Compelling images make your social media more likely to be noticed. They can raise click rates in your emails. They set the tone for your articles and help make them memorable. Finding the right image matters, and using advanced search for images can help.

It's not that it's hard to find images. Some come pre-programmed in GIF searches on your phone. Instead, we're looking at techniques to help you find specific images that aren't always described by an emotion or reaction.  

  1. Find an image that you saw last week but can't locate now
  2. Find images that match the file requirements you've been given (.png, .jpg, etc.)
  3. Find free images without watermarks

You have two entry points to Google Images Advanced Search. The first is the direct link below.

https://www.google.com/advanced_image_search

The first four options are identical to the search operators for traditional text searches, but these cut out the additional step of choosing "images."

  • Text description
  • Exact words/Quote
  • OR
  • Exclude

However, the advanced image search functions that prove most helpful are the ones that come next.

Size, Aspect ratio: Many content publishing platforms adjust your image sizes, but best practices will have you keeping them limited to size dimensions or file sizes. Similarly, the right aspect ratio keeps your image from shrinking to fit the window.

Type of image: You can choose animated images, perfect for reactions.

Color: Don't blow past this one. You probably don't need to often search for images just for the purple in them, but this lets you limit results to transparent backgrounds. When working with logos and pasting onto other images, this is a valuable time saver.

File type: This limits results to file extensions like JPG and PNG. You often see compatibility requirements from sites asking you to upload images that need quality assurance.

Region: This limits results to where they were published, not where the image takes place. For example "computer" in Bahamas won't necessarily have a tropical look. It's just a plain laptop.

Site: Helpful for finding that one pic you saw on Reddit but can't remember its exact location.

If you can narrow down your memory to a few spots where you might have seen that image, you can set the "site" for your search and increase your chances.

Most of the text-based Google search commands we've covered before are expressed in the search bar through special characters and rules. This advanced Google image search page lets you fill in the fields with your details. If you prefer to learn the keyboard-based search commands for images, you can still get there on the results page.

For example, I used the advanced image search page to find lake tahoe snow (all these words) on twitter.com (site or domain), and filled out two fields. When I click for results, Google tells me what that advanced search operator looks like as a keyword-based search command.

I like this "see and learn" technique to see how the advanced search is structured, and then adjust it for later.

Where is Advanced Image Search in Google?

Earlier, I mentioned two ways to reach advanced image search. When you are already on a traditional Google search results page (by typing a search directly into the search bar on google.com or by connecting Google to your browser's search bar), turn to this step.

Choose the "images" option on the results page, and then select "tools" in the same row.

This gives you many (but not all) of the same options that we listed above. However, there's a timing option here that isn't on the advanced search page. You can limit results to photos from the last 24 hours or other time frames.

This is vital for time-sensitive topics or even for finding elusive photos that easily get buried in an avalanche of updates, like Twitter or news sites.

Tip: Keep in mind that the time setting (24 hours, past week, etc.) is not persistent. You have to select it every time you update your search.

One other option on that row (and on the advanced search page) solves one of the most common questions about image search. This is where premium vs free images come in.

Many professional images require you to pay a license, or a fee, to the original owner if you want to use it on a public facing site or project. These images are easy to spot at a glance. They often have watermarks repeated across the image.

People who want to find images without licensing restrictions/costs have a good option. Google included a filter in its advanced image search to narrow down your results to Creative Commons licenses.

Look for "Usage Rights" in your image search tools. Choose "Creative Commons licenses."

This kind of license lets you (the searcher) repurpose the image in your own work as long as you credit the original owner. Occasionally you might find a site that says "no attribution required," but that should never be assumed for all images.

These free images are often compared to open source software usage and "copyleft" work. That means that you are free to use and modify the image, but you have to retain the same usage rights. In other words, you can't turn around and sell usage yourself.

Elevate Your Image Finding Skills

These image searches can pay off. Using memorable, story-telling visuals will help reinforce your message, but it takes the right image. If simple tricks can help you dig up the best-fitting results, learn them. Finding a strong image that fits your tone, size, file and mood can help elevate your content.