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how to track down creditless photo sources

There’s been much talk lately about how to share on Pinterest properly: giving credit to the source of your image, and making sure the pin actually links back to the source correctly before you re-pin it. I have an excellent example of why this is so important. Yesterday, I suddenly got a massive traffic spike on my blog and lots of new comments on my shrinkydinks ring tutorial.

shrinky dinks rings by planetjune

When I investigated the source, they were all coming from Pinterest and Tumblr – nothing weird about that. But then I clicked through to see the source, and here’s what I found:

pinterest mis-attribution

Lovely! Except… not only is this not one of my shrinky rings, but a quick glance made me seriously doubt that it was a shrinky ring at all – there’s no way to make a seamless join with a shrink plastic ring, and this looked smooth and perfect. So why is it being linked to my tutorial?

I clicked through from Pinterest to see the source, and found this:

pinterest mis-attribution

A tumblr site, with no attribution for the image at all. This is very common with tumblr – people ‘blog’ photos they’ve found online and there’s no link back to where they found the photo, or any information about it. This is why I avoid tumblr: it’s too frustrating to not be given any information about what you’re looking at.

But all is not lost! Thanks to Google’s new Search by Image function, you can enter the URL of a photo and it’ll show you where else that picture appears online. (It’s very useful if you want to see if anyone has been stealing your photos, as well as letting you track down the source for a creditless photo.)

To use the Search by Image feature, go to Google Images and click the little camera icon at the right of the search box:

pinterest mis-attribution

Go back to your source picture* and grab its URL (right click on the picture; the exact wording of the option varies between browsers but in Chrome it says ‘Copy image URL’), then paste it into the search box:

* Edited to add: you can do this directly from its Pinterest page: don’t click the pin to go to the (supposed) source, just right click the image in Pinterest to get its URL.

pinterest mis-attribution

After you click ‘Search’, you’ll see links from all over the internet, wherever a webpage uses the same photo. In this case, there are lots of results, and almost all of them are social bookmarking sites:

pinterest mis-attribution

I ignored all those and looked through until I found one that sounded like it may be the original:

pinterest mis-attribution

Bingo! And clicking through to Keri’s Autumn Bangle page informs me that this image is, in fact, nothing to do with either shrinky dinks or rings: it’s a bangle, “Designed as a one complete vector image then screened onto thin acetate. Next step, encase in resin for eternity. Sand, buff, wear. This bangle is for sale. If you’d like one, just ask!”

Now, just think how much business Keri may have received as a result of all this exposure, if only the first person to share her photo on Tumblr had credited this page, or her Etsy shop, as the source.

But instead, the anonymous image propagated, and, at some point, someone added the ‘information’ that it was a shrinkydinks ring, and someone else added the link to my tutorial… And, while I’m very happy to see my tutorial reach more eyes, I can’t and won’t take the credit for Keri’s lovely resin bangles! (If you’d like to order a bangle from Keri, her Etsy shop is Par Amour Design her web store is Omnia Oddities.)

A side note: in case you’re thinking of giving up on Pinterest as a source of inspiration, here’s an encouraging sign. Plenty of people are doing it right: a search for “shrinky ring” brings this:

pinterest mis-attribution

Yep, 14 of those first 15 results are links to my tutorial – and there are many, many more if you scroll down.

So, three points to take away from this:

  • Don’t believe everything you read online without question.
  • Think before you share a link (whether on your blog, pinterest, twitter, facebook, or anywhere else) and make sure you’re actually linking to the most useful page for your readers!
  • If a link doesn’t lead where you expect, a little sleuthing with Google can often turn up what you’re looking for.

Happy browsing… :)

44 Comments »

  1. Thanks for sharing the photo search ability, as well as the etiquette links. I have some work to do on my pinterest boards!

    • June said

      You’re welcome – it’s a really useful feature! I’m so glad Google added it.

  2. Tara said

    Interesting!
    Did you know you can also drag-and-drap pictures into Google’s search bar? so if you have just an image, you can drop it and search and it usually brings back a result!

    • June said

      Yep, it’s very cool! But I usually have the window open in another tab, so it’s actually easier for me to grab the URL and paste it in, most of the time.

  3. Wow, what a helpful post, and also a sobering example of how rampant misuse is. Since the whole discussion of bad attribution on Pinterest began, I’ve actually found it harder and harder to use the site, simply because I have to spend so much time tracking down the original maker so I can repin things.

    Thank you for presenting this image-search technique, and for sharing your process of tracing.

    • June said

      It’s frustrating – I’m seeing new repins pop up all the time and there’s not much I can do about it: I can’t find and comment on every repin! It makes me feel like a fraud to see my name attached to work that’s not mine; I hope this post will help a little with that.

