Python utilities for automated download of images from various web sources
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Web Image Downloader Tools


Copyright 2010-2015, all rights reserved.

Release: v1.2.3 (October 2015)

License: MIT (see

Installation Instructions

First install all Python dependencies using:

$ pip install -r requirements.txt

Following this:

  • Add imsearchtools directory to your PYTHON_PATH
  • Update in the /imsearchtools/engines directory with appropriate API keys for each method you plan to use.

Usage Instructions

1. Querying web engine for image URLs

>> import imsearchtools
>> google_searcher = imsearchtools.query.GoogleWebSearch()
>> results = google_searcher.query('car')
>> results
[{'image_id': '43e9644258865f9eedacf08e73f552fa',
  'url': ''},
 {'image_id': 'cfd0ae160c4de2ebbd4b71fd9254d6df',
  'url': ''},
 … ]

Currently the following search services are supported:

  • GoogleWebSearch( ) – Image search using Google, extracted direct from the web
    • Preferred method for Google Image search
  • GoogleAPISearch ( ) – Image search using Google, using the Google Custom Search API
    • A limit of 100 images per search is imposed
    • The results are different (slightly worse) than when using direct extraction
    • A 'custom search engine' must be created to use the API, with a list of sites to search specified during creation. However, selecting 'search these sites + entire web' in the options appears to give identical results to those returned by GoogleAPISearch()
    • Details and authentication key available at:
  • GoogleOldAPISearch ( ) – Image search using Google, using the Google Image Search API
    • The Google Image Search API is now deprecated
    • A limit of 64 images per search is imposed
    • There is a higher default limit on number of free requests/day than with the new API
    • Details and authentication key available at:
  • BingAPISearch ( ) – Image search using Bing, using the Bing Search API
  • FlickrAPISearch ( ) – Image search using Flickr, using the Flickr API

A test script is provided which can be used to visualize the difference between the methods:

$ python <query>

2. Verifying and downloading retrieved image URLs

Given the results array returned by <web_service>.query(q), all URLs can be processed and downloaded to local storage using the process.ImageGetter() class:

>> getter = imsearchtools.process.ImageGetter()
>> paths = getter.process_urls(results, '/path/to/save/images')
>> paths
[{'clean_fn': '/path/43e9644258865f9eedacf08e73f552fa-clean.jpg',
  'image_id': '43e9644258865f9eedacf08e73f552fa',
  'orig_fn': '/path/43e9644258865f9eedacf08e73f552fa.jpg',
  'thumb_fn': '/path/43e9644258865f9eedacf08e73f552fa-thumb-90x90.jpg',
  'url': ''},
 {'clean_fn': '/path/cfd0ae160c4de2ebbd4b71fd9254d6df-clean.jpg',
  'image_id': 'cfd0ae160c4de2ebbd4b71fd9254d6df',
  'orig_fn': '/path/cfd0ae160c4de2ebbd4b71fd9254d6df.jpg',
  'thumb_fn': '/path/cfd0ae160c4de2ebbd4b71fd9254d6df-thumb-90x90.jpg',
  'url': ''},
  … ]

process_urls returns a list of dictionaries, with each dictionary containing details of images which were successfully downloaded:

  • url is the source URL for the image, the same as returned from <web_service>.query(q)
  • image_id is a unique identifier for the image, the same as returned from <web_service>.query(q)
  • orig_fn is the path of the original file downloaded direct from url – this image is unverified, and depending on the source URL may be corrupt
  • clean_fn is the path to a verified copy of orig_fn, which has been standardized according to the class options
  • thumb_fn is the path to a thumbnail version of orig_fn

A test script is provided which can be used to demonstrate the usage of the process.ImageGetter() class:

$ python

Configuring verification and download settings

Options for image verification and thumbnail generation can be customized by passing an instance of the process.ImageProcessorSettings class to process.ImageGetter() during initialization e.g.:

>> opts = imsearchtools.process.ImageProcessorSettings()
>> opts.filter['max_height'] = 600     # set maximum image size to 800x600
>> opts.filter['max_width'] = 800      #    (discarding larger images)
>> opts.conversion['format'] = 'png'   # change output format to png
>> opts.conversion['max_height'] = 400 # set maximum image size to 600x400
>> opts.conversion['max_width'] = 600  #    (downsizing larger images)
>> opts.thumbnail['height'] = 50       # change width and height of thumbnails to 50x50
>> opts.thumbnail['width'] = 50
>> opts.thumbnail['pad_to_size'] = False # don't add padding to thumbnails
>> getter = imsearchtools.process.ImageGetter(opts)

Adding a callback for post image download

Optionally, a callback function can be added which will be called immediately after each image is downloaded and processed when using process.ImageGetter.process_urls(). To do this, specify the callback when calling process_urls():

import imsearchtools

def callback_func(out_dict, extra_prms=None):
    import json
    print extra_prms['extra_data']
    print json.dumps(out_dict)

google_searcher = imsearchtools.query.GoogleWebSearch()
results = google_searcher.query('car')

getter = imsearchtools.process.ImageGetter()
getter.process_urls(results, '/path/to/save/images',

The form of the callback should be f(out_dict) where out_dict is a dictionary of the same form as a single entry in the list returned from process_urls().

