March 3, 2016

Why do I see false matches in my Pixsy reverse image search results?

Have you ever browsed through your matches 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 interesting overview of 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 has undertaken a great deal of work to continually improve the accuracy of match results and today we use very complex techniques to deliver the best and most useful matches to you. There are however some common instances that will create an increase in false postiive 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 hugely 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. Simply click on the image in on the image overview page and select ignore. This setting means the image will no longer be scanned.

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