An adapted example of a reverse image search based on an image, to the left, of a turquoise-blue lake with a sailboat and a triangular mountain in the background. The mountain is a landmark in the region. To the right, image search results have correctly identified the mountain and lake. The image results match the original image in color, mood, landscape features and location. Reverse image search done on Google Lens, uploaded image by the author.
An adapted example of a reverse image search based on an image, to the left, of a turquoise-blue lake with a sailboat and a triangular mountain in the background. The mountain is a landmark in the region. To the right, image search results have correctly identified the mountain and lake. The image results match the original image in color, mood, landscape features and location. Reverse image search done on Google Lens, uploaded image by the author.

What is a reverse image search?

7 insights on new AI tools that allow for expanded digital image searches

Eva Schicker
7 min readOct 12, 2023

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1. Searching for images based on a source image

A reverse image search sources similar images based on an image uploaded to a search engine. Reverse image searches are also referred to as searching for a similar image.

A visual search engine examines the submitted image for color, shape, texture, or topography, based on algorithms. Reverse image searches can track the location of the source image, track sites where the image is used, and retrieve information about the image.

A reverse image search is not based on entered keywords, such as house, or building. Rather, we submit an image of our liking to the search engine and request to view similar images, without entering prompts or descriptions.

Let’s take a look at Google’s reverse image search engine.

On Google’s image search page, we can access the Search by image feature, by clicking on the camera icon in the search bar.

Access Google’s visual search engine by clicking on the camera icon.
Access Google’s visual search engine by clicking on the camera icon.

Next, a screen prompt asks for dragging or uploading an image, or posting a url link to an online image.

The uploading/url-paste pop-up in Google Lens.
The uploading/url-paste pop-up in Google Lens.

After we uploaded an image, Google Lens instantaneously rolls out image usages and variations of similar images.

2. How well does Google Lens match the image?

Let’s explore a reverse image search of the Brooklyn Bridge. I’m uploading an image sourced on Unsplash.com, an image library powered by creators everywhere. Most Unsplash images are available for free usage. However, do give full credit to the creator when using their images.

I choose an image by Jialin Hu and drop the image into Google’s search engine window.

The result is spot on.

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Eva Schicker

Hello. I write about UX, UI, AI, animation, tech, art & design through the eyes of a designer. UX lead Lelantos Press, NYC UX GA grad. Top writer 5x.