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Backwards Image Search 101: How to Trace Photos Online (2024)

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Backwards Image Search 101: How to Trace Photos Online (2024)

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Reverse Image Check

1. Upload an image/paste a URL  2. Check image details

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Ever wondered where a picture you saw online originally came from? Or suspected that someone you dated online sent you a fake selfie? A reverse image search can answer these questions!

Also known as backwards image search, it’s a tech that has been around for years and now has evolved from simple image match to even facial recognition. By finding related versions of a picture across the Internet, the benefits of this tool are numerous :

  • Check for copyright infringement
  • Uncover where an image was first posted
  • Verify authenticity or identify altered versions
  • Gain research insights from the context of a picture
  • Identify people, places, or objects within an image

In this guide, we’ll cover the top visual search tools and provide tips for using them effectively. Keep reading!

Top reverse image search tools

There are many tools that come with different features and abilities to choose from. Finding the right tool for your search may require several attempts. Presented below are the most popular tools we’ve tried aiming for different image search goals and the easy-to-follow steps for a picture lookup.

1/ Google Len

As the most widely used search engine, Google’s image search functionality: Google Len is powerful, thanks to the expanding indexed materials and updating search algorithm. It’s perhaps the go-to option for most people, helping users find similar images and relevant websites that the picture appears on. This service can be accessed in two ways for image searching:

– On the Google Images page

  1. Navigate to the Google Image search page.
  2. Click the icon. Then there will be a pop-up window where you can upload an image or search by the image URL.
    Note: make sure the image you upload is in PNG, JPG or GIF format.

 – On Chrome browser

For Google Chrome users, they can also directly search images on a webpage without having to download an image first.

  1. On the image you come across on a webpage, right-click the image and select Search Image with Google Lens or Search Google for This Image.
Search images with Google Lens
  1. Then a side penal will pop up and show you all the visual matches Goofle Len finds for you.
    Search images with Google Lens 3

2/ Yandex

Yandex is a Russian search engine that offers impressive image search capabilities. With its AI-powered machine learning algorithm and geolocation data, Yandex is good at delivering accurate search results for recognizing faces, landscapes, and objects.

  • Compared with the results yielded by Google and Bing, it’s better at providing similar images and matching facial similarities.
  • As it’s a search engine dominant in the market of Russia, Eurasia, and Eastern Asia, Yandex can provide search results diverse in different languages other than just English.

Note: When you try Yandex, you may need to right-click on the webpage first and select Translate to English for a better user experience.

3/ Social Catfish

Social Catfish is known as an online dating investigative service that specializes in helping identify fake profiles and online scams. Apart from phone number lookup, name search, and PI, Social Catfish also has a reverse image search service that utilizes image metadata and media-focused index.

Different from the large search engines above, Social Catfish is a subscription-based service. But its strength lies in searching millions of social profiles from social networks, online dating sites, and forums networking sites.  So if the image you want to reverse is from social media, the possibility of tracing the source might be higher. Here are the steps for running a Social Catfish image search:

Step 1: Go to the official Social Catfish website.

Step 2: Click the search bar and upload an image.

Step 3: Wait patiently as it scans through its database. 

Step 4: Once it successfully hits a match, set up your account and then you can unlock the report that is ready for you. From the report, you may discover where the image is from and determine if the person is actually a catfish.

4/ PimEyes

PimEyes is another paid service model for seeking to find all public images of a person online. PimEyes boasts advanced facial recognition algorithms and an extensive database containing over 900 million face images. By submitting a profile image or a photo of the face in question, you may be able to find where a person appears in the digital world.

Additionally, it offers a PROtect plan that users can opt to erase illegal usage of their images online.

5/ TinEye

TinEye is a robust, free reverse image search with capabilities focused on detecting edited versions of images online. It claims to search a database with an index of over 30 billion images to match edited images. As its algorithms are tailored to effectively identify altered visuals that are cropped, resized, or filtered, you can check if a picture is original or not.

To use TinEye:

  1. Simply go to tineye.com
  2. Click the Upload button or enter an image URL in the search bar to start the search process.
  3. The results will be presented in a few seconds. The TinEye extension is also available for Firefox, Chrome, Edge, and Opera for convenient webpage searches.

