How to Reverse Picture Search With Google Images

 You may know that Google Image Search can help you find a photo of something when you search for it. For instance, if you're not quite sure what a wolverine looks like, you could search for one and find it. 

You may also know that you can tweak the settings to find images with fewer copyright restrictions. It's only as reliable as the people who upload those images, but it is still a very handy trick to have up your sleeve.

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Go to Google Image Search

Google Logo
Adam Berry / Getty Images

 Once you've found an image, you can also use that image to launch a search for similar images. However, one of the coolest things you can do with Google Images right now is to do it in reverse. It's a little like doing a reverse phone number lookup, only with an image. All you have to do is click on that camera icon in the Google Images search box. 

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Search by Image

Screen capture

You've gone to Google Images and clicked on the camera icon in Google Image Search. That should open up a box similar to what you see in this screen capture. Notice that it is offering you three ways to search by image. 

The first method: paste the URL of an image in the window. This is handy if you have a Flickr image or someone has been tweeting a meme. Find the URL of the image itself. You can usually get this by right-clicking on the image and selecting "copy image URL." Note that Google won't search by image if you paste in a URL for a private website, so this won't work to find the origin of that Facebook meme, for example. 

It will work if you download that image from Facebook first. (On a side note, if you're downloading images people have shared privately with you on Facebook, please be mindful of how you use those images.) That brings us to search method number two. If you have an image on your desktop, you can drag the image into the search box. This works well in Chrome. It may not work at all in IE. 

If dragging doesn't work, you can use method number three and click on the Upload an image tab. Once you do that, you can browse for an image on your desktop. 

What does a reverse image search on Google Images tell you? 

It depends on your source image. For example, you have a picture of an animal you shot with your camera on your desktop, and you have no idea what this animal is. You can try a reverse image search, and Google will attempt to find similar images. You might be able to identify your image. Sometimes you may even get results complete with a Wikipedia entry on the subject. Other images will pull up news stories or things that Google determines to be similar subjects, "cute baby animals," for example.