Educators are regularly looking for images. You need them for a PowerPoint (or Keynote) presentation, for a display, an activity, a report, or you want your students to find suitable images for their project. If you’re anything like me, you’ve got to have just the right image for the job. If I can, I’ll take my own photo to get what I want, but someˆtimes that’s not possible. And, for some reason, it always seems easier, like a lot of resource hunting today, to search for it on the Net.
For years I simply “Googled it”, and up would come a mind-numbing list of photos to wade through on any given subject. One estimate suggests that there is between 500 billion to 1 trillion images on the Internet (Flickr alone had 6 billion photos in 2011, and Facebook—although, not accessible in Google searches—100 billion). Well, that’s okay if you’re happy that all the other things on your To Do list can wait for another day, and the presentation you’re preparing for is eons away.
But if that’s not the way you work—and there’s not too many of us that do—this method of photo searching can be a source of enormous frustration! There’s this tension between time and getting the right image—it ends up being quite an emotional issue. Especially when it’s more than one image that you need to find, which is usually the case.
Google’s image selection improvements
Google has recognised this issue, too. Of course, Google has our wellbeing at heart, and they, in turn, want a place in our hearts. So, they’ve worked on improving both the presentation and the selection process to provide peace of mind to the overwealmed searcher. Let’s have a look at some of these in Google Images. I’ve been going the long way round on this for years, and it was my son (Oh, to be young and inquisitive) that alerted me to other possibilities by doing some simple exploring. A little bit of time spent snooping around will save you time—and frustration.
So let's go.
The suggestions list
The useful suggestions list for refining your search that automatically appears as you type in your search term has been around for a little while now. But, isn't it interesting, how, like pop-ups and banner ads, some of us block out what could be useful to us? Lesson one: check the list!
The sub-topic menu
But, the addition of the relatively new suggested sub-topics in a bar at the head of your more general search results is a very handy innovation by Google.
On many search results you get the handy filter selection bar at the top of the search.
Time-losing issues for image searches
But, even with these improvements, there’s got to be a more efficient way to get the right image. And not only that, there’s several other issues:
Having found an image, you still have the question: is it legal to just take it even for personal use, or for the classroom? Google just has a warning to say “it could be under copyright”. Without the hassle of having to contact the owner of the site, the temptations is to just use it. Not good role modelling.
How often do you find exactly the image you are looking for, only to find that it’s at some size totally unusable for your needs! It just adds to the frustration.
Sometimes you are trying to preserve a colour theme for your presentation. Looking for predominantly orange photos as well as looking for the kind of shot you’re looking for is rather difficult.
You want to preserve a particular style—maybe line drawings. How are you going to wade through all images just to get that?
For some uses, JPGs and PNGs are fine, but you don’t want ICO graphics or SVGs. Until you’ve looked at each image, you don’t know what file type it is.
Specific or current events:
You’re looking for a good photo of a specific event that occurred just a few days ago. Or, it may be photos of some historic occasion 50 years ago. You can always do a normal search for that event, but results are generally not that good for finding all available photos, let alone having to wade through individual websites.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could filter all these things out?
Search tools relief
Well, you can! It’s there under our noses. It really pays to snoop around these buttons and options in the Google Images interface. Try clicking on the Search tools button:
And this is what magically appears:
There you go!
- type of image
- file type
- time options
All rolled out! By clicking on the More tools option, you can have the actual image size displayed under each image in the search results list.
And the functionality of this options list is really clever. You can put all these options to work at once by simply setting each option. For example, you can select under the Size menu option all medium-sized images. Then select your colour, then the type of image, say, Clip art. You can even display the actual sizes on all images in the resulting search.
But there’s an even faster and more powerful way than this. And, it also resolves the only other bugbear, the copyright issue.
Become a Google Images super power user
Real power is not far away; it's at your fingertips. It comes in the form of this little button here (Google calls it the Options button):
Click on it, and you get this list of options:
Click on the Advance search option. Don’t be afraid, it’s not intimidating at all. Actually, you’ll find a lot of the stuff we’ve already seen above, plus a little more. And by using this wonderful option list, you'll find your anxiety levels and blood pressure decreases dramatically, and deadlines a possibility.
There are only two sections on this page:
- Find images with…
- Then narrow your results by…
Simplicity plus! And Google steps you through it, as well as providing helpful hints. Let's look at the first section:
Find images with…
This section is asking for your search term. It allows you to refine your search so that you can get very specific. If you're following along on Google Images, you'll notice the helpful advice Google offers on the right side of the range of field boxes (not shown on the image above). Use them. You want a specific image on a specific topic, here’s where you can get exactly that. You’re looking for a grey squirrel in St Jame’s Park, London, on a branch in snow? This is where you’d put that information. If you want a range of options, you’ve got a field that you can add this information separating each option by the word OR. Just check the instructions on the right, and you can get exactly what you want.
And the next section is even simpler, and even more helpful!
Then narrow your results by…
You will recognise most of the options in this section: image size, colours in the image, type of image, and file type. This is the same list of options we’ve already seen out on the main page that we looked at under Search tools. You’ll notice that if you have already looked for something using the Search tools options, these will already be filled out for you on this Advanced search page.
But there’s some most helpful extras in this section as well.
Aspect ratio: you can choose the shape of the image. You would like only panoramic shots? Viola! How cool is that!
Region: you can specify what country you want the subject matter to be from. You want Jewish synagogues in Poland, or Zimbabwe pound notes, or Kiwifruit in Argentina? Or, maybe a Bengali tiger in a cage in Moscow? I can’t promise you that there are any images there (I haven’t checked), but if there are, they'll show up in the search results. Well, as best as Google’s search engines can define the images available on the Net, and let’s be honest, it’s become remarkably good at it!
Safe search: can filter out anything explicit if that could be a problem in your search term. Some words lend themselves to including unwelcomed images.
Usage rights: at last, the copyright issue can be solved. And look at the list of options available: from unfiltered through to free to share and use commercially (if that’s an issue issue to you). Solved.
So, you have at your fingertips amazing tools for speeding up the process of finding and selecting images exactly as you require them. And there's more there to explore. Just click on the links at the bottom left of the page, and see what they can do for you.
But, Google’s not the only option
Of course, while Google has provided these amazing tools, there’s no guarantee that you will find the exact image you need. Google does have some downsides. Images come from all sorts of sites, good and bad, so quality is not always the best.
I also have some favourite free image sites, and even some free image search engines I use all the time. That’s for my next post.
Share your Google Images tips
In the meantime, if you have some other secrets to be found under Google Images' hood, please share them that others may take some of the frustration out of their day.
Happy (frustration free) image hunting!
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