How to Use Google Photos Search to Find Photos and Create Albums

Search is one of the most powerful features in Google Photos. Here are a few tricks to help you find your photos and videos quickly and easily.

Let’s set the stage. You’ve been scrolling back and forth through your Google Photos library for the past 10 minutes looking for an image you know is there… except it’s impossible to find. At this point, it’s easy to give up. You have thousands of photos and videos and you don’t want to spend hours looking for just the right one that:

  • Includes your two best high school friends
  • Is at your first apartment
  • Includes your dog or cat
  • Shows your first car
  • Happened two summers ago
  • Has a lot of blue in it

You get the idea. Well, there’s some good news. This can all go a lot faster than you think courtesy of the Google Photos search feature.

How can Google Photos help me find what I need?

Google Photos automatically analyzes your photos and videos when you add them to your library. To be more specific:

  • Google Photos analyzes metadata embedded in each photo and video to determine things like when it was taken and where it was taken.
  • Google Photos uses artificial intelligence to identify what is in the photo or video such as people or pets (a.k.a. facial recognition), objects like a bicycle or mountain and other details that you probably didn’t consider such as colors, time of day, time of year, and more.
  • The search feature also uses any information that you’ve added directly to the photo/video in Google Photos. For example, a caption or an updated date.

Let’s run through some examples.

Search examples

The search field is located in the navigation/app bar at the top of the Google Photos mobile app and web browser.

In the mobile app, search by clicking in the navigation/app bar
In the browser, click the