One of the lesser-known facts about Google Photos is that its search parameters have powerful algorithms that are on par with Google’s main search engine. Just as Google Lens can detect different images, Google uses similar AI-driven technology to categorize your personal pictures.
You’ll be shocked by how easily you can find a specific photo using a few different Google Photos search methods. These tools work well, whether you’re using Google Photos on your desktop, Android, or iOS device.
1. Search Google Photos by Name
If you’re using Google Photos on your phone, you can search for people using the Selfie category. With a little extra work, Google also has the ability to recognize faces.
To connect a face to a specific person on mobile:
- Click on a photo with a person in it. Make sure you’re in edit mode.
- Swipe up on the picture, and you’ll see a category called People.
- Click the Pencil (edit) icon.
- Tap on the face icon of the person you want to add to your library. Then, press the plus (+) sign to Create a new person.
When new photos are added to your Google Photos account, the app will automatically suggest that you tag people under the People & pets section on the Search page of the app.
On the browser version of Google Photos, the option to search for people by their face is more limited. However, if you haven’t tagged them on the mobile app, you can still search for them by their name after manually adding their name to the photo itself.
To connect a face to a specific person on desktop:
- Select a photo. The photo should maximize.
- Select the Info button in the top-right corner.
- Select People. Google will autosuggest who it thinks this is (if it’s a previously identified face).
- Click the face of the person you wish to tag.
- Click the plus (+) sign in the top-right corner and select Create a new person.
You can repeat these steps to add as many people as you want to your photos. Doing so will make the hunt for photos of your family a breeze. Just search their name in the search bar, and Google will bring up all tagged and AI-recognized photos.
2. Search Google Photos by Location
Provided that your phone’s camera has geotagging turned on—or you add the location manually—you can do a Google Photos search by address, city, or general location. The only downside? You need to type the address exactly as it appears, or Google might not pull it up.
When you select a location, you’ll be able to see all the photos associated with that place—whether it was a singular event or a common hangout spot.
3. Search Google Photos by Date
One of the most straightforward ways to search for a picture in Google Photos is by date. It’s also the most commonly known way to search, as it’s the one that people default to when they’re not familiar with the other options.
When you search by date, you can type a specific time, such as “March 3, 2021.” You can also enter an approximate time like “March 2021,” or even just a general year to see all the photos taken during that time frame.
You can also search for words like evening, morning, summer, and winter. All of these search terms will pull up pictures that were roughly taken during these time frames. The “time of day” photos are typically less accurate than specific dates due to Google confusing bright indoor lighting as daylight imagery.
4. Search Google Photos by File Type
One really great way that you can learn how to search Google Photos is by file type, especially for work purposes.
Imagine you’ve got a lot of images stored on your account, but you’re specifically searching for JPEG (or JPG) images to use on the web. Google Photos allows you to search for all photos with this file type, just by typing it in.
In this case, the JPEGs will automatically be listed from newest to oldest which is another convenient way to browse through the results. And if you find that you’ve got a bunch of useless screenshots filling up your storage, learn how to permanently delete pictures on Google Photos.
5. Search Google Photos by Event
Google’s AI technology really begins to shine when you search Photos by an event. You can look for picnics, birthdays, parties, weddings, or sporting events.
These search results will not always be 100 percent accurate—for example, any photo with a cake will appear as “birthday.” But the fact that Google can still recognize these events is impressive. This is great when making photo books or collages, as all the pictures from one event type—despite potentially many years in between—will be displayed together.
6. Search Google Photos by Object or Displayed Image
Considering Google Lens can identify different birds and plant species, it’s not very surprising that you can search through your stored photos by object. Landmarks, animals, and foods are a great place to start browsing. Try searching for:
If you do, each of these keywords should produce accurate search results. For example, typing in “forest” should bring up any images you’ve ever taken that involve the woods or trees.
7. Search For Scanned Photos
Google has a free app called PhotoScan which lets you digitize your old photos. If you’ve installed the app, you can use it by opening up PhotoScan to scan your documents. Next, upload your scanned pictures to your Google Photos account.
Going forward—when you do a Google Photos search—all you have to do is click the PhotoScan button on the dropdown menu beneath the search bar. You can also type in the word “Photoscan” to see all your digitized images.
8. Combine Your Search Areas in Google Photos
This tip is probably one of the best for using Google Photos. Basically, all you have to do is combine two of the values mentioned above to create a more specific search term.
For example, typing “plant 2019” displays all the available plant photos taken during 2019. “Fall road” displays all fall-oriented pictures that feature a road.
If you want to search for people, type in your friend or family member’s name, plus the year or month that you took a picture of them. Searching “party Spain” displays results for parties that were geotagged to Spain, and so forth. You get the idea. The more specific you can be, the more specific your results will be.
Getting the Most Out of Google Photos’ Search Methods
Knowing that you can find any photo in seconds is evidence that Google’s search tools have extended way beyond their original purpose. Google Photos compensates for its minor flaws by offering you so many different ways to search.
Need to reduce the amount of space you’re using in Google Photos? Here are ways to reclaim storage space.
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