How to Use Google Reverse Image Search

Find out where that picture came from using your PC, Mac, laptop, or tablet

An eye peeking through torn blue paper

PeopleImages / Getty Images

Using Google to reverse image search is a useful method for researching the origins of a photo found online. Whether it’s a historical picture presented with little context or an image that seems doctored, you can search the web for other instances of its use with Google Images.

Perform a Google Reverse Image Search With Drag and Drop

This is a really useful way of searching an image you’ve downloaded to your device.

  1. Go to Google Images.

    Google search bar
    Screenshot
  2. Locate the image file on your device.

  3. Select and drag the file to the Google Images search page. The search box will change as you place the image over it.

    A file being dragged onto the Google Image search box.
    Screenshot
  4. Drop the image and Google will begin to search.

    Google Image search uploading an image
    Screenshot
  5. Your results will appear in a Google Search page.

Perform a Google Reverse Image Search Using a Picture's URL

If you've found an image online but don't want to download it, you can instead search for it by copying and pasting its URL.

  1. Find the image you want to search and right-click or control-click the image reveal the additional options menu.

  2. Select Copy Image Address to copy the picture's URL.

    Control click on an image to reveal the menu options
    Screenshot
  3. Go to Google Images.

    Google search bar
    Screenshot 
  4. Select the camera icon in the search bar.

    Google search bar with the camera icon highlighted
    Screenshot 
  5. This will launch a URL box. Paste the image address in the box, then select Search by image.

    Google Image search via URL
    Screenshot
  6. Your results will appear in a Google Search page.

Perform a Google Reverse Image Search From the Source Picture

If you're using Google's Chrome browser, this is a really simple way of performing a reverse image search for a picture you've found online.

  1. Hover over the image you want to search and either right-click or control-click to reveal the additional options menu.

  2. Select Search Google for Image.

    Control click on an image to reveal the menu options
    Screenshot
  3. Chrome will launch a Google Images search in a new tab.

Tips for Working With Google Reverse Image Search Results

As with any Google search, your results will likely be populated with a large volume of links and similar images, but knowing which results will help with your research is not always clear. Fortunately, there are a couple of things you can do to refine your results.

If you anticipate you'll be selecting a lot of results or just need to compare a number of pages, it's good practice to open those links in separate tabs. To do this, right-click or control-click a link to open the additional options menu. From there, select either Open link in New Tab or Open Image in New Tab.

Sort Google Images Search Results by Time

Ordering your results using time filters is an excellent way of sorting pages to help find the earliest instances of an image appearing on the web. It’ll also help you track any changes made to the photo over time.

Sorting results by Time doesn't necessarily display pages in the order they were published. The results will show only pages published within your selected time range. They will still be ranked by relevance.

  1. Perform a Google Images search and go to the results.

  2. Select Tools.

    Google Images search results with Tools button highlighted
    Screenshot
  3. Select Time.

    Google Images search results with Time button highlighted
    Screenshot
  4. A dropdown menu will appear giving you options for filtering your results by various periods. You can also set a custom date range.

    Google Images results with Time search options highlighted
    Screenshot
  5. When filtering with a custom date range, you can choose from the calendar, type date formats, or even use natural language. For example, in the From field, you could type 1/1/2000, Jan 1 2000, or just 2000. The same is true for the To field. You can pick or type in a date, including writing “now” to include the most recent results.

    Google Images search Custom date range tool
    Screenshot
  6. The results will now be filtered to only include results from your chosen range.

Sort Google Images Search Results by Visually Similar Pictures

Filtering results by how visually similar they are is helpful if you're looking to find out whether or not an image has been altered or if you're just hoping to find more photos from a set.

  1. Perform a Google Images search and go to the results.

  2. Select Tools.

    Google Images search results with Tools button highlighted
    Screenshot 
  3. Select Search by image.

    Google Images search results with Search by image button highlighted
    Screenshot
  4. A dropdown menu will appear giving you a few options to filter your results. Select Visually similar.

    Google Images search results with Search by image menu options and Visually similar highlighted
    Screenshot 
  5. Your results will open in a new layout with a menu bar offering more filtering tools. You can opt to filter images by size, color, time, and more.

    Visually similar Google Images search results. Additional filtering menu bar is highlighted
    Screenshot