Comparison of Tools

This table provides an at-a-glance overview of the key capabilities, use cases, and use reasons for the top reverse image search tools covered.

ToolKey FeaturesUse CasesReasons to use
Google LensLarge index; integrated into broader Google ecosystem;
provides source website and image usage info
General broad image search;
identifying contexts and details
Wide reach;
easy to use
YandexPowerful recognition algorithms; facial search;
geolocation data; multilingual
In-depth image research; facial recognition;
non-English sources
Robust capabilities; language flexibility
Social CatfishSpecialized social media focused index; facial recognition;
identify fake profiles
Tracing image source; social profile authenticity checksAvoid scams;
find all social profiles at one time
PimEyes
900 million faces indexed; advanced facial recognition and filters
Finding all public images of a personPrecise facial recognition; protection services
TinEye30 billion image index;
detects edited/altered images
Checking image authenticity;
finding modifications
Free;
specialized in finding image edits

Tips for optimizing your image search

While reverse image search engines are powerful, there are some tips and best practices to use them effectively:

  • Crop irrelevant background – Cropping out excess background content can improve match accuracy.
  • Try flipping or filtering the image – Mirroring or altering the image can uncover additional matches.
  • Search large/high-quality files – Larger, clearer image files work better than tiny or compressed images.
  • Check periodically – New images are indexed over time, so re-search old images for potential new matches.
  • Use browser extensions – Some extensions such as PhotoTracker Lite and RevEye Reverse Image Search streamline search across multiple free engines like Google, Bing, Yandex, and TinEye.

One more tip: Image search on Mobile

On your mobile device, it’s also feasible to quickly reverse search any image on the web using Google Chrome. This requires having the Chrome app installed on your phone, available for free from the app store.

  1. Launch the Chrome app
  2. Navigate to the webpage containing the image you want to search
  3. Tap and hold the image for 2-3 seconds
  4. Select “Search Image with Google Lens” from the pop-up menu

Wrapping up

Whether you are looking to trace the source of a profile picture, make sure a photo has not been altered, or find usage across the web, reverse image lookup provides valuable tools.

To get the best results for your search, you may need to experiment with different options in combination. Hopefully, with the tools like Google Lens, Yandex, and Social Catfish we introduce above, you’ll be satisfied with the reverse image search in your digital investigations!

Featured image by Freepik

exclamation-blueThere’s no guarantee you’ll find the information you’re looking for with the tools discussed in this article. They all source their information from publicly available data sources, such as county, state and federal courts, government departments, and police records, and those sources may contain incorrect or incomplete data. It’s illegal to use these tools to make decisions about employment, admission, consumer credit, insurance, tenant screening, or any other purpose that would require FCRA compliance. Read the Fair Credit Reporting Act to learn more....

About this article

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Evie Gan

Writer

Evie is a tech-writer and content writer passionate about exploring new concepts and technologies. Her articles for Super Easy cover a wide range of topics related to tech and daily life hacks.

Prior to joining Super Easy, Evie majored in English for science and technology at university. After graduation, she worked in foreign trade sales for a major household appliance company where she gained first-hand experience learning about manufacturing engineering, evaluating products, and interacting daily with staff about the latest tech.

In her free time, Evie enjoys drawing, traveling, basketball, Pilates, music, playing guitar, and learning new languages (Japanese at JLPT N2 level).

As a content writer, she leverages her diverse interests and web research skills to create articles that benefit readers. By sharing technology tips and how-to guides, Evie helps people improve their daily routines and get the most out of their devices.

Her goal is to use her knowledge and experience to craft informative, engaging content for the Super Easy audience.

About this article

round-success 88 Revisions

file-success Reviewed by Social Catfish

Evie Gan

Writer

Evie is a tech-writer and content writer passionate about exploring new concepts and technologies. Her articles for Super Easy cover a wide range of topics related to tech and daily life hacks. Prior to joining Super Easy, Evie majored in English for science and technology at university. After graduation, she worked in foreign trade sales for a major household appliance company where she gained first-hand experien [...]

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