Reverse Image Search

Learn how to use Reverse Image Search to find the source of the images you see in pins, on Facebook, and on Tumblr. Are your images used by others as well? Find out more...Have you ever seen a great idea or a wonderful pin on Pinterest that went nowhere? Or to the wrong website? I love to find interesting pictures of beautiful artwork to share on my Facebook page. And because I believe strongly in giving credit where credit is due, I always want to know who the original artist is. But very often I will see an intriguing photograph shared on Facebook or pinned on Pinterest that has missing or incorrect links. But unless you have an idea of who might have taken the photograph or who the blogger or artist might be, how can you find out who to credit? It turns out there’s a great little tool called Google Reverse Image Search.

Google Reverse Image Search

When you find an image that has no source given, you can do a reverse image search with Google to find other instances of the image on the internet. And Google is remarkably canny at finding the original source of the image, too. The results will even include a section of visually similar images. Usually you can identify the source right away and often will find many more works by that artist, giving you some wonderful content to share with others or just enjoy as inspiration for yourself. In some cases, especially if the artist is famous, Google will give a little “bio” of the artist right on the search results page. It’s really quite incredible!

You can do a Reverse Image Search directly from the expanded pin on Pinterest. I do this when I know that something is incorrectly cited. I will then pin and cite it correctly from the original source, or at the very least make sure the information on my description is correct. I also do this when the pin on Pinterest points to a Tumblr or Imgfav site where people have just gathered images without any credits.

Here’s How

There doesn’t seem to be one universal way to do a Reverse Image Search, and it’s a bit different for different browsers. It’s super easy in Chrome, a bit more work in Firefox, and a royal pain in Internet Explorer. I’m sorry I don’t know how to do it on a mobile phone or tablet. It is app specific and you might need to download an app to do it. (I really need to get a tablet or smartphone so that I can join you guys with your fun devices.)

On Google Chrome

If you’re using Google Chrome as your browser (you are…right??), you’re not going to believe how easy this is. Just right-click on the image and choose “Search Google for this image”. A new tab will open up with the search results for that image.

On Firefox

On Firefox, first open another tab to www.images.google.com. Now go back to your image and grab it with your mouse. Drag the image it to the tab with the Google image page, wait for that tab to open, and drop your image into the box. Magic will happen!

There is a Firefox extension that will allow you to do this as easily as in Chrome, you can find it here. Thanks to Buttons by McAnaraks for the tip.

On Internet Explorer

To use Reverse Image Search on Internet Explorer you’re going to have to do a bit more work as they don’t make it very simple. But here’s how you do it. You’ll have to find the URL of the photograph. In IE, right click on the image, choose “Properties” and you’ll see the URL listed in the box that comes up. Just copy that. Now go to www.images.google.com. In the box, click the camera. Another box will pop up and that’s where you paste the URL of the image. Hit enter.

Try It Out Yourself

Here is an image that I found pinned on Pinterest with the caption, “I can’t believe this is polymer clay.” Well, I really didn’t think it was polymer clay. And I have seen this image in online jigsaw puzzles, too, so I know it’s one of those images that “makes the rounds” and is stolen often. Go ahead and try it for yourself, see if you can find if this is made from polymer clay or not!

"Rosettes Series 15", Oil on Canvas, 48" x 48" by Dennis Wojtkiewicz.

If everything went well, you’ll now know that this image is actually of an oil painting, four feet square, painted by the American hyperrealist painter Dennis Wojtkiewicz. He has created many other paintings in a similar style and color range of extreme close-ups of other fruits. And he was born in 1956. I got all that from a right-click!

Accurate Citations are Important

Dennis Wojtkiewicz is now a famous and successful artist, and he likely did most of his work before the internet became such a common thing in our lives. But the way that his images have spread, completely without connection to his name, would have been seriously hindering to him in his early years. Images spread without connection to an artist are often perceived as “free” and they get used in violation of the artist’s copyright all the time. Does he get compensation for the millions of times his images show up on blogs, Pinterest, or online games? No, and nor does he get credit! I recognize the image, but not his name? How fair is that?

I don’t want my images stripped of my identifying information, and I don’t think that any of you do either! So do make it a point to find the original artist when you share images on Facebook or Tumblr or even your own website. And do be kind and check the pin before you repin it. You’re responsible for what you send out into the world. We all have to do our little part!

Who is Using Your Images?

By the way, the Reverse Image Search works very well for ANY image, not just the ones for famous artists. It works for YOUR website’s images, too! In fact, it’s a good idea to check on your own images to see if anyone out there is using your photos without permission and without credit. Or even worse, passing your work off as their own! It does happen and this is a valuable tool to make sure it isn’t happening to you!

If you want to know more about copyright, ethics, and how it relates to artists and crafters, I wrote a rather comprehensive article that discusses some of the major issues. There’s even a handy infographic flowchart that can help you determine what is and what isn’t protected by a copyright. Read Copyright Guidelines for Polymer Clay Artists (thought it applies to any area of craft as well.)

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