The callbacks will be executed using a pool of worker processes, the size of which is determined by the completion_worker_count parameter. If it is not specified, by default N workers will be launched where N is the number of CPUs on the local system.

Notes about callbacks

Callbacks do not run in a separate CPU thread or process, but rather in the same thread as the rest of the code in a gevent 'greenlet'. Greenlets allow many I/O bound operations to run in parallel, but CPU-intensive code will cause problems as the main thread will remain stuck in the callback giving very little CPU time to the module code.

As a result, callbacks should be restricted to code which can be I/O intensive, but is not CPU intensive and is generally as short as possible. If CPU-intensive code must be run, this can be achieved by using the callback to communicate with a separate 'runner' process via TCP/IP / pipes / ZMQ etc. to launch the code.

HTTP Service

A simple HTTP interface to the library is provided by and can be launched by calling:


For basic usage, the following function calls are provided:

  • query GET (q='querytext', [engine='google_web', size='medium', style='photo', num_results=100])
    • Returns JSON list of image_id+url pairs from the specified engine
  • download POST (<query_json>)
    • Accepts output from query and downloads the images, returning JSON output of the same format as the ImageGetter class
  • get_engine_list GET
    • Returns a list of the names of supported engines (e.g. google_web, google_api etc.)

Callbacks and advanced usage

As a callback function cannot be passed directly to the HTTP service, the concept of post-processing modules has been introduced. These are a collection of pre-prepared python scripts containing a callback function of the required format and which exist within the imsearchtools module directory on the system where the server is running, and any of them can be specified to run after each image has been downloaded.

For this functionality, and for more advanced usage (for example, to specify timeouts) the following functions can be used:

  • exec_pipeline POST
    • Execute both the query and download stages with advanced options including support for callbacks. All of the parameters of the query function above are supported (q, engine, size, style, num_results) along with the following additional parameters: + postproc_module – the name of the post-processing module to run after each image has downloaded (use get_postproc_module_list for supported modules) + postproc_extra_prms – A JSON dictionary of additional parameters to pass to the post-processing module + custom_local_path – by default images are stored in the static/ subdirectory of the server and URLs are returned (e.g. If this parameter is specified, a different path on the local system is used instead and the paths returned are local paths instead of URLs (e.g. /my/custom/folder/result.jpg) + query_timeout – timeout in seconds for the entire function call + improc_timeout – timeout in seconds for downloading each image + resize_width and resize_height – if specified, all downloaded images will be downsampled so that they are at most of width resize_width/height resize_height + return_dfiles_list – if specified, determines whether the paths to downloaded images should be returned (in the same way as the download function above) or only a shorter acknowledgement string should be returned instead. By default, if postproc_module has not been specified the full dictionary of paths is returned, and if it has then only the shorter acknowledgement string is returned
  • get_postproc_module_list GET
    • Returns a list of the names of supported post-processing modules

Writing your own post-processing modules

The code for all post-processing modules is stored in the imsearchtools package directory at the following location:


Any *.py file placed in this directory will be used as an additional module. Refer to the example in for the required format of the module file.

Revision History

  • Oct 2015 (1.2.3)
    • Cleaning up, demonstrate querying for variable number of images
  • Apr 2015 (1.2.2)
    • Updated python dependencies and added server launch utilities
  • Jun 2014 (1.2.1)
    • Switched from requests library for downloader to monkey-patched urllib2 to make gevent greenlets work properly
  • May 2014 (1.2)
    • Fixed google-web engine to work with updated Google search page
  • Feb 2013
    • Switched to pure gevent-based callbacks and fixed bugs in callback code
  • Jan 2013
    • Fixed issue with timeout by migrating from restkit to requests library
    • Added missing gevent monkey-patching to provide speed boost
    • Added HTTP service (including callback modules)
  • Oct 2012
    • Added support for Bing, the new Google API and Flickr, updated to new interface
    • Added gevent async support
    • Updated code for downloading and verification of images
    • Added documentation
  • May 2011
    • Updated Google web search method due to updates
  • Nov 2010
    • Original version with support for Google Image Search API + scraping