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How to Use Your Phone's Camera to Search

by Suzanne Kantra on September 17, 2022

Searching with images is the wave of the future. Whether you're trying to identify something you'd like to buy or looking for information on what you see in the world around you, visual search apps can help. Armed with your phone and one of these apps, all you have to do is snap a photo and the app will try to identify the object or landmark and find information on it.

Ready to get started? Here are our favorite visual search apps.

Three screenshots. From the left, the 1st screenshot shows the home page of the Google App with the Google logo at the top and the search bar with the spyglass on the left and the mic and camera icons (pointed out) on the right. In the 2nd screenshot there is a blank screen with white brackets around it. Under the brackets it says Tap shutter button to search and below are a photo icon on the left (pointed out) and a white button with a spyglass in the center. In the 3rd screenshot, there is a photo of a rabbit with search results below showing pictures of rabits: an American Fuzzy, Cashmere Lop and Holland Lop.

Best App for Searching for Anything and Everything: Google Lens

With Google Lens, all you have to do is point and shoot at any object, and Google Lens does a pretty good job of telling you what it is. I took a picture of a flowering plant I'm growing on my terrace and found it's an Alyssum. The camera also recognized a church I visited in Oaxaca, Mexico and did a nice job of translating Spanish into English in real time of everything from signs to menus. You can also snap pictures of clothing and other objects and find similar items for purchase. It’s a great app if you want to learn about whatever you’re looking at.

You Google Lens is Google's reverse image search and is part the Google app and Google Photos app for iPhone users and through the Google Camera app and Google Photos app for Android. You can easily analyze photos or screenshots you've taken or analyze an image in real time.

Price: Free for iOS and Android

Ebay app screenshots: From the left, the first screenshot shows the home page of the eBay app. In the search bar, the camera icon is pointed out. The second screenshot show the camera interface with a cup with a floral pattern and a big blue shutter button. In the third screenshot, you see a list of items for sale that match the cup visually.

Best App for Searching for Hard-to-Find Items: Ebay

See the perfect pair of shoes, an old-fashioned truck or vase? You can use an image to find it, or something similar, on Ebay. Image search is an option in the standard search box, allowing you to snap a photo or select a photo from your camera roll to search. eBay will sift through over a billion items to find similar products – though just how similar will depend on the photo and the item. A search for a pair of shoes, for example, will give you shoes with a similar style, but may not necessarily be the same shoes.

Price: free for iOS and Android

Three screenshots of the Amazon app. From the left, the first screenshot shows the home screen for the Amazon app with the visual search icon pointed out. The second screenshot shows the camera interface to taking a photo of the item you want to search for. The third image shows the option to search your photo for items.

Best app for all kinds of shopping: Amazon Shopping

If shopping is what you're interested in, Amazon Mobile makes it easy for you to find anything they stock using your smartphone camera. Just fire up your Amazon Shopping app and click on the visual search icon in the search bar. In "Scan," you can frame an item with your camera or scan the barcode. The app says "pantry, toys, or books," but I've found it works for other household items as well. In "Shop the Look," which focuses on clothing and home decor, you load an image you've already taken, and the app will scan for products and show you similar items. There are dots on any item the app has matched. Tapping on a dot, pulls up a list of matched items.

Price: Free for iOS and Android

This post was updated on 9/17/2022 with new app features.

[Image credits: woman with smartphone camera image via BigStockPhoto; Screenshots via Techlicious of Google, Ebay, and Amazon]

For the past 20+ years, Techlicious founder Suzanne Kantra has been exploring and writing about the world’s most exciting and important science and technology issues. Prior to Techlicious, Suzanne was the Technology Editor for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and the Senior Technology Editor for Popular Science. Suzanne has been featured on CNN, CBS, and NBC.


Time Savers, Phones and Mobile, Mobile Apps, Android Apps, iPhone/iPad Apps, Tips & How-Tos, Shopping

Discussion loading

Android Able?

From David M. Dunn on April 04, 2016 :: 7:35 pm

Can I use any of these on my Fire tablet?


The SnipSnap app is available

From Suzanne Kantra on April 04, 2016 :: 9:25 pm

The SnipSnap app is available for Fire tablets:

and Pinterest for relatively new Fire tablets:


So Good To Know!

From David M. Dunn on April 10, 2016 :: 10:45 pm

So good to know and so nice of you to answer my question.  I hope some of the other apps will make the required changes for my Fire.
I do appreciate your responding to my question so a BIG thanks.



