8 Brilliant Search Tools Hidden Within Google Photos
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Google has become synonymous with search, so it’s great to know that it hasn’t neglected this feature in their products and services.

We’ve always exalted Google Photos Get Free Unlimited Photo Storage & More with Google Photos 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 its brilliant features How to Make Google Photos Work for You with These Tips How to Make Google Photos Work for You with These Tips Google Photos could be the much-awaited solution to manage all your photos. But is it the best among all online photo sharing sites? Read More , including some you’re probably overlooking 12 Amazing Google Photos Features You 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 , but a lesser-known feature is that its search tools have powerful algorithms that are on par with that of Google’s search engine.These tools work like a charm regardless of whether you use Google Photos on your PC, via its website, or its respective

These tools work like a charm regardless of whether you use Google Photos on your PC, via its website, or its respective Android and iOS apps. We’ll explain the different ways you can find any photo or video stored in your account within seconds.

Note: We’re using the Google Photos website for this article, but the tips work the same on other platforms. All search results display relevant albums at the top and all its individual photos below, with the most recent ones appearing first. If you see a dropdown menu beside a date, click it to reveal all the photos taken on that date.

1. Search by Name

This is probably the only tip that needs some work from your part. Click inside search bar at the top, then click to select one of the faces that Google recognizes from people in your photos. Next, click the Who’s This? link beside the photo.

google photos search name

As you type that person’s name, you’ll see a list of auto-suggest options if you have that person saved as a contact on your phone. Type their name or click to select the correct option. Going forward, you can see all their photos by simply searching them by name.

Repeat this to add all the people (or as many as you want) that appear in your photos. Doing this making searching for photos of your friends and family a breeze going forward.

2. Search by Place

Provided your phone’s camera has the geo-tagging feature Geotagging Photos: What It Is & Why You Should Start Right Now Geotagging Photos: What It Is & Why You Should Start Right Now Geotagging is simple and there are many reasons why you may want to start doing it. Here's everything you need to know, including how to add and remove your own geotags. Read More turned on, you can search for specific places to see all the photos taken there. One brilliant, but overlooked feature, is that you can go small or big when searching for places.

google photos search places

For example, typing London in my search bar displayed 10 autosuggest options listing all the different places within London where I’ve taken photos. Similarly, searching for Albufeira only showed me all the photos I took in the quaint Portuguese coastal city.

3. Search by Time

There are different ways you can search for photos based on when they were taken. You can type a specific date (such as 22 August 2015), an approximate time (August 2015), or even a specific year to see all the photos taken then. You would expect Google to do this given its already-great gamut of tools.

However, what surprised me is its contextual time-related search tools. For example, searching for the terms Last week, Last year and Last April all displayed relevant search results.

google photos search time

You can even search for other time-related attributes, including evening, morning, summer, and winter. Among the other time-specific results, Google tends to get this (time of day) category wrong most of the time. For example, the service can confuse bright indoor photos as those taken during the day. That said, it’s an honest and forgivable mistake.

4. Search by File Type

We’ve written about tools to create your own panorama photos 6 Free Tools to Create Stunning Panorama Photos 6 Free Tools to Create Stunning Panorama Photos Summer is the best time to go outdoors and practice your photography skills. If you're at a cool vantage point on a day with good weather, you could even try taking some panoramic shots. Read More . However, I love the fact that I can just take multiple adjacent photos of a beautiful scene from my mobile phone. Google Photos automatically stitches the adjacent photos into a panorama and gives me the option to save it. It also creates GIFs GIFs, The Language Of The Web: Their History, Culture, and Future GIFs, The Language Of The Web: Their History, Culture, and Future Everything you ever wanted to know about the history of GIFs, how they've evolved, and their cultural impact and significance. Read More automatically when I take multiple photos at one go.

google photos search file type

Google Photos’ insanely powerful search tools allow me to search for panoramas, GIFs, and videos saved in my account. You can also search for other file types, including movies, videos, screenshots, animations, 360-degree photos, or selfies.

Here again, it tends to determine any photos taken from close range as selfies, but with camera quality progressing so much in the last few years, you can’t hold that against Google.

5. Search by Event

Among all the searches I conducted, this category surprised me the most. It lets you search for events that you’ve taken photos of. Searching for picnic, birthday, or wedding displayed good results. The same was the case while searching for sporting events, like football, basketball, or tennis.

google photos search event

Again, these were not always 100 percent accurate. For example, any photo with a cake appeared in the birthday search results. Similarly, any photos taken a park appeared in the picnic search results.

But it’s easy to make peace with these search results because you’re often going to find what you were looking for within them anyway.

6. Search by Objects, Items, and Things

You can even search find photos based on specific objects, items, animals, or things that appear within the photo. For example, try searching for watersky, cake, flower, trees, animals, birds, or monuments. Each of these produced accurate results, albeit with few, forgivable false positives.

google photos search item

I sometimes take photos of bills and receipts I need to keep in mind. While Google doesn’t seem to recognize those terms, a broader search for paper displays all the photos that containing things written on paper and include bills, receipt, and even posters on walls.

7. Search Scanned Photos

Google recently released a new free app called PhotoScan with the aim of letting you digitize all your old photos How to Scan Printed Photos Onto Your Phone With Minimal Quality Loss How to Scan Printed Photos Onto Your Phone With Minimal Quality Loss It's easy enough to take a digital photo and print it out, but going the opposite direction isn't so easy -- unless you use this awesome app that handles it all for you. Read More . If you’ve installed the app, you can access it by clicking the three lines at the top left of Google Photos, then clicking “Scan photos”. Going forward, simply search for scans whenever you want to see all the photos you digitized.

8. Combining Values

This tip is probably one of best when it works. It involves combining any two values mentioned above to create a more specific search term. So, for example, typing panorama morning displays all the panorama photos I took with daylight in them. The image below displays another result of this in action.

google photos search combine

Similarly, I can search for Becky July to see all the photos of my friend Becky taken in the month of July. Searching for Mark Scotland 2015 displays results of my friend Mark that were taken in Scotland on our hike in 2015. You get the drift.

How Else Do You Use Google Photos?

These search results are effectively utilizing the sheer power of advanced algorithms, which is a big reason to choose Google Photos over the competition. We even recommend using Google Photos over iCloud Photos. It compensates for its minor flaws by displaying the right search terms even if you make the odd typo. This is invaluable on a mobile device when you just want to find something quickly.

I have over 5,000 photos saved to Google Photos and I’ve already written about why it’s my perfect vacation companion How to Use Google Photos as the Perfect Vacation Companion How to Use Google Photos as the Perfect Vacation Companion Holidays are a time to remember, where you capture memories that you want to cherish forever. Using Google Photos will ensure that your favorite moments are saved for a long time to come Read More . Knowing that I can find any photo in a few seconds is evidence that Google search tools have extended way beyond its search engine.

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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?

  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. :-)