How to Find a Photo in Google Photos and Organize Images

Christine Chan 29-12-2017

Most of us have a Google account, probably for something like Gmail or Google Calendar. But did you know that Google is also a great option for storing and searching all of your photos too?


Google Photos offers free unlimited (compressed) storage Get Free Unlimited Photo Storage & More with Google Photos If you aren't using these hidden Google Photos features, you're really missing out. (Hint: There's free and unlimited photo storage!) Read More for your photos, making them available across a multitude of devices. If you prefer high-quality, full-resolution images, Google Photos can do that too, but it eats away at your total Google account storage. Everyone gets 15GB for free, and you can pay $1.99/month for 100GB, or $9.99/month for 1TB.

You can get the free Google Photos app for your computer (macOS and Windows), Android, or iOS. Once you backup all of your device’s photos, they become accessible from any device that has Google Photos and your login information.

But now that all of your photos got backed up into the Google Photos cloud, how are you supposed to find your favorite images and memories? That’s what we’re here to help you with.

The All-Powerful Google Photos Search Bar

Google is well-known for search results and AI that continues to get smarter. Google Photos’s search bar is a powerful tool that can help you find photos based on a huge range of terms. This can include month, season, locations, objects, or general themes.

Google Photos search bar and results


For those who’ve made use of the “People & Pets” album feature, you can search specific names of people and pets to find what you’re looking for.

If you’re not sure how to make use of this fantastic feature, try using these words in the Google Photos search bar to get some inspiration:

  • Birthday
  • Food
  • Cat
  • Dog
  • Selfie
  • Christmas
  • Halloween
  • Various colors
  • Disneyland
  • Valentine’s
  • Beach
  • Los Angeles

The search bar will also make suggestions before you type anything. It can also suggest faces, so if you click on one, all images with that person or pet get filtered. Google Photos also can filter out videos, screenshots, movies, animations, frequently visited locations, and more.

Advanced Search Bar Tips

While searching for individual terms can generally get you the results you’re looking for, there can still be too many to sift through. Fortunately, this is Google’s product and you can use advanced searches (like those in regular Google searches How To Make Good Use Of Google's Search Operators With operators, you're able to display results that pertain only to certain websites, search through a range of numbers, or even completely exclude a word from your results. When you master the use of Google's... Read More ) to find something even more specific.


Advanced searches in Google Photos

A good tip is to combine two search terms in one. For example, if I want to find images of my fiancé in Disneyland, I would type “Robert in Disneyland” into the Google Photos search bar. Or if you want pictures of your parents together, try “Mom and Dad” (assuming that’s how you labeled their faces album).

Or if you frequently take your dog to dog parks, try searching “dog and park.” These advanced searches help narrow down your results.

Emoji have taken over the world What Does This Emoji Mean? Emoji Face Meanings Explained Confused by the emojis in that text message you just got? Here are the commonly accepted meanings of popular emojis. Read More , and can help you find photos via Google Photos search, too. Who would have thought, right?


how to quickly find photos in google photos

For example, if you want to find all the images that have eyeglasses in them, use the “smiling face with sunglasses” emoji. Looking for happy moments? Try using a smiley face or other happy face emoji. Want to find hearts? Use a heart symbol.

You can even search your Google Photos for Christmas images with a Christmas tree emoji. It’s definitely fun to experiment with different emojis and see what results pop up.

Go Back in Time

By default, the Photos section organizes your entire photo collection in chronological order. If you have a ton of photos, this can be a lot to scroll through.


how to quickly find photos in google photos

However, if you’re looking for memories in a specific month, you can drag that scrollbar handle on the side. You’re able to see the years available in your Google Photos, and then quickly jump to months as they’re displayed on the side.

A faster way to do this is to type in something like “November 2016” into the search bar. But it’s definitely fun to rapidly jump through your photographic timeline by scrolling and revisiting some memories.

