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Advice - Photography / Tracking down pirates

Technology for finding photographs changes quite fast. At the moment your best bet is often to search for text that would be likely to be wrapped round a particular photo.

Searching for actual images

The author uses to locate instances of particular photographs used online. You can either upload the photo, or give it a address where the photo already appears, and it will return other places where it appears.

At the time of writing it said it had details of 36 billion such images. It matches photos accurately, with hardly any "false positives". It is of course impossible to tell in practice how many instances of a photo being used or abused it finds.

The image search options offered by search engines and are much looser - and the false positives can be surprising and entertaining if you have time to wade through them.

One service that offered to search for your pictures themselves is - which compares sample images you send to it with images it finds on the web. But it's now promoting itself as a tool for advertisers.

Look for the text wrapped round the pic

So you may well be searching for text - words that really ought to appear in a picture's caption or other accompanying text. It is likely that at least is, in fact, mainly searching the text in the web page that a picture appears on, and definitely does this. Each of these then presents results as a "gallery" of picture thumbnails that's easy to scan visually.

If you want to do a thorough search, do not restrict yourself to image search engines. A search for caption text can often turn up pages that the image searches missed. You should soon acquire the skill of scanning the 20-word extract from a page and its URL to see whether it's worth a quick flip over to look at it. (Like swimming, this skill is hard to describe in writing.)

You can also explore the "Search inside the book" facility that and provide.

Wherever you're searching, remember you want to be searching for words that will appear in pages that may include the image - not for words that describe it.

Forget about the terms that you use in classifying your picture library: put yourself in the mind of someone writing a caption.

Try including specific details relevant to the picture. For example, if you are searching for your photo of Bjork (a moderately popular musician, m'lord) at Glastonbury 2007, don't just search for Bjork - try at first:

Bjork Glastonbury 2007

At the time of writing this produced 9920 results from . So try adding more words about what's in the picture - for example what she was singing at the time:

Bjork Glastonbury 2007 "Venus as a boy"

You could also try spelling her name properly as Björk with an umlaut on the "o" to see how the search engine you're using handles accents.

Keep trying. It's probably easier to do lots of specific searches than to glaze over looking at thousands of pictures that aren't yours.

Then read the sections linked below, including the general tips on effective searching.

Tracking down video

You're pretty much stuck with searching for words and phrases in the text wrapped around the video. You may find the site useful - especially since it scans major news sites hourly or more often.

Searching within specific sites

You may also find it useful to use the facility Google provides to scan a particular site, with searches such as these increasingly specific examples: glastonbury

The rule when you use the site: prefix is that immediately after it you type part of the (URL - up to and including the .com or or or whatever - and then optionally add part of the stuff after the "slash" - for example /news - to restrict your search to pages whose URLs begin thus. Then you type a space and words that should appear in the page.

Now see the links below for tips on what you can do once you have found a rip-off...

More advice and links...
* TinEye superior image search (coverage growing)
* Effective searching for text look for the text around your pic
* Getting remedies cash, please
* Takedown demanding removal from the web
* Bing image search from Microsoft
* Uploaded 07/12/2222: if you have a printout, check the current version at
* Rates for the Job good, bad and ugly
* Join the NUJ to get individual advice & representation

Text © Mike Holderness & previous contributors; Moral rights asserted. The collection (database right) © National Union of Journalists. Comments to please. You may find the glossary helpful.

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