I’ve actually had this in my toolbox for a while, just in case, but never thought I’d really find need to feature it here, what with Google’s own reverse image search capabilities. But Google did something irritating, just earlier this year if I’m not mistaken: For desktop Chrome users, instead of letting us do a simple reverse image search, it now forces us to use Google Lens to do that.
Same thing? Nope. It’s functionally and behaviorally different. Lens is indeed a powerful tool that uses “image recognition technology” (fancy way to say AI) to use images for searches. Like, say, I took a pic of this weird wild animal walking down my sidewalk early in the morning, and I want to know what it is. Lens is great for that kind of thing. But for the image searches I typically do, such as find the actual source/creator of a killer illustration I saw on some site, Lens is like trying to use a Phillips screwdriver on a standard flathead screw. It’s a pain.
I keep getting reminded of it every time I habitually right-click an image to do a search, see Lens as the only option, which I’ll try yet again (sometimes I don’t learn), and then I get back nothing useful. Not even close, as Lens meanders about on various aspects of the image except actually finding exact copies, or closely similar ones in various sizes, of the darned thing.
Sure, we can still do that type of classic reverse image search by going to Google Images (that’s a tip, by the way, since I don’t think they really mention that), but now we’re forced to hassle with copying-and-pasting the image’s URL for the search, or downloading and uploading the actual image. When once all we had to do was right-click on the pic wherever on the Web we happen to see that image. Yeah, it’s an irritant.
So, I figure if I have to go through all that now, I’m going to check out other reverse image search engines. Bing has one; that’s proven useless (no results from my last search, quite literally). Yandex has one too, and it’s obviously way better than useless Bing, but since it essentially serves the Russian market, the results are more useful to them, not to those of us who aren’t Russian.
So TinEye to the rescue! Not really much more to say beyond that it does reverse image searches, except for this: it actually seems even better than Google Images for my needs. TinEye has consistently given me the actual source of an image as one of the top search results, often the very first. It’s weird, after getting used to wading through a bit more of the results Google spits out, often necessitating a roundabout research way to get to the source (such as looking for credit info at sites that have used the image), but I guess the folks behind TinEye really know what they’re doing. Maybe it’ll perform the same way for you.
On an aside, there seems to be a way to futz around with Chrome’s settings and take Lens out of the right-click context menu, maybe even restore the classic reverse search. Haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve seen posts about that “hack” here and there. Maybe someday I’ll get irritated enough to try it.