distinctive points, colors, lines and textures. The query that’s generated from this analysis is then compared with billions of possible images that Google is able to access. Should an exact match be found, Google will display this, indicating the different sizes of images it has been able to find. Related images, along with relevant web pages, will also typically be shown.

Why do people use reverse image search?

Many photographers use reverse image search to discover whether an image of theirs has been published somewhere online without their authorization. Given the ease with which images can be stolen and the complexity in hunting for such violations yourself – not to mention the speed with which this reverse search process works – it’s easy to see the appeal.

Read more: How to attach copyright information to every image you take

Reverse image search is not just about finding exact copies of an image, but also related images, based on the recognition of the subject within them. And