Skip to Main Content

Image Searching and Image Collections

Image search engines

Most general search and metasearch engines have image searching capabilities, usually using pull-down menus or tabs across the top of the home screen indicating ‘pictures’, ‘images’, or ‘multimedia’ . If you do not see such an option, look for an “advanced search” link.

When you use the specific image search functions, you''ll usually get a page of thumbnail images as a result, rather than the typical search engine result of a list of websites and links.

These general or image-specific search engines have additional features that set them apart:

(NOTE: We focus on desktop version of sites, and app-only search engines are not reviewed here)

Reverse Image Search Engines

What's a REVERSE image search engine?

You can upload an image or enter the URL of an image already online, and find

  • Visually similar images
  • Where else your specific image has appeared online

Why and how would I use one?

  • to identify a painting or photograph
  • to identify things in the image e.g. a famous person, a type of car, if they show up in many other images
  • to see if anyone has used your own artwork on their site without your knowledge or permission
  • to avoid catfishing--is that person who they say they are?

There haven't been any major new free services in the years 2013-2019. YMMV on other image search sites you may find, including some that have been in beta for years! Let us know how you tried using them and if you were happy with the results.

Is a VISUAL search engine the same as an IMAGE search engine?

                   database sample page database sample page
                      (MasterFILE Premier databases, visual search options)

Usually not.

"Image search" refers to a way to find or look through images. Most searches rely on finding tags assigned to images but give you results as a bunch of images. You'd enter the word Saturn and get a page showing pictures of planets, cars, and other stuff that has been tagged Saturn. You generally won't see those tags at first--just the images [usually thumbnails]

"Visual search" is a different way of showing you results of a regular word-based web search. For example, instead of just a list of sites that match the search  "Saturn", you might get a word cloud, a chart, or some similar graphic representation of results. It will show you (that's the "visual" part) how the search results sort out or cluster--some sites might be about the planet Saturn, some about Saturn cars, maybe a sports team named Saturn, etc.

Have a question or comment about these guides? Contact: