10 Uses For Google's Search By Images

Martin Brinkmann
Jun 16, 2011
Updated • Dec 7, 2012
Google, Image

I have reviewed Google's Search by Images yesterday and was impressed by the new search feature. The image recognition works extremely well in most cases. Search will still turn out blank occasionally but most of the time you get the information that you wanted to find.

Today I'm going to look at different uses of Google's Search by Images. What can you use the new technology for?

Google Search by Images is a reverse image search engine built on top of the standard Google Images search options. Users can drag and drop images to the search form, upload images from their computer with a file browser or paste an image web address into the search form to search for that image. You find the service here.

One of the easiest ways to use the reverse image search engine is to have two browser windows open. Keep the Google Search by Images page open in one, and use the other to drag and drop interesting images and photos to it. This works even in different browsers, like Firefox and Chrome.

Lets start with 10 uses for Google Search by Images.

1. Find People

This works best with portraits. You can use it to find a long lost friend, similar photos of a celebrity that you hold dear or information about a person of public interest. Just use the photo that you have and upload it to the search engine. All findings will be displayed on the search results page. Please note that the results depend largely on the availability of additional photos and information on the Internet. If your long lost friend is anti-Internet, your search will likely turn up empty. Works best for people of public interest.

2. Find Dead People

The Internet offers lots of information about people of the past. From the Cesar's of old Rome over generals of the Napoleonic Wars to scientists and artists. If a picture is available, it is likely that you can find out more about them. It does not have to be a photo of the person, it can also be a photo of a painting or bust for instance.

3. Get Information About Art

Ever wanted to know what Van Gogh's Starry Night is all about? Then upload a photo of the painting to Google's Image search to find out. Even better, you can upload photos of art that you do not know the artist or name of. That beautiful picture in the newspaper or magazine? Take a photo, upload it to your computer to find out all about it. Works well for paintings and photography, but other art forms as well.

4. Find a Location

So you have that picture of the most romantic sunset in history, but do not know where it was taken. Upload it to Google Search for Images to get the location where the photo was taken. Found an interesting landmark, hotel, hangout or even the interior of a house? Try to get their location by uploading the photos.

5. Sightseeing

Take photos while you walk the streets of your holiday destination. Maybe you are in Berlin and want to know more about the Dome or the Reichstag, or you are in London and want to find out more about the Tower of London. You can use the new search to find out more about a building or sight that you do not know anything about, not even a name. Where ever you are, take a photo, upload it to the search engine to get information about the sight. Especially handy if you have a mobile phone with a decent camera, and a solid Internet connection.

6. Identify Plants

You can use the reverse image search to identify plants. Your neighbors have that beautiful plant in their garden that you do not know anything about? Take a photo, upload it to find out all about it. Maybe you like trekking or hunting. If you encounter plants you could take a photo to analyze them right away or at a later time.

7. Identify Animals

search animals

Just as with plants, it is possible to identify animals as well. This may be a bit more difficulty considering the fact that animals are most of the time on the move and not standing still so that you can take a photo of them. From the smallest of animals to the largest, if you are lucky enough to be able to take a photo, you will be able to find out more about them using the image search engine.

8. Identify Technology

Identify cameras, laptops, car parts, weapons or household items by taking a picture and uploading it to Google Search by Images afterwards. Maybe you see a cool laptop at the other table in the coffee shop and want to know more about the manufacturer and model.

9. Search for vehicles

search vehicles

Find out more about planes, automobiles, trains or ships. This works even with miniatures, as long as the photo is detailed enough.

10. Find out Who's Using Your Photos

You can use the search engine to find out if other webmasters or websites have copied your photos or images. Just upload them to the search engine to get a list of sites that have posted identical images or visually similar images.

Closing Words

Have you played around with Google's Search by Image yet? What's your impression of the service?


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  1. John said on June 23, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    It’s also great for finding out the name of a model (or “adult film star”, haha) whose picture you have, but whose name you don’t know.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on June 23, 2011 at 4:50 pm

      Great point John.

  2. Kenneth Rougeau said on June 20, 2011 at 1:21 am

    Thanks so much for the informative review. I’ve tried a few reverse-image searches before and they’ve all left something to be desired. I just tried out Google’s new tools & was quite happy to find several people who’ve pilfered my artwork, lol. I don’t mind so much, but it’s nice to see where and how it’s being used out there “in the wild”.

    1. louise smith said on August 20, 2013 at 4:22 pm

      Hi Kenneth – as per email above please get in touch! x Lou

  3. Tim said on June 16, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    It’s a great service for finding ‘free’ versions of stock photos from the likes of Shutterstock and istockphoto. Just search for the watermarked sample and bingo. It’s scary how easy it is to steal someone’s work – Shutterstock etc must be concerned!

    1. louise smith said on August 20, 2013 at 4:14 pm

      Hi Tim

      I would really love to chat more with you about picture searches – I am making a series of short documentaries regarding how people use search engines; and their novel applications – please get in touch so that I can tell you more! Trust me it is a HUGE client and amazing project… Same same anyone else using this feature in unique ways.

      Best Lou

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