Ever tried searching with a picture?

By | November 7, 2022
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I don’t know about you, but sometimes searching the web using search words just doesn’t cut it for me. I find myself trying to describe something, when what I really want is to just show Google a picture and say “find me something like that”.

Well, if you use the Google Chrome web browser on your computer, there’s a newish feature that lets you do just that. It lets you do a Google search based on a picture, rather than having to type words in a search box. If you can’t think why you’d ever want to do that… say, someone has posted a picture of an unusual bird or plant on social media, and you really want to know what it is. Typing “small yellow bird” or “plant with purple petals” in a Google search box might give you the right answer… but it’ll give you a load of wrong ones too!

Or if you’re browsing the internet and see a photo with a sofa that would be perfect for your living room. The website doesn’t say where the sofa comes from, and typing “blue sofa” in a Google search box will give you thousands to trawl through.

Google Lens” is here to help.

The “Google Lens” tool has actually been around for a while, now. You can get it as an app for your phone or tablet (search “Google Lens” in your app store), or use it as a tool in other apps like Google Photos. So for example, if you take a picture of a butterfly while you’re out on a walk, you can use either the Google Lens or Google Photos app to search the internet for other photos of the same type of butterfly.

Now that Google Lens has been added to the Chrome web browser, you can do the same thing for any photo that you can see on a website – it doesn’t have to be one you’ve taken yourself.

All you need to do is find an image on a website and right-click on it. You’ll get a menu pop up with lots of different options. Click on the one that says “Search image with Google Lens” and that will open a panel on the right hand side of your screen.

The image you clicked on will be at the top of the panel with a big list of search results underneath, showing pictures that Google thinks are a good match for yours. If you’re only interested in a small part of the image, click on the copy of it at the top of the panel and a rectangular white box should appear. You can drag this box around, and change the size of it by dragging the edges in or out, to frame the bit you’re interested in, e.g. a particular bird in a wildlife photo.

You can then scroll down the list of image results (called “Visual matches”) and see the web pages those pictures have been used on. Each result is a link to that web page – just click on one to open it.

Or, if you want to find out if that exact photo has been used on other web pages, click where it says “Find image source” at the top of the panel. A search results page should open with links to all the other web pages it’s been published on, as well as anything else Google thinks you might be looking for related to that image.

The clearer the image, the better results you’ll get, but why not give it a try and see what you can find?

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