Make Future Searching Easier: Organize and Optimize

Searching for photos and just going through them chronologically in Google Photos is fun and easy. But having your photos organized also makes life easier. Fortunately, Google Photos has some features that make it easy to group your photos into albums.

Make Use of the Assistant

Google Photos Assistant What Can Google Photos Assistant Do for You? Assistant is one of the best features of the Google Photos app, but you could be missing out on its best features. Here's how to take full advantage! Read More is a handy feature that’s designed to help you organize your photos easily. It can also create animations for you out of videos and stills, put movies together, suggest rotations on images that appear sideways, and much more.

Google Photos assistant making albums and backups

If you have a lot of images from an afternoon or day, the Assistant can create an album with those photos, complete with location information. Any animations or stylized images you save from the Assistant are saved in this album, too. This is an easy way to start organizing your photos into albums for easier referencing later on.

The Assistant can also help you reduce clutter. If it notices a lot of screenshots in your photos, it offers to archive them for you. Archived images won’t appear in your main Photos section, but still show up in albums and search results.

Smart Albums

There are also some Smart Albums that are automatically created based on your photos. This makes it easier to search Google Photos for images based on places and things. The Smart Albums also separate videos, collages, and animations for easy reference.

how to quickly find photos in google photos

One of the better Smart Album options is People & Pets. With this, Google Photos can recognize the faces of both people and animals and pull them out for you. You’re able to click on these faces and give them a name. Once Google Photos has a name, that person gets their own album and all images with their face in them get added.

With the power of Google, these People & Pets albums should be able to recognize how someone ages over time and still group them in the original album. But sometimes you may find someone’s face in duplicate albums. If this happens, just make sure that the face is correctly labeled, and then click the duplicate album’s “Who is this?” proper name to fix the mistake.

For the most part, Google Photos recognizes people and animals fairly well. But it may include some results that are similar, but not an exact match. An example is other huskies or Shiba Inu dogs appearing in my “Wolf” album (a Siberian Husky). You can fix this by selecting the out-of-place images and then selecting Remove Results from the actions.

Google photos contextual search

The Places album makes use of the geolocation data in your photos to organize them by location, such as cities, businesses, theme parks, and more. Things detects stuff like holidays, fireworks, sunsets, animals, flowers, food, and more. It may not be 100 percent accurate, but it’s close enough.

The Smart Albums are also a key point when using the search bar to look for specific terms, such as objects, places, and names.

Create Your Own Albums

While the Assistant is great for helping you quickly make albums, it won’t correctly identify every group of photos or show you days and events from far back. Fortunately, you can create your own albums.

You’ll find the Create Album option available from any view in Google Photos. When you create an album, you see your photo timeline and can choose the images you want to drop in that album.

Creating an album in Google Photos

If you have a lot of images, this can seem cumbersome. However, since this timeline works like the regular Photos view, you can quickly scroll through months with the scrolling sidebar. Every day gets separated.

You can tap on the checkmark next to a day to select all the photos from that day, and then choose the ones you don’t want to include. This is easy for making albums based on events or gatherings, when you don’t want some random photos included.

Once you have your photos picked out, just tap Create and then give that album a name

Utilize Search to Filter Images for Albums and More

Say you want to make an album that combines all of your images taken at Disneyland Resort. Just do a search for “Disneyland” and then tap-and-drag from one image to quickly select a large batch of images.

Creating a new album in Google Photos by selecting images

Once you’ve picked the images you want, just tap on the + button and create a new album (choose a shared album if you want to collaborate). Other options include making a movie out of these chosen images, an animation, collage, or even a photo book. You can also dump these into an already existing album.

Fix Wrong Dates

Sometimes you may see some images that are out of place in your photo timeline. This is always annoying. It usually means that they’re captured with the wrong date or time on the device, or maybe someone just sent it to you stripped of EXIF data.

