Finding a great set of copyright-free images is no easy feat. It can take hours—sometimes even days—to sort through all the options. Which photos are OK to reuse? Which ones could land you in hot water? An easy way to answer these questions is to use an image search engine.
An image search engine is a tool that helps you find appropriate images to use in your online store. You can also use it to reverse image search, a method used to authenticate digital photos. By learning how to reverse image search on Google, you’ll be able to find images labeled for reuse that you can use for your logo, website banner, blog post, or even a Facebook ad.
Let’s take a closer look at what an image search engine is and the top image search engines you can use to source your photos.
What is an image search engine?
An image search engine is a database of images that can be searched through the use of keywords. Once you type in a query, the images corresponding to your search phrase will appear. By entering keywords closely related to your business, you can find the right images that will appeal to your customers.
Google’s image search engine is the most comprehensive and known search engine of its kind. In 2001, Google noticed a huge search demand for a specific query that its regular search couldn’t provide a result on: the green Versace dress Jennifer Lopez wore to the Grammy Awards. Google realized an image result would be much better than the text results it delivered back at the time. Hence, Google Images was born.
The best image search engines
There are many image search engines in the world. Some are very broad and all encompassing, like Google’s and Yahoo’s, and some are niche and confined, like HONmedia’s. What these tools have in common is a database of images that can be searched using keywords, tags, or topics.
The best image search engines are the ones that can provide the best match to a query and also have a large enough database to cater to their audience.
Here are the best image search engines you can use:
1. Google Images
Have you always wanted to know how to search images on Google? Using Google Images, you can look for images to use for your website, blog, ads, and other marketing content. While not all images found in Google Images can be used for commercial purposes without permission, Google Images aggregates an extensive collection for you to sort through. You’ll notice that most of the images in these sections come from various free stock image sites.
As the best image search engine in the market, Google Images will provide you with a more extensive collection of pictures on Google Images than on any other platform. You can search for specific products such as kitchen utensils or niches like running, and narrow down the results by usage rights to find copyright-free images for your business.
How does Google’s image search work? With Google Images, you can sort images by specific size, color, type of image, and more by simply typing in keywords and checking boxes. You can then sort images by their license by clicking Tools > Usage Rights. You’ll want to use an image that’s labeled for reuse. Images under that section can be used for blog posts, ads, or other marketing activities.
2. Yahoo Images
Yahoo Images is another robust image search engine that lets you find great images for every niche. When you type your keywords into the search bar, Yahoo will present you with a variety of relevant images.
You’ll want to change the license (see top right corner) to include “Free to share and use commercially,” or you can choose “Free to modify, share and use commercially” if you plan to modify images in any way. You’ll find professional lifestyle images, images on white backgrounds, graphics, and more that you can use on your store.
3. Bing Images
Bing’s image search is similar to Google Images and Yahoo Images, so it’s another great picture search engine you can use to source images.
To get started, type your keywords into the Bing Images search bar. You’ll notice a Filter button on the far right-hand side of the screen. When you click it, you’ll see a dropdown appear. Click on License to check whether the image is free for commercial use.
The best thing about Bing’s image search is that it mostly returns high-resolution images. So if you’re looking to source high-quality visuals for your website or product pages, this image search engine might come in handy.
Yandex is another free website with a large database of images to search. It’s the most popular search engine in Russia, but small compared to its competitors. Yandex presents an easy-to-navigate results page, where hovering over an image makes it pop out from the screen to help you see it better.
Yandex aggregates millions of images from sites across the web. If its database has nothing to satisfy an exact search, it will show similar images.
5. Pinterest visual search tool
Pinterest visual search tool is a fun thing to play with. Unlike most similar tools, you can zoom in on a section of an image and reverse search to find similar images or pins. You don’t need to search the whole image, which makes this a very intriguing tool. To use visual search, you need to sign in to Pinterest and start pinning things.
