Challenge: Have you ever seen a photo online that would be perfect for your needs, but you can’t find the original image? That’s what happened to my client, Donna, who is an editor of her company magazine. “Have you tried a reverse image search?” I asked. She was not aware that this was possible. Here’s how to do it: Simply start by Googling “reverse image search.” You’ll see a few sites that might help you find the original image. Donna was glad to learn about the following:
1) Google Images
Upload a .jpg, and see if there’s a match. Google shows “Best guess for this image,” “Visually similar images,” and “Pages that include matching images.” You can also use “Tools” button on the far right side to search by size. Don’t forget to look at the website(s) where the image appeared; there might be copyright or contact information to ask for permission to use it.
Upload or enter the image URL. TinEye crawls the Web and gives you results within seconds. You can sort by best match, most changed, biggest image, newest, or oldest. TinEye provides the image size, image name, and URL.
3) GettyImages.com, Shutterstock.com and other stock websites have a search-by-image feature. Click the type next to the camera icon on the home page, upload a .jpg image, and see if the photo is available on the ThinkStock site. If they don’t have it, you’ll get this message: “We are unable to identify the image you uploaded.”
Hit or Miss
Sometimes, you’ll see the same image on many sites. That doesn’t mean you’ve found the original, which can be very frustrating. If you’re striking out, consider using another image. Better yet, work with your graphic designer to search the best stock house for your needs.
Donna tried reverse search but struck out. “This image is EVERYWHERE on the Web!” she said. “I used both Google Images and TinEye searches and found dozens, if not hundreds, of references, none of which cited the artist!” I feel her pain!
Side note: Please don’t grab an image off the internet and expect to use it. Here’s why:
1) Copyright issues – The image might have a copyright and, thus, cannot be used without permission of the photographer (or illustrator). ALWAYS ask for permission, or use another image that is copyright free. One resource is https://search.creativecommons.org/ or purchase through a stock website such as iStock.com, Shutterstock.com, Bigstock.com, or RF123.com (these are economical sites).
2) Resolution issues – Most images you see on the Web are low resolution and not suitable for high-quality magazine printing, especially at a large size.
Finding great images online is easy; but finding great images you can actually use is harder. You have to know where to search for the original. You can’t use a copyrighted image without permission, and/or you can’t always find the right person to ask. You should not download an image from the Web and expect it to be clear; it has to be high-resolution if you want to print it. That’s why it’s a good idea to work with a graphic designer who understands the process.
Thanks for reading!