Have you ever browsed through your Pixsy reverse image search results and seen something that just doesn’t make sense? Computers see images differently than people, and given the vast number of similar images on the Internet, you’re likely to experience what appears to be incorrect matching from time-to-time. Here’s an overview of the different types of false matches and why they occur.

Those “What was Pixsy thinking?” matches

Pixsy matches exact photos as well as elements within photos, sometimes with unintended results.

We’ve all seen these. They occur for two reasons:

  1. The image was properly matched and Pixsy found the wrong preview picture. You will likely find the correct picture and match if you visit the site.
  2. Pixsy identified a common element, such as the grid lines in the image above, that appears in both photos. This is very common with pictures of cars, logos, and shapes like the hexagon in a stop sign.

It’s difficult for software to find manipulated photos, especially photos contained within other photos, without also matching elements within other photos.

Our development team is working on improvements to speed up the workflow of filtering out false matches

Famous landmarks

Try shooting from a different angle next time.

Visitors to landmarks such as Antelope Canyon, the Eiffel Tower, and the Hagia Sophia (pictured above) often take photos of the same things from the same location. This greatly increases the probability of finding similar images that aren’t yours when using reverse image search tools.

This can also occur if you are standing next to another photographer and just happen to click the shutter at the same time. This is common at sports events and concerts. In one extraordinary situation, two photographers unknowingly took a photo of the same iceberg from a cruise ship and later accused one another of plagiarism. It wasn’t until The Telegraph investigated that they found out about the unusual circumstances.  One of the photographers, Sarah Scurr, summarized the situation perfectly:

“You’ve got hundreds of people staring at landmarks or landscapes, all taking the same picture on their smartphone or camera. Hopefully, should anyone else find themselves in the same position, they will think twice before making public accusations…”

Street art and graffiti

Reverse image search works much better when you upload unique works.

How can I avoid false matches?

We recommend ignoring photos that frequently trigger false positives unless you know a work is frequently used without permission. We are aware of a current bug that in some cases causes ignored photos to reappear, and are working to resolve it. Our team is also exploring ways to reduce the number of similar photos that appear.

Sometimes matches can also appear to be wildly incorrect when it’s simply a matter of our reverse image software choosing the wrong preview photo. Other times you’ll find photos very similar but not identical to yours. It’s interesting to see how computers view images compared to humans, and also humbling to realize what a small photographic world we live in.