From David on October 08, 2018 :: 10:45 am

Is there an app on my Google pixel 2 phone where I can take a picture of something and it search it and tell me what it is?


Yes, Google Lens

From Josh Kirschner on October 09, 2018 :: 1:55 pm

If you pull up a photo in Google Photos, you’ll see an icon on the bottom, second from the right, that looks like a square with a magnifying glass. Click on this and Google Lens will analyze your photo and provide more details, if it can figure out what it is. I’ve found it to be somewhat hit or miss, but it does an okay job and it’s very easy to use since it’s integrated with the photo app.

Using a picture to search the Internet for the item

From Michrlle on August 05, 2016 :: 6:44 pm

I took a picture of my daughters north face fleece and want to find it on the Internet; she outgrew it. The one now is a 3t and she wants the same one, thanks.


Mobile apps

From Banu on February 09, 2017 :: 1:57 am

I am expecting more interesting topics from you. And this was nice content and definitely it will be useful for many people.


What is this?

From Nana on July 29, 2017 :: 10:20 pm

I have been using my knowledge to find this item and cannot locate it.  Can you help or advise where I could go?  I can take a picture of item for you also.


Online search

From Lurrics angel on March 03, 2019 :: 1:06 pm

Am here to search through camera


Old Kindle 7 Built-In Identifier App

From janis comstock on October 16, 2019 :: 10:51 pm

I lost my first Kindle Fire that came with an app already installed where you pointed the camera at something and it would tell you what it was.
What was it called?


If i have a list

From Dishahin on November 28, 2019 :: 12:42 am

If i have a list of names on paper and want to search for a particular name.. how do I use the mobile for this purpose?


Just type in the name in Google Assistant

From Josh Kirschner on December 03, 2019 :: 12:18 pm

Google Lens has text recognition capability, but if you just want to search for a specific name, it’s probably easier just to type that name into Google Assistant and do a standard Google search.


To find artwork

From Tanya Tapley on December 23, 2019 :: 3:02 pm

I have a painting stolen that meant allot to me. Is there an app you could recommend that I could use to see if anyone ever put it up for sale online?


Red and

From aziyaann davis on October 28, 2020 :: 7:46 pm

Can you tell me all the stuff that’s red and black


For Sale

From Kelly Reeves on February 01, 2021 :: 2:44 am

Hi Josh,

I have a few things I want to sale before I move. A few things like new medical equipment I no longer need like a wheelchair, electric scooter and a cane. I also have boxes of old crystal China and other odds and ends. My question is, is there a free app I can download where I can take a picture of my items and it will automatically price them for me to today’s pricing? Then I can advertise them on their website? I thought I came across something like that a few years ago but I can’t find it now.

Thank you so much.




From Creative on June 03, 2021 :: 9:54 am

I want to sale my old doll house but I don’t know how much I should sale it for


To check value or price see price of object

From Rita on July 07, 2021 :: 12:08 pm

Vase by renata gaudio



From Rowland Whittet on February 06, 2022 :: 12:41 pm

Two birds, nesting 50’ high, 100 ft level from Sennebec road, opposite bank on union street,and second floor of houses


Are these free ?

From Jennifer on June 20, 2022 :: 5:40 pm

Some articles say it’s free and some say there is a free trial period ?


All are free

From Josh Kirschner on June 20, 2022 :: 6:31 pm

All of the apps in our story are free to use.


Secondhand products

From Daniel on September 13, 2022 :: 8:23 pm

How do I verify anything older or secondhand of their true value?


RE: Identifying Item Value

From Kent Birkheimer on September 21, 2022 :: 11:09 am

To identify an item’s value you can filter in eBay by “Sold” listings to see what an item actually sold for. Don’t go by prices on unsold items as that may not represent what buyers are actually willing to pay. Note that if the item is a book, video, or CD with a barcode you can scan that in eBay also (there’s a toggle in the camera app to turn bar code scanning on or off).



From Daniel on September 13, 2022 :: 8:38 pm

Can I take a shot on any item to identify its present value.



From lara pio on February 23, 2023 :: 5:35 pm

haw do i yous this?


Looking for an app

From DBohn on March 22, 2023 :: 12:58 pm

OK I am trying to find a simple app. What I want to do, while shopping use the camera on my phone (dynamically, not of a pic) to scan the ingredients list on a package for key words, like soy. This could be a great help to those over 50 with less than great eyesite. Words could either be entered on demand and/or from a list controlled by the app, maybe a TXT file.


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