Google Now Allows You to Sort Image Searches by Subject

The latest improvement to the search giant will help you ignore bad photographs taken by tourists and other unappealing still images


Ever find yourself in need of an image but unable to find it on Google? The search giant combs through most of the available photographs and graphics on the Internet, leaving you with a massive pile of results that doesn't really help. You need to illustrate a new article or find something that demonstrates, in pictures, what a new product looks like or how it works (OK, now I'm projecting my own problems with image searching onto you), but you're already on the fifth search page or sixth set of keywords before you grow frustrated and give up. You can't find that perfect image among the semi-related mess that Google has thrown your way.

Google is hoping that its new feature, which allows users to sort images by subject, will help solve your problems. And it should.

Unveiled this morning on the company's official blog, Google uses London as an example to demonstrate its latest tool. "Sorting by subject shows that some of the most popular images associated with London are the London Eye, Big Ben, Tower Bridge and the city at night," Google explained. "This organized view helps you find the images you were visualizing more quickly, so you might realize, 'Ah, that big clock tower is called Big Ben, that's what I was looking for.' You can then can click on the Big Ben group to find the best image within that subject group."

I don't think I've ever forgotten the name of Big Ben (or needed to use a photograph of it), but Google's example only shows the most basic thing its improved Image search is capable of. The subject search uses an algorithm that identifies "relationships among images found on the web and presents those images in visual groups," Google explained. The bonus here is that the images least likely to be grouped into a subject are those you're least likely to be interested in, even if they are of the subject you're searching for.

When I did my own search for [london big ben], and then clicked 'Sort by subject,' I was left with a small grouping of the best photographs currently available of the iconic clock tower. And they were organized into two categories for me: 'london big ben at night' and 'london big ben,' which included all of the leftovers. Gone was the photograph from a tourist in which a chubby hand is clearly blocking Big Ben. Gone, too, were the photos shot at vertigo-inducing angles and those clearly highlighting other architectural wonders. Left were only images I might use to illustrate this post (see the thumbnail on the channel landing page).

If you don't see the option to sort by subject just yet, hang in there: Google expects that the feature will reach all of its users by the end of the week. Until then, keep yourself amused with the video below, which shows the new feature in action:

Image: Google.