In a world with Photoshop or photo editing software at nearly everyone’s fingertips, it can be hard to know if that stunning image making the rounds is real or even recent. Also, it can be hard to track down the original source of photos or images when they pop up on Pinterest with a link to a Tumblr that links to another Tumblr that links to a blog that doesn’t cite the source.
While there’s no fool proof way to find the original, there are a few ways to track down other copies of the image and potentially the original source. One of the easiest places to start is with a reverse image search.
It’s probably a good idea for journalists to plug any images they share into these sites before passing it along or repinning it with credit to the wrong source. Why use it? Last week in the wake of Super Storm Sandy, one of the most shared photos I saw pass around social media was of soldiers standing in a downpour guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was a real shot — from a few months before, not from Sandy as it was being purported to be. (Sandy spawned so many fake images, several places started tracking the real from the fake.) Reverse image searches also could help you find other similar photos of local landmarks that people have taken over the years if you search by one you have.
It’s just another tool in the toolbox and a useful trick when it works. There are a few image search options out there, so if you want to find more just search in your favorite search engine for “reverse image search” and see what comes up. The two I’ll discuss are probably the most well known, but feel free to share more ideas in the comments or links to this post.