A reverse image search uses an image instead of a search term. Rather than typing in your search criteria into the usual search box, you upload an image into the search engine and use it as the criteria. The major search engines such as Google and Bing and some of the less major ones all support reverse image search.
But why would you want to perform a reverse image search? You can use it to verify the identity of someone, to check to see if anyone is using your images without permission and to see if you are being impersonated online.
For example, if you’re chatting to someone online and things are getting serious, you can perform a reverse image search on the picture they send you to check if they are real or not. Alternatively, you can upload your main profile image to see if anyone is out there pretending to be you.
If you’re a photographer or graphic designer, you can upload your images to make sure nobody is using your work without payment or accreditation. This is becoming increasingly popular in a world where people don’t want to pay for anything.
Performing a reverse image search
There are two ways to do a reverse image search, on a desktop or mobile. I’ll cover both, beginning with the desktop way.
- Make your way to images.google.com.
- Click on the camera icon within the search bar and select Paste image URL or Upload an image. If your image is already online, the first option is fastest, otherwise upload your image.
- Click Search by image and let Google work its magic.
- If the image is found online, the search results will tell you exactly where. You can then go through the search results and verify it before taking action.
Performing a reverse image search from your cellphone
The standard reverse image search doesn’t work on smartphones so had to be done on desktop. However, a smart guy called Amit Agarwai created a mobile-friendly wrapper for the Google app that we can use on our cellphone. It works much the same way as the standard desktop version but on mobile devices.
This method works well if you’re chatting to someone on Tinder or other dating or chat app and want to quickly verify they are real.
- Navigate to org’s website.
- Tap Upload Picture and select the image you want to check.
- Tap Search and the app will redirect you to the images.google.com website where you get to see the results. You can then check them out in the same way you can on desktop.
What to do if your images are being used online
If you do find your profile image or your created work being used online without permission, what do you do?
First thing to do is collect the evidence. Take a screenshot of the image on the website making sure the URL is included. Research who owns the website and contact them directly. Depending on what you want, you can do one of several things:
- Do nothing
- Ask for attribution
- Ask for payment
- Ask for a link back to your website
- Request immediate takedown from the site owner
- Issue a DMCA takedown notice to the web host
What you request is up to you and likely depends on the image in question. For profile pictures, it makes sense to request a link back to your website for extra SEO juice or to send visitors to your site to check out more of your work. If someone is pretending to be you, an immediate takedown or DMCA notice might be more appropriate to prevent reputation damage.
If your creations are being used without permission, you can do nothing and move on or request a link, attribution, takedown or payment. Much depends on whether you plan to sell the image or use it commercially for another purpose.
For dating or chat profile images, if you find an image isn’t real or is used elsewhere it depends on whether the same person is using multiple sites or is a fake. There is nothing wrong with casting the net wide if someone wants to find friends or more online. However, using someone else’s profile image as your own has obvious implications. What you do from there is up to you!
Have you used reverse image search and found something? What action did you take? Did it have the desired effect? Tell us about it below!