Reverse image search is a bit of an underground search tactic that's incredibly useful, even if you clicked on this article wondering what other uses it could possibly have outside of hunting down websites that have copied your work.
We're going to answer that in this article by providing numerous use cases where reverse image search can be incredibly useful. First, let's talk about the different aspects and purposes of reverse image search. You'll learn about helpful tools and ways to find copied images online.
- How to use reverse image search to find copied images
- The tools to find copied images online
- What to do if you find someone using your work
- Other reasons to use reverse image search
How to use reverse image search to find copied images
Content marketing is tough, especially if you spend a lot of time and resources creating your own images and infographics. It can be pretty deflating to learn other people have come to your website or searched Google, downloaded one of your images, and uploaded it to their own website without asking for permission or providing credit. It certainly isn't the outcome you may have expected.
It's important not to turn to anger when this happens. Some may simply not realize it's wrong, and even illegal at times, to use images found on Google on their own website. It may be common sense to you and I, but others may need a gentle heads up.
Who else should use this technology to find copied images?
Photographers, of course, as well as those in graphic design and similar industries. Digital thieves do exist, and they may try to sell your work as their own when they attack. You can use this technology to identify the people who are stealing your work and notify vendors of the stolen goods they're selling. This way you can protect your copyright and get things straight.
The tools to find copied images online
We'll be going over these tools in this post:
TinEye is one of the most popular reverse image search tools available. They've even built their own API developers can use to integrate this technology in the mobile and web applications they build.
Using the tool is simple. All you need to do is click the upload button to the left of the search bar or drag your image anywhere on the screen to upload an image. You can also paste a URL that contains the image in the search bar. TinEye will show you your results, which you can filter in various ways.
Google Image Search
You've probably noticed the many different ways you can conduct a Google search these days. “Google Images”, the term folks on the net use to refer to Google Image Search, has become a mainstay on the Internet, but something you may have missed is the Search by Image icon located right inside of the search bar.
All you need to do is click this icon to open Google's very own reverse image search tool. It works similar to TinEye. All you need to do is enter the URL of an image or upload it by choosing your file or dragging it over. You'll get a variety of different results after that.
Yandex Image Search
The russian search engine Yandex uses a similar tool in their search engine. It's similar to Google's reverse image search tool. You click the image search icon, enter a URL or upload an image, and click search. You'll then get several results accordingly.
Berify is another reverse image search tool which can be helpful for photographers, bloggers, vloggers, lawyers, marketing agencies or celebrities to find stolen photos and even videos online (through video thumbnails). This tool uses its own algorithm to search over 800 million images and data from all major image search engines like Google, Bing, Yandex and a few others.
A cool feature of the Berify tool is that you can easily import your photos using multiple platforms. You can add photos through direct uploads, sitemaps, RSS feeds, website links or your username from sites like Flickr, Dropbox, social accounts, Squarespace and many more.
The last reverse image search tool I'll mention is Image Raider. It allows you to use up to 20 images at a time, and it displays results from a variety of different sources, including the web and popular image sites like Flickr and DeviantArt. With Image Raider you can upload images using the Choose Files button or by entering their URLs.
You can customize the search so it shows a grid of images rather than a list of websites. You can also set it to only show sources from Google. The website also appears to be ran by a humorous bunch as they played the song “We Like to Party” by Vengaboys as a punishment for the adblocker I had active when I used the search. Fortunately, you won't get the Vengaboys treatment if you whitelist them.
What to do if you find someone using your work
If you use the tools mentioned above and find someone using your work without permission, keep calm. You have options, and involving the law is the last of them. The first thing you should do is write a polite yet assertive email to the owner of the website letting them know they're using stolen work and that you'd prefer to resolve the matter without involving Google or the law.
You can also try to call them out in their own comment section. This is especially true if they use WordPress.com or Blogger as these two platforms take stands against plagiarism. If you receive no response within a week, send them this cease and desist letter from PlagiarismToday.
If that gets no response, your next step should be to file DMCA complaints with any business that provides service to the website. This includes Google. It also includes the web host that's hosting the website. Use a tool like Whois Lookup to see where a website is being hosted.
If none of that works and the use of your stolen work truly means that much to you, you can involve lawyers. Unfortunately, that's outside of my expertise, so my opinions on this matter must end here. Lawsuits can be long and expensive, and unless you're a photographer whose livelihood depends on your images, they likely aren't worth it.
Other reasons to use reverse image search
Okay, I covered how to use reverse image search to find copied images as well as what to do when you discover them. Let's switch gears and talk about a few other reasons to use this technology.
- Find the original source of an image
- Find products online
- Locate an apartment, business or location
- Find recipes online
- Identify fake profiles
- Other uses for reverse image search
Find the original source of an image
Have you ever found an image and wanted to use it for something or wanted to contact the creator? The mentioned tools, especially the “show oldest first” function in TinEye, allow you to do just that. You can also use them to authenticate an image and ensure you're not using stolen content.
Find products online
Have you ever seen an image that contained a product that piqued your interest? You can use reverse image search to locate the company that made that product or find a shop where you can buy it.
Locate an apartment, business or location
Have you ever found an image of a really cool building or some type of structure/location? This technology can help you find its location. Whitson Gordon, a writer at Lifehacker and other Kinja sites, also explained how he used one of these tools to bypass the paywall many real estate websites use. Here's some of what he wrote:
I found a building I really liked in the “free” search, so I reverse image searched the building's photo with TinEye. It directed me right to the building's web site. Called them, got an apartment, lived there for a year. Best building I ever lived in, and I had TinEye to thank.
Find recipes online
Have you ever found “food porn” images being shared on social media and wondered where they came from? These tools can you help you find the sources of such images, and if possible, the recipes to make them. Maybe that way you even discover fantastic food blogs you didn't know about.
Identify fake profiles
Have you ever received a message from someone you didn't know and felt suspicious of the authenticity of their identity? Reverse image search can help you use some of their images to see if they've been used on different profiles with different names. This is especially helpful on websites meant to help you connect with people in real life, such as Facebook and dating websites.
Other uses for reverse image search
- Identify the photographer or artist who created a piece of art.
- Find images in higher resolutions.
- Debunk false or misleading news stories (fake news).
- Identify living things, such as animals, pests and plants.
Final thoughts on reverse image search
It can be disheartening to hear there are bloggers out there who feel it's okay to use anyone's images without asking for permission or providing credit, but reverse image search can give you the upper hand. It allows you to identify blogs who steal your content so you can fight back.
Each of the tools I demonstrated in this post showcased different results, so I don't recommend relying on a single one. If you're using reverse image search to find copied images, use each tool to build a thorough list of results. If you have any questions, please let us know in the comments.
By the way, if you went through this article wondering whether the images you want to use are legal, check out this list we created containing 10 image sources for your WordPress site.