Advice - Photography / Tracking down pirates

Technology for finding photographs is likely to change quite fast. In the fairly near future it may be possible to send a photo to a special search engine that will find other photos that look like it. At the moment, though, your best bet is to search for text that would be likely to be wrapped round a particular photo.

This section is a draft and will, we hope, be expanded and revised soon.

Searching for actual images

There is at least one service that offers to search for your pictures themselves: compares sample images you send to it with images it finds on the web. But it's early days for the technology, and prices start at US$14.95 per month. We eagerly await news of more such services.

Look for the text wrapped round the pic

So you're more likely searching for text - words that really ought to appear in a picture's caption or other accompanying text. You can use image search engines such as or or - all these are, in fact, searching the text in the web page that a picture appears on, but they present results as a "gallery" of picture thumbnails that's easy to scan visually.

But if you want to do a thorough search, do not restrict yourself to image search engines. A search for caption text on 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 provides.

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

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"

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

As with photos, you're 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.

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 specify site: 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 and a space and more words. AltaVista Advanced Search offers a similar facility - enter this information under "Location / by URL" - and once again it returns more results.

More advice and links...
* Bing image search from Microsoft
* 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
* 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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