      There’s also an issue of reputation if you (anyone, not you in particular, Diane!) don’t check before you repin, especially if Pinterest is part of a ‘social media strategy’ for your handmade/crafty business: I think I’d start to trust someone a little less if their pinned pictures aren’t what they claim to be and/or don’t link back to the original source so I can find out more…

  4. Mary said

    Thanks so much for taking the time to explain all that. I love pinterest, but I’ve slowed down recently in my pinning frenzy, because there are so many things which are not linked correctly. It bothers me. But instead of spending so much time to find the origin of a picture I like, I’ll use your trick! Thanks again!

  5. Korinne said

    I use google image search daily! It can be really time consuming and frustrating to hunt down the original source, but I definitely find the process worth it. If I like an image enough to pin it I might like the original sources blog, store, etc.

  6. iHanna said

    Found via Sister Diane, great post with news for me. Haven’t tried image search, will now. Don’t like tumblr either!

    Thanks June!

  7. THANK YOU for this – definitely gives me some ammo when trying to credit someone’s hard work.

  8. Carmen said

    I just found you (via pinterest of course) and just had to thank you for this. So many times I’ve clicked through and it’s been a tumblr site but I never knew what you did from there. I’ve just tried this Google image search on a recent pin and the original creator popped up within the first 5 links! Thank you – this will change the way I pin completely!

  9. Soo helpful, thank you!! Found this via Pinterest. :) I can’t stand tumblr for the same reason!!!

  10. RLJ said

    Same as some of your other commenters that I get frustrated with the inability to search for the source of a picture once I hit tumblr. Thank-you for your tips on Google Image search.

  11. M.K. said

    Thank you! This is great information – it’s so frustrating when I can’t track down where the original photo is from, especially when I would really like to buy the item!

  12. Great post! Finally an answer to a question I’ve been wondering about for ages.

  13. Ruth said

    Great post June,
    The whole issue of correct attribution goes way beyond the craft world. As a librarian it is a message we work at continually. Finding the original source is often not difficult, you just need to put a little time into it. Thanks for sharing your search strategy.
    Cheers
    Ruth

    • June said

      Ruth, I used to work at the reference desk in an academic library, so I know exactly what you mean!

      • Lori Klein said

        Ladies, you are absolutely correct. PlanetJune, thank you so much for taking time to encourage folks to dig deeper, and providing helpful hints for how to do so. I tell my students that they are Hansel and Gretel, and they alone can decide whether their footnote will be breadcrumbs or pebbles.

  14. Anna M. said

    This is very helpful, but can you use google if the only source of the photo that you know of is on pinterest? I found a pin I liked once that linked to the home page of some unheard of photo sharing site. I actually couldn’t even find it on that site.

    • June said

      Anna, yes, you can use the exact same method! Don’t click the pin to go to the supposed source, just right click the image in Pinterest to get its URL (or save the photo and then drag/upload it into the Google ‘Search by Image’ box) :)

  15. Jana said

    I am fairly new to Pinterest (my daughters got me hooked!:) ) but I just went and checked out several of the pins I have done so far and ALL of them are linking to the correct site. A pin from an old friend led me to the site of a unique kitchen gadget and others as well. I am SURE the site was the correct one for the pic as it was a unique item and the picture was exactly the same. I will be sure to “follow” back any future pins I do to make sure it’s going to the right place. Another thing people can do is be sure to name the source in the description part when you pin something. For example, the person pinning the bangles could have mentioned the designer and her store.

    • June said

      Yes, that’s good practice too – although not necessary if she’d linked back to the original site; a direct link to the designer is enough. But unfortunately, the person who first pinned the bangle image found it on tumblr, where there was no link to the source (there almost never is with tumblr), so she just linked to the tumblr post and never knew the original source…

  16. Kitiza said

    Thank you so much for posting this! For some reason I had missed this Google function completely but I am sure that I will use it frequently now that I know about it. I also have to check through my Pinterest to see if any of my pins link to a wrong page… I feel that it’s really important to give credit for the right people. Especially in Pinterest, however, people very often seem to forget to give the credit at all. In addition to the link provided by Pinterest I try my best to write the name (or the alias) of the maker to the description whenever it’s possible.

  17. Susan said

    I actually discovered this when I found the originally link that you profiled (bracelet). I followed it through to your site and re-pinned it properly. I have found alot of pin’s pinned incorrectly or not completed. I love crafting and am always looking for new ideas for both my kids and I. Thanks for addressing this issue and the solution to it.

