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When the right picture is everything, you need to go deep into the web and comb through the millions that are out there. Image search is just like normal search and similarly painstaking. Making it less so are the dedicated image search engines.

Image search engines sift through the web searching by type of image, by license or by tags and keywords. There are of course, standalone photo reservoirs like Flickr, Stock.xchng, Photobucket, Morguefile et.al; but your kind of image may just be tucked away in some other obscure corner of the web. Google Image Search is powerful but it always pays to have a few more options up your browser.

This is where these five image search engines come into the picture.

Cyclo.ps

image search engines

In Greek mythology, it’s a giant with a single eye. As a stock photography search engine, it keeps both eyes on sites like BigStockPhoto, Flickr, Fotolia, Cutcaster, StockVault, Photos.com, ShutterStock and stockx.xchng. The search interface is typically simple and you can search by selecting specific stock photo sites or all of them in one go. A horizontal menu and also a dropdown let you view results by respective site. Clicking on the thumbnail previews takes you to the source where you can see the details attached with the photo.

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Cyclo.ps gives the user a Lightbox account where he can save (by clicking the little plus icon), tag, share, and print (only the thumbnail) his selected photos. Visitors can also add comments to your shared images.

Pixsy

image search engines

Type in your query and you can get what you are searching for amidst millions of images and videos. This search platform delivers both. The web app looks into the RSS feed of variety of news sites and content providers like Yahoo and extracts the image previews. Clicking on the thumbnail preview takes you directly to the source. The source webpage opens in a two frame layout with a Pixsy brief on top and the source page below. You can filter the search by content type (image or video), category and source (BBC, MSNBC, Rolling Stone, Webshots, Yahoo etc).

The site is very neat and uncluttered.

Spffy (Beta)

image search engines

Ferret out the image or video you want using Spffy’s multiple searches. Spffy checks out a cross-section of sources like stock photo sites, web sources like Flickr, public domain sites and videos from YouTube. You can tune your stock search with settings for royalty-free, rights-managed and news/archival. Web search on Flickr can also be similarly configured for relevance.

Incogna

free image search engine

The Canada-based search engine company looks at the visual shape rather than the meta-data. This gives rather interesting results which are distinct from the others profiled here. The image search is fast though the number of results is not plentiful. You enter a keyword and then select an image from the results to do a similarity search. A moving slider to control the number of images per page is the only preference tool to set.

PicSearch

free image search engine

Picsearch indexes the web for images and is probably the best of the lot. The About Page of the site says that its unique search algorithm is due for a patent. The search engine has indexed more than 3,000,000,000 images. You can set a few preferences like an interface language.

free image search engine

Advanced search options give you several image factors like color or black and white, animation or image, portrait or landscape and more importantly the ability to search by image size. You can also use normal search operators to fine-tune your search. The site also comes with a family filter to keep out you-know-those kind of images away from the mix.

There are two things I really liked about the site. Firstly, its speed; and secondly, the Image Directory which is a vast collection of subject specific images. Oh yes, there’s a third thing to like too – it comes with a Firefox extension.

In listing these five sites, I have tried to go beyond the omnipresent searches provided by the regulars like Google, Yahoo and Bing. When it comes to search, often a single tool does the job; but there are also times when many need to be pushed into action. Along with these five, you can check out two others we have profiled before ““

Do remember that although these search engines may give you the right image – using the image itself is subject to copyright. So do check the sources before you click on save. If unable to do so, what are search engines for”¦hunt out a few more.

Which is your image search engine of choice? Does your image search go beyond the biggies? Let us into the picture.

Image Credit: Playingwithbrushes

  1. William Browning
    January 24, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    Thanks to all of you for more recent information.

  2. Emlsearch
    February 1, 2015 at 11:55 am

    One of the recently dveloped Image Search engine is emlsearch, It also provides highly relevant Image searches for queries
    Regards,
    emlsearch
    Image Search Engine

    • Saikat
      February 1, 2015 at 2:50 pm

      It is meta-search engine, from the looks of it. It's handy. Thanks!

  3. PDFOne
    February 12, 2010 at 7:12 am

    Nice list, but you sould add Free Photo Image Search Engine.
    Thanks anyway

  4. quark
    January 18, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    Very good review. What are the best sites for public domain or CC-BY photos?

  5. Luke
    November 11, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Photobucket's image search is one of the best on the web and they have tons of great images: http://photobucket.com/findstuff/

  6. Use Pics Legally
    November 2, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Google Image Search, and other such engines, has clearly changed the way we think about online pictures – allowing everyone greater access to the Web’s multitude of photographs. Unfortunately, Google Image Search and other such search capabilities don’t solve the problem of copyright and intellectual property issues. Issues that have lead to infringement cases in the past. This is why, if you are a frequent online-picture user, (design or advertisement and other creative industries especially) you should head over to imagex.picscout.com/Download/Register, (homepage: picscout.com/) to sign up for the beta edition of PicScout’s innovative ImageExchange technology, and leave infringement issues in the past.

  7. Tyler Olson
    November 2, 2009 at 4:48 am

    Nice to see you highlighting some legit image searches that search the source and put the buyer in contact with the seller. It seems far to common for images to be swiped from the internet without proper attribution or payment. Hopefully sites like Cyclopes make people aware that the images are actually for sale at a reasonable price from stock agencies.

  8. slaughter
    October 31, 2009 at 10:02 am

    Who uses google image search? Like most things, Yahoo is still better. People have been conditioned to "google it", not knowing Yahoo mail, calander, image search, flickr, ect.. are all better than Google's offering.

  9. Food
    October 30, 2009 at 11:52 pm

    Cool post. Heard of Picsearch before but not any of the others. Have you heard of "TinEye" that's a reverse search engine by showing where a certain image is hosted, after uploading a photo or sending a URL, its in its infancy but pretty cool?

    • Saikat
      October 31, 2009 at 2:40 am

      Yes, there are quite a few reverse image engines out there. I think we have covered Tineye here at MUO.The problem is not with how many...but with how many survive the churn. There were quite a few old ones but I found that they no longer exist when I started researching for this post.

  10. Monica Dickey
    October 30, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    Cool, thank you! Google image search is definitely lacking sometimes but I wasn't sure where else to go for something similar. Flickr didn't really float my boat for similar tasks.

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