TinEye Reverse Image Search

Demo leader: Kurt Luther


TinEye is a web-based tool for performing reverse image searches. This means you can start with an image (instead of text keywords) and search for websites that include that image, or ones similar to it. TinEye provides a web interface for quick searches, but it also provides an API for programmatic use of the tool, so that developers can integrate its functionality into their own software. Google and other major search engines provide reverse image functionality, but to my knowledge, TinEye is unique in also providing a powerful API.

Reverse image search is useful for tasks like determining where and when an image was first posted, where it has spread to, etc. This tool can help investigators determine if an image has been modified from the original, if it is being presented in an incorrect context, or if it is being used without proper permissions, among other possibilities.

Reverse image search can also provide extra context or detail when it isn’t desired. For example, people have used the tool to reveal the private identities of profile pictures on online dating sites.


  1. Find an image you’d like to search. I picked a photo of a shark that is widely circulated during natural disasters. Recently, some people claimed this photo showed a flooded highway in Houston during Hurricane Harvey.
  2. Go to the TinEye website.
  3. In the search box, you have three main choices. You can 1) upload an image saved on your computer, 2) paste a URL that directly links to the image you’re searching, or 3) paste a URL of the web page containing the image. If the latter, the next page will ask you to pick which image from that page you want to search.
  4. Here are my search results. As of this writing, TinEye found 318 similar images after searching over 21 billion images across the web.
  5. The drop-down menu on the left lets you change how the results are sorted.
    • By default it’s “best match” (I think this means most visually similar).
    • “Oldest” is useful for finding the original source of the image. The oldest version TinEye found is from reallyfunnystuff.org in 2012.
    • “Most changed” shows some of the ways the image has been modified. For example, sometimes it’s cropped, or text is superimposed on it.
    • “Biggest image” is good for finding a high-quality version.
  6. The “filter” textbox lets you filter the sources of image results. When you click this textbox, it will auto-suggest some popular domains. For example, this particular image appeared in seven different BuzzFeed articles, some going back to 2014.
  7. You can also filter results to “collections”. These seem to be popular sources of online images like Flickr or Wikipedia that might give you more information about the image or allow you to license it for your own use.
  8. You can easily compare your image to any in the search results. Click “Compare Match” under the thumbnail of that image. Click “Switch” in the popup that appears and you can quickly toggle between both versions of the image.

Kurt Luther

Assistant Professor of Computer Science, Virginia Tech

One thought on “TinEye

  1. Did TinEye get permission to web crawl so many websites? Or it is worked around by periodically restart the crawling to avoid any blocking?

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