8 Brilliant Search Tools Hidden Within Google Photos

Shianne Edelmayer Updated 05-12-2019

Google has become synonymous with searching for things online. We’ve always exalted the company for its brilliant search tools, including some you’ve probably overlooked. Such as the Google Photos search tools.


One of the lesser known facts about Google Photos is that its search parameters have powerful algorithms that are on a par with Google’s main search engine. These tools work well, whether you’re using Google Photos on your desktop, Android, or iOS device.

Here are the different Google Photos search tools to use.

1. How to Search Google Photos by Name

Google Photos Search by Name

If you’re using Google Photos on your phone, you can search for people using the Selfie category. Google also has the ability to recognize faces through the mobile app.

To connect a face to a specific person:

  1. Click on a photo with a person in it. Make sure you’re in edit mode.
  2. Under the picture, you’ll see a category called PEOPLE.
  3. Click the link that says face(s) available to add.
  4. Once you’re on the new page, tap on the face icon of the person you want to add to your library. Then press the + sign to Create a new person.

On the browser version of Google Photos, the option to search 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 if you add their name to the photo itself.

To search by name:

  1. On the edit screen for your photo, you’ll see an Info line.
  2. Click on it to add the person’s name.
  3. Later, if you decide to do a Google Photos search by name, the app will bring up the picture.

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.

NB: While most Android users will use Google Photos by default, we’ve previously asked, should you be using Google Photos on your iPhone Should You Be Using Google Photos on Your iPhone? Free storage space, Google Lens, and a suite of helpful tools might just make you switch over to Google Photos for your iPhone media management. Read More ?


2. How to Search Google Photos by Location

Google Photos Search by Location

Provided that your phone’s camera has geo-tagging 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.

For example, typing “Melbourne VIC, Australia” in my search bar displays all of the different pictures I took in Melbourne that were saved to my account.

3. How to Search Google Photos by Date

Google Photos Search 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 “August 22, 2019.” You can also enter an approximate time like “August 2019,” 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 pictures that were roughly taken during these time frames.

It should be noted, however, that Google can get the “time of day” category wrong. This is because it confuses bright indoor photos with daylight photos.


4. How to Search Google Photos by File Type

Google Photos Search by File Type

One really great way that you can learn how to search Google Photos is by file type.

Let’s say 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.

5. How to Search Google Photos Albums by Event

Google Photos Search by Event

Among all of the searches we’ve conducted, searching by event “types” was the one that surprised us the most.

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.

6. Do a Google Photos Advanced Search by Objects or Items

Advanced Google Search by Object

Another great way that you can search Google Photos is by looking for pictures based off of specific objects, items, animals, or landmarks. Try searching for:

  • Water
  • Sky
  • Cake
  • Flower
  • Tree
  • Lake

If you do, each of these keywords should produce accurate search results. For example, typing in “forest” on my own account immediately brought up dozens of pictures of forests that I have taken throughout the year.

7. How to Search Through Scanned Photos

Search Scanned Photos With Google 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 “Photoscans” to see all your digitized images.

Download: PhotoScan by Google Photos on Android | iOS

8. How to Combine Values on a Google Photos Search

Combine Search Values in Google Photos

This tip is probably one of the best for using Google Photos, and it’s also my personal favorite. 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 pictures I took during 2019 with plants in them. “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.

More Google Photos Features Worth Exploring

Knowing that you can find any photo in seconds is evidence that Google’s search tools have extended way beyond their original purpose. We even recommend Google Photos over iCloud Photos, as Google Photos compensates for its minor flaws by offering you so many different ways to search.

However, the ability to search is not all Google Photos can do. Here are some amazing Google Photo features you probably didn’t know about 12 Amazing Google Photos Features You Didn't Know About Google Photos is a well-known service, but it holds many little tricks. Here are 12 great features of Photos you might have missed. Read More .

Related topics: Google Photos, Google Search, Image Search, Productivity Tricks, Search Tricks.

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  1. Doug
    August 14, 2019 at 1:09 pm

    I want to search for a photo and then go to the album it is in. Is this possible?

    • Andrea
      October 19, 2019 at 4:58 am

      Yes, click onto photo, then on the right hand side open the information panel and under the description you'll find the albums that contain the photo. A click onto the album opens it up.

  2. SOL
    June 15, 2019 at 3:41 am

    i want to search by time duration. want to find a video but apparently google detected that it already had the video among my millions of photos so it did not auto-upload. now it does not even show up on recently added google photos. how to find it ?

  3. Cezille
    February 19, 2019 at 7:12 am

    Is there a way to search ONLY landscape photos?

  4. Janna
    July 15, 2018 at 1:30 am

    I call bullshit. The search for photos feature is no bueno!

