Advanced Image Search With Google

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Caiaimage/Andy Roberts/Getty Images

Google's search engine doesn't just return web pages — it also surfaces media assets like images and video stored on indexed websites.

Basic Image Search

For most web searchers, using Google Image Search is easy: just enter your query into the search box and click the Search Images button. Simple!

Advanced Searching

To fine-tune your image searching, use the advanced-search drop-down menus found on your Google Image search results page or click the Advanced Search menu found under the Settings icon. From both of these places you can tweak your image search in a number of ways:

  • Color: Search only for black and white, grayscale, or full-color images (you can pick what color you'd like to highlight, too).
  • SafeSearch: Don't want explicit results? This is where you can specify that preference.
  • Domain: Find images only within a specific domain or website.
  • File types: Look for specific image file formats.
  • Size: Especially useful when you're looking for a specific size! Search for small, medium, or large images.
  • Keywords: Just as with Google's regular web search, you can filter your results by looking for all or any of the words in a phrase, even for images that are not related to the words.

The Advanced Image Search page really comes in handy if you're looking for images of a particular file type — for example, for a project that requires images in a JPEG format only. It's also useful if you're looking for a larger or high-resolution image for printing, or a smaller resolution image that will work fine for using on the web.

Viewing Your Images

After you click the Search Images button, Google returns a tapestry of paginated results, displayed in a grid, organized by relevance to your original search terms.

For each image displayed in your search results, Google also lists the size of the image, the type of file, and the originating host's URL. When you click an image, the original page opens in a frame in the middle of the page, along with the Google Images frame around the image thumbnail, the image's full display, and information about the image. Click the image to view it larger than a thumbnail from the originating site or go directly to the site itself by clicking the Visit Page link. To see the image without any context, click the View Original Image link.

Some images found using Google Image Search aren't viewable after clicking because some website owners use special code and search-engine instructions to keep non-authorized users from downloading images without permission.

Filtering Your Image Results

It's inevitable that sometime in your web-search travels you're going to come across something offensive. Google offers many options for keeping searches safe. By default, a moderate SafeSearch content filter is activated when you use Google Images; this filtering blocks the display of potentially offensive images only, and not text.

Toggle this SafeSearch filter in any search results page by clicking the SafeSearch drop-down menu and clicking Filter Explicit Results. Alternatively, shut off SafeSearch to see the raw, unfiltered results of your query.


Although Google Image Search and its counterpart at Bing will surface many targeted photos and line drawings for you to enjoy, you cannot assume that you can download those images and re-use them without attribution. Most images enjoy copyright protection and cannot be modified, used or displayed without the original owner's consent.

In other words: Just because you found it on the internet doesn't make it free.