  18. Dana said

    Thank you for this. I recently repinned that exact image. After clicking on it and finding the image, but no source info, I noticed that someone linked to your blog in the caption of the pin, so I clicked on that. I read through your blog (and appreciated the tutorial), but, after doing so, I was suspicious that the original photo was even a shrinky ring because it was seamless. I’m ashamed to say, that’s where I stopped. I left the pin in my pin board and went on my way. Until I read this. Thank you for educating me. I just went to Pinterest and deleted the aforementioned pin, then pinned an appropriate photo from your actual blog, as well as two from Par Amour Design’s etsy shop. Here’s to giving credit where credit’s due. Thanks for being a shining example for the rest of us.

  19. Kudos to you for setting the record straight. All that hard work would have totally gone unappreciated. I’ve learned quite a bit myself and I love your blog and will visit back often.
    Michelle

  20. Melanie said

    I think it was really honorable of you to share this and include the links to the other woman’s work to help her get the business she deserves. :) The information was helpful too. Thank you.

  21. tmv said

    Thanks again for this tutorial on how to find the sources of these images. It’s really been helpful — much more so than just doing a general Google search on the URL which was what I was attempting before without much success.

  22. barrie said

    I am glad that people are commenting on the ridiculousness of many pinterest pins. I am one of the people who saw the shrinkydink ring pin, saw that it was not a ring, followed a link to planetjune.co, realized that it must be .com and pinned the actual tutorial…sigh. On the upside, it did lead me to your site and I’ve got the RSS feed in my Google Reader already plus, since I did homemade shrinkydinks with my bf’s kids last summer I thought this might be a fun project for the winter :-)

  23. Luch said

    Thank you so so so much for sharing that! I have been wondering how to fix this for a while now and am so glad that I finally found the answer! I appreciate it so much. You do nice work!

  24. Angie said

    This is GREAT information! Thank you for sharing. I think I’ll go back and check my pins to make sure they are properly credited.

  25. What a great tip. Had no idea that functionality existed and I’ve seen plenty of creditless images! Thanks!

  26. Melissa said

    Thank you for this post!
    I too, was one of those who wanted to “pin” the alleged shrinky dinks ring and followed it back to the tumblr site… but I do try to follow proper etiquette and wanted to find the original source. That’s what eventually lead me here. I didn’t know about Google’s Search by Image function… and now thanks to you, I’ll save so much time!
    I’ve really enjoyed Pinterest as a repository for craft ideas… but it is truly in its infancy and there are kinks yet to work out. Your post should be required reading.
    Now off to check out your shrinky dinks ring tutorial…

  27. Kay said

    Thanks so much for the tip. I just started using Pinterest and I love it. But, like so many I believe in giving credit where credit is due. So I have a lot of house cleaning to do on my boards. Thanks again for the help. I’ll be passing this information on to my friends on Pinterest as well.

  28. Einav said

    Sooooo Cool, never knew this option before. Thanks!

  29. […] OK I know I said no sandcastles but does this really count? I love the impression of the ruffled icing being the sea washing up on the shore of the beach, found on Pinterest. Using my new found skills with Google Image search I have tracked this down to Fondant Flinger photographed by Simply B Photos. If you want to know how to track down original sources of photographs you find have a read of this fab little article on Planet June […]

  30. steph said

    thank you so much!! this post is very helpful for me :)

  31. Ashli said

    Thank you! I was about to waste money on shrinky dink’s and drive myself crazy trying to figure out how to do the raven’s. LOL… Your rings and tutorial were very unique though, it was nice to see that also.

  32. Hello there! Thank you very much for crediting our creation properly! I would just like to let you know that we are no longer selling on etsy (they burned us pretty bad, so warning to all sellers!) and have our own website. We have also changed the name of the studio as well. You can still find these on Keri’s deviant art page but to purchase them you can find them on our web store http://www.omniaoddities.com. Thank you again for properly crediting and showing people how to properly find an image’s source!

    • June said

      Thanks for the update! I’ll modify the post above to reflect your latest info :)

  33. Melissa said

    Thank you so much for sharing this!! I’ve been looking for a method of finding the original source of an image for quite a while now.

  34. Emily Greenlime said

    Hi, I made the comment prizing “this is great idea!” etc while pinning your site instead giving it its right due to kerinewton.
    I feel real bad. the thing is, I am a total newbie on Pinterest, and also not really a crafter. I just pinned what I liked and thought was a great idea without any discrimination.
    If there is a way form me to fix this, I would – do you have any suggestion?
    Emily

    • June said

      Emily, thank you. I think you can edit your own pin to correct the information you shared, but it’s too late for everyone who repinned it – they’d each have to correct their own pin. Once it’s out there, it’s basically impossible to fix! I’d just suggest that we all check before we pin/repin in future, to make sure we’re linking to the correct source :)

  35. Diane said

    Oh, well done you! Thank you for all that hard work and honesty in tracking down the original source and being up front about it all. SO many people just wouldn’t bother. Loving both the bangle and your rings, so it’s a win-win as far as I’m concerned….

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    June Gilbank
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