  5. Darrell Scott
    April 15, 2018 at 6:45 pm

    Can Google photos scan for duplicate photos ?? Mine uploaded from hard drive and Google drive. Now I have thousands of duplicates :-(

    • Andy
      June 3, 2018 at 6:54 pm

      For now, Google Photos cannot find duplicates (sometimes detected during uploads, but does not cover the full list). For me, photos is synced to a Photos folder on the computer - so I use Duplicate Cleaner (free) from Digital Volcano to scan the computer folder. Lots of ways to group duplicates in the program - so you don't have to remove them one at a time. Google Photos should catch up in a few hours if you have them synchronized. You can do the same for Google Drive by running the same program on the Google Drive folder on your computer.

  6. Mark W.
    July 6, 2017 at 12:18 am

    Here's a 9th brilliant way that would be nice:

    Search by filename.

    Like everyone has been doing since the desktop computer was invented.

    It's inexplicable that Google would rip this convenience away from their users.

    • Jonathan Marc Battle
      July 18, 2017 at 3:19 pm

      So right...let me know when you get an answer..jonB

    • Lori McKee
      December 22, 2018 at 12:52 am

      Yes! This seems so obvious!

    • Ray Lindner
      January 5, 2019 at 5:23 pm

      100 % argree. That this option does not exist is just amazing to me.

  7. Margaret Thistlewood
    April 6, 2017 at 5:32 pm

    These things all sound good but what about the photos that disappeared overnight. I have tried everything to get my photos back.

  8. Jeffrey Baker
    April 6, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    Why have they not created a photo map? That would make it great.

  9. John Jefferson
    April 6, 2017 at 4:07 pm

    How about persuading Google Photos to enable you to sort photos in albums by filename order to get over the problem of incorrect date/time sorting?

  10. sidney kutchuk
    April 6, 2017 at 2:12 pm

    Is there a search by Album?
    I have many albums and when I want to add photos to an existing album there is no search by Album.

    • Gayle
      May 18, 2017 at 11:12 pm

      Hi Sidney. Upload photo to Google Photos, then select the photo, click on the 3 dots in the too right corner, choose Add to album, select the album from the list. Hope this helps :)

      • Susan
        April 23, 2018 at 4:58 pm

        Gayle, but if you have hundreds of albums... they aren't alphabetically sorted... and you can spend forever trying to find the album you want to put a photo in. I think this is what Sidney means--search for an album to add a picture to. It's very frustrating.

    • Ruben Martinez
      October 8, 2017 at 6:02 pm

      You can search by the name of the album, but you will get weird results, sometimes it will find all the photos in the album, sometimes it will add other stuff, even not related to the album name, sometimes it will show no results even if the album appears in the suggestions popup (while writing the keyword).

      Google Photos is a mess.

    • David
      July 24, 2018 at 5:21 am

      What I do to get around this on desktop, which works well enough (but not as well as an integrated search, which I hope they add), is when I get to the album list to add photos to an album, I will put the scroll bar down a few times to load all of my albums (I have hundreds), and then I do a Ctrl-F find in the browser, which will find the album name. Not great, but better than browsing through the albums visually, which takes forever.

  11. Abhishek Dwivedi
    April 6, 2017 at 8:38 am

    One big thing that it can't do, is search by the folders it backed up the photos from. I edit in snapseed mainly, and after I cleared the storage, all the photos were spread out in the google photos by date, there isn't any way anymore to find and group them together.

  12. Fern DeWitt
    April 6, 2017 at 12:42 am

    How to do the great panarama photo. Awusome...thanks!

  13. Yed
    April 5, 2017 at 11:24 pm

    Google Photos search lacks the ability found in Picasa to search based on information in the original file name. If you've scanned paper photos and used, say, the year it was taken as part of the file name Photos will not allow you to find, say, photos from 1973.

    HOWEVER, since all of Photo's photos are automatically contained in a folder in GOOGLE DRIVE you can use Drive's more robust search tools to find photos otherwise unattainable with Photos.

  14. Edddiez63
    April 5, 2017 at 9:22 pm

    I like to search for 2 or more names with a year or other variable. Good for finding photos for creating collages.

    • Dan
      April 6, 2017 at 4:19 pm


      Compound searches!
      Boolean searches!
      Search by: filename (with REGEX), EXIF, Description, etc!!
      More EXIF!

      Please, manage your enthusiasm, the article states:
      "Google Photos’ insanely powerful search..." I hope someday, but it's got not even close to great, much less, insanely so--ironic isn't it?

      • Me
        April 6, 2017 at 9:16 pm

        I found it amusing that the author claimed to have 5,000 photos stored in their GooglePhotos account. They're obviously a newbie. :-)