Monday, January 16, 2023

Modifying a Reverse Image Search Query: Google Lens and Reverse Image Search

 I took a photo, but can't remember where it's from... 

Happens to me all the time.  

Naturally, I'll use Reverse Image Search (also known as "Search by Image") to find out what it is.  

But as you might know, Google's Reverse Image Search has been updated by Google Lens.  The big difference is that Lens tries to identify objects and give you results based on that identity, rather than just finding similar images.  

Often, that's exactly what you want. In this case, I want to know what this image that I found on my (physical) desktop is showing.  

A quick scan, then go to and search for my image. This is what I see: 

That's a pretty good result: I know it's "Spring" by Lawrence Alma-Tadema, the immensely skilled Victorian classical painter.  (For a nice article about this painting, see the Getty's publication about this work.)  

But if I want to learn more about this painting, including where it's used, I can click on the "Find image source" button at the top of the left-hand panel.  That will open another tab with the previous Search-By-Image results.  Like this, which includes the "best guess" search string that is created by Google, approximating what it thinks I'm searching for: 

And, as we've learned in our earlier discussions of Search By Image, you can modify that query to give you more precise results.  Here, I've modified the query to include a SITE: restriction, this one limits the results to .EDU sites, especially useful if I'm looking for high quality results, such as those from the Getty Museum, where this original painting is housed.  

This ability to modify the query is really useful when you're searching for things that aren't products--such as images of plants.  Here's an example of a nearby creek I photographed during last week's heavy rainfall.  Here's the original Search By Image query (yes, that's a swollen creek near my house):  

But if I'm looking for similar images in my home state of California, I click on the "Find Image Source" button and modify the query to include [flooding in California].  This finds visually similar images that are also connected with the idea of flooding in California

Hope you find this ability to do the classic reverse image search a useful extension.  

Search on! 


  1. lost my comment (´_`) – was left with this unintended consequence…
    Spring is out there, somewhere…

    any Ruddy ducks [Oxyura jamaicensis] or Buffleheads [Bucephala albeola]
    on the swollen creek?
    list with images
    check under references…
    fwiw – when I checked ChatGPT (was busy) it got the location of the painting wrong -
    said the Met - curious given the Getty's pervasiveness.

  2. Thanks, Dr. Russell!

    Again it's is very interesting and helpful.

    I hope that finding image source is available soon on mobile. I think it will be more helpful there than in desktop. It is like search on a channel by YouTube, only possible on desktop

    I didn't know what Cerealia is, so searched for that too.

    Searched for videos on YouTube. Lots that look interesting. There is one from Museo del Prado that is like a course.

    This short, also interesting:

    1. Using one of the SRS's favorite lessons: Learn while you read, today I read about Mr. Noah Webster. That made me think about the dictionary so I searched and learned a new thing. Actually more because Mr Webster has a great story

      Also reading about Mr. Webster, found that Shakespeare spelled his name in two different ways in the same will. And, the origin of the word gymnasium.

      And, not AstroSpring as Remmij's but Moon dressed as Saturn

  3. related to prior sRs… fwiw (could touch on 'hive mind' bits too)
    swarm behavior - see related articles

  4. was searching "Ask Me No More"… then I found mo… interesting pairing with "Youth — Youth" the Victorian Age was complicated.
    "Promise of Spring" – is it in Dan's collection?
    victorian era led to this portal…
    off beat collection
    2018, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema

  5. I first encountered Reverse Image Search, through this group, less than a year ago but have noticed its improvements in identifying landmarks. I originally tested a photo of myself in front of a well-marked landmark and RIS could only produce images of other people standing in front of the same landmark. This week, it identifies the spot. We’re still working on the Yreka Bakery….

    As for Google Lens, its applications continue to expand. I watch a lot of non-US television series and movies. Sometimes there are signs in the background in other languages and/or alphabets. I now pause the video and apply the Lens. It doesn’t always work, perhaps due to imperfect resolution, and I sometimes get odd results, particularly going from one translation to another, as if “it” can’t make up its mind. For example, I once got “mouth of the sea” for a few seconds, and then it morphed into “sea level”, which was correct because the English was right beside it. In other instances, “travel trolley” became “travel agency” and “there is no formula” became “no entry”.

    I’ve also been reading about and watching news videos in other countries and Lens conveniently translates the messages on, for example, demonstrators’ signs.