Editing date and time in Google Photos

If you’re looking to truly optimize and organize your images, then correcting this is a tedious but necessary task. Unfortunately, the only way to do this in Google Photos is from the website, but it’s rather easy from there.

Just select the photos in question by hovering over the thumbnails and clicking the checkmark button in the upper left corner. Then click the three-bar (“hamburger”) menu button in the upper right and select Edit date & time. You can also do this individually on photos, but it saves time to do this in batches.

Scan Your Old Printed Photos

Before the age of digital photos, we took pictures on disposables or analog cameras and had our film printed. Somewhere in the house are old shoeboxes of photos that we just never got around to digitally scanning. Once again, Google comes to the rescue with PhotoScan.

Google PhotoScan app example

PhotoScan is a standalone app for Android and iOS that works with Google Photos. This nifty free app allows users to scan old pictures in and get amazing digital copies in seconds. The app detects edges, straightens, rotates, and even removes glare.

If you’re serious about using Google Photos as an all-in-one hub for your photo management needs, then PhotoScan is worth taking a look at. This app helps make those precious paper photos easy to share, search for, and back up in high-quality digital format.

Collaborate With Shared Albums

Google Photos has the option to create Shared Albums as well. This is a great way to collect photos for a party, trip, or family in one place.

how to quickly find photos in google photos

When you want to create a Shared Album, go to the Sharing tab in Google Photos. To start you off, Google Photos has gathered recent days’ worth of photos into albums, and you can see people whose faces are already recognized. You can tap on the + button to add people to share the album with, and you can tap the Review button to go over the details.

Each shared album can include a message if you’d like, and once you send it to your recipients, they can view the images. Shared albums let recipients add photos and comment by default, but you can tweak the settings if need be.

This is a great way to gather all of the images from special events or occasions in a single place from multiple people.

Google Photos Makes It Easy

There are many ways to manage your photos online, and Google Photos is a mere drop in the bucket (we’ve compared three popular cloud storage services Dropbox vs. Google Drive vs. OneDrive: Which Cloud Storage Is Best for You? Have you changed the way you think about cloud storage? The popular options of Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive have been joined by others. We help you answer which cloud storage service should you use. Read More ). However, because most of us already have a Google account, it’s one of the more accessible options without having to sign up for anything extra.

Google Photos’s search bar makes it incredibly simple to find specific images in your photo album. It may not be perfect, but it is powerful and efficient. The Assistant is also a great feature that helps you organize better, as well as giving you fun treats like animations. And if you want to make your own albums, Google Photos is rather flexible with the available options.

Just keep in mind that the free, unlimited storage with Google Photos means that your images are slightly compressed. If you prefer full resolution, you’ll need to pay for storage in your Google account, which is $1.99 or $9.99 a month for 100GB or 1TB, respectively. You also might look at some smart photo apps for sorting images on Android 6 Smart Photo Management Apps for Android for Easy Sorting Need a better way to manage your pictures on Android? These smart photo apps do all the work for you to sort, delete, and more. Read More .

Do you use Google Photos for your photo management? What are your favorite features? Do you have more tips on how to search and organize your photos? Let us know in the comments!

Related topics: Google Photos, Photo Album, Photo Sharing.

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  1. James
    December 30, 2017 at 5:58 pm

    Christine, this is a well written comprehensive overview. Perfect for new users and detailed enough for existing. Thank you. Will share with my family whom are are using Google photos more.

  2. Olivia
    December 30, 2017 at 3:23 pm

    I tried the "remove the results" option you explained and i don't see where that option is. I found a handful of pictures that are my daughter under my name in the Smart Album's, but after selecting them I do not see that option anywhere. Also can you do this with the other Smart Albums, edit if something gets placed in the incorrectly?

  3. Jim
    December 30, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    Google photos badly needs a method to remove duplicates . My Google photos has many many duplicates. They takeup so much of my storage space. Obviously with all the search capabilities it would be so easy to accomplish.