7 Vital Google Image Search Hacks

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Where do you go when you need to search for something? Probably Google. Where do you go when you need to find images? I’m guessing the same again. Google’s image search has been around for over 12 years, and in that time, it’s advanced from being a cute novelty feature to a powerful search tool, with billions and billions of indexed images.

With all these images right at your fingertips, how do you go about finding the one image you’re really looking for? Over the years, Google has added many useful features to its image search, some more advertised than others. In addition, many features which are not yet available natively can be found on third-part websites. With these vital Google image search hacks, there’s no way in the world you won’t find what you’re looking for.

Note: Yes, I know Google Images is about to change, it’s just been announced today. However, it will take a while before the change rolls out to everyone, and many of these tips will stay helpful even with the new design.

Use Search Tools & Advanced Search

This is pretty obvious, but I want to mention these tools before we go further just in case you’re not using them yet. Google Image Search has seen some significant upgrades in the past several years, and you can now fine-tune your search with just a few clicks.

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Click on the “Search tools” button after entering your keywords, and create some quick filters for your search. For example, you can arrange your results by subject, add image-size indicators, look for images in certain colors or sizes, and focus your search on photos, sketches, clip arts and more.

As with any Google search, you can use the advanced search syntax to narrow down your search. For example, look for “chocolate –cake” to avoid any cakes in your results, “chocolate OR cocoa OR cacao” to find images containing any of these words, etc. To access even further options, choose “Advanced search” from the cogwheel menu.

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Search For Specific File Types

Although available in advanced search, the file type filter is absent from the more accessible search tools, which is a shame. If you often need to look for specific image file types, you might not want to use the advanced search every single time. Luckily, you don’t have to. Want to find only PNG files? Enter “filetype:png” after your query.

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By doing this, not only will you get only the file type you need, a new option will also be added to the Search tools, which you can use to switch the filter to other file types such as JPG, GIF, BMP and more.

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You can use the filetype operator to look for any supported image file type.

Get The Old Google Image Search Back

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Remember this? If for some reason you really miss this old layout, getting it back is surprisingly easy. All you have to do is enter a search as you normally would, then scroll the page all the way to the bottom. Once there, find the “Switch to basic version” link, and voila. You have the good old image search back.

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While not as slick as the current layout, some people may still find the old layout easier to use, and it’s also not as heavy on resources if you’re using an old machine. As simple as it is to do this, Google’s done a pretty good job at hiding it, so most users aren’t even aware it exists.

Find Similar Images

This is another very simple trick, which many users (including me) still manage to miss. There are many add-ons and apps out there that help you find similar images, but this feature is actually built into Google’s image search, albeit somewhat obscurely. If you’re looking for a specific kind of image, and you find one that fits the bill, hovering over it will reveal two new options: More sizes and Similar.

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By clicking “Similar” you can find dozens of similar images, which can go to great lengths to helping you find the right image. You can also look for the same image in different sizes.

Search Using Your Own Image

So you can look for similar images to those you found on Google, but what if you want to find similar images to ones you have on your own computer? This too is possible. While in image search, click the small camera icon on the search bar.

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In the dialogue that opens, you can either paste an image URL, or upload your own image. Once uploaded, Google will search for any and all images that resemble your image, and will come up with some results.

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While it’s very good at finding color resemblances, Google will not always do a good job deciphering the actual subject of the image. For this reason, you might get very accurate results at times, and at other times get images that are similar only in color. Try it out with several images to see for yourself.

Skip Source Website

Sources are important, but when you’re looking at dozens of images one after another, it gets pretty tiresome to have to go through the source website every single time you click an image. Instead of seeing an interesting image and getting to view it immediately, have to first see floating on the source website, and only when you click on “Full-size image” can you get to the actual image. This annoyance be overridden with a simple user script.

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The script is called “Google Images direct links”, and you can install it here. All the script does is skip the source website part, bringing you straight to the image once you click it in search results. Some browsers require a script manager in order to install user scripts. For Firefox, download Greasemonkey. For Chrome, you might need Tampermonkey.

Use An Alternative Interface

google-image-ripper

Can’t stand the Google Images interface no matter how you tweak it? Try alternative layouts, such as Google Image Ripper. While not as feature-rich as the native Google image search, Google Image Ripper makes it easy to download images with one click, and also includes a slick slideshow view to browse through results.

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If all you want to do is perform some simple queries, browse photos and download, you might find Google Image Ripper quicker and easier to use.

Bottom Line

Google’s image search is a powerful tool, and with the right tools and know-how, can be used to find pretty much any image you set your mind to. Know of more tips and tricks that help you find the right images? Share them in the comments!

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Comments (19)
  • Jim Clayton

    Nice Post 10x.

    I am using similar image search for my own photo library:Duplicate Image Finder

    This tool can find similar images sometimes even better than search engines, but it works for your own photo library. Give it a try
    They provide also a Free duplicate file finder.

  • Sanjay Kumar

    this was amazing, i finally found a way to get back to old google image search

  • khunkrumark.com

    Great, but what I would REALLY like is a script/option to avoid all the image bank sites that have watermarks on their images, leaving just the clean images to choose from.

    • Yaara Lancet

      Well, you can set Google to search only for free-to-use photos, and these shouldn’t have a watermark. You can do this from the advanced search. Scroll all the way down and look for “usage rights”.

  • Morne van Heerden

    A Google Search: The Unofficial Guide would be nice Yaara ..

  • Elizabeth

    Might be worth mentioning some Grease Monkey scripts that help to remove the tracking code from Google links, including images. The best I’ve found are googlePrivacy, Google Tracking-B-Gone, and Don’t Track Me Google. Alternatively you could use IxQuick’s picture search engine. I wish Duck Duck Go searched pictures, but maybe that’ll be coming in the near future.

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For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.