Openverse (formerly Creative Commons Search) aggregates over 500 million images from creators around the globe. All of them are free for commercial use, meaning you won’t have to pay to use them on your online store. Whether you’re looking for a picture that represents your niche or a picture of a celebrity, you’ll be sure to find what you need.
Openverse (part of WordPress’s open-source project) has become a favorite of leading companies that use it to find high-quality images for their websites. The tool even lets you filter images to see the ones you can adapt and modify, so there are plenty of features to explore for first-time users.
Flickr is a unique search engine that lets you search for images by place, tags, galleries, and sets. The majority of images come from amateur and professional photographers who share their work with Flickr’s community. With a few clicks, you can discover relevant photos and specify the orientation of their size.
What is reverse image search?
Reverse image search is a search engine technology that makes it possible for a user to input an image file as a search query and return results related to that image. It’s different from image search, where a user is able to find images to the search term they have entered.
Most search engines offer reverse image search, which can be helpful if you have an image you want to dig deeper into—to know where it originated from or who actually owns the image.
How to reverse image search
You can perform a reverse image search fairly easily on a desktop computer using the Google reverse image search option. All you have to do is go to images.google.com, click the camera icon that appears in the search bar, and:
- Paste in the URL of an image that you have seen somewhere online, or
- Manually upload an image from your computer that you have saved, or
- Drag an image from another window
Best reverse image search engines
If you’re looking to find the source file of a specific image or learn who the creator of that image is, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a list of reverse image search engines to help you learn more about any online photo.
To use this tool, you’ll need to upload an image to the search bar to find a selection of websites and stores with images. Over 19 billion images have been searched for on the platform since its inception, making it a great tool for reverse image search.
9. Labnol’s Reverse Image Search
Labno’s reverse image search is a tool that allows you to upload your photo onto the platform and find out who else has posted the image. After uploading an image, click Show Matching Images to find other websites with your picture. The tool will then redirect you to Google search page, where you can see your exact picture on other websites.
10. Image Identification Project
Image Identification Project is a work-in-progress reverse image search solution that offers valuable insights into the images you search for within its platform. You can drag and drop an image into the browser and the service will identify that image and where it came from. Overall, this easy-to-use reverse image tool has plenty of value to offer.
Don’t let the basic-looking website fool you. IQDB is an effective reverse image search engine, brimming with opportunities to learn more about any image you find online. You’ll need to upload an image file or paste a URL into the website to use the reverse image search. However, IQDB only accepts images up to eight megabytes in size and 7,500 by 7,500 pixels in dimension.
Apps for reverse image search
If you prefer using apps for reverse image search, we’ve compiled a list for you:
1. Search By Image
Search by Image is an app available on Android that helps you find similar images or pictures using Google, Tineye, or Yandex reverse image search engines. With the image editor, you can also rotate the image, flip it horizontally or vertically, and crop it. Additionally, you can open shared images from other apps like Facebook, Twitter, your browser, etc., without having to save them.
Available on Android for free.
This reverse image app sends your pictures directly into the Google Images database to help you search for similar images. You can upgrade to the pro version for $3.99 and get results from Bing and Yandex as well.
Available on iOS for free.
3. Photo Sherlock
This app provides information on the image taken from your camera or an existing image in your gallery. It’s quite simple to use with basic image searching functions and lets you crop the image before searching. Like other reverse image apps, Photo Sherlock can be useful for finding information about photos on Google, such as who the real owner is or whether an image is original or fake.
Available on iOS and Android for free.
With this app, you can reverse search images by uploading through your camera roll or photo library, or even upload from Dropbox. You have the option to remove ads from the app with a $2.99 in-app purchase.
Available on iOS for free.
Ready to reverse search your way to success?
When using images for your blog content or ads, be sure to look at the image license. For example, if you want to use an image from Google Images, you’ll need to ensure that the image has been approved for commercial reuse. Otherwise, you won’t have permission to use the photo. You can use tools like TinEye to find the contact of the person who created an image and then seek permission to use it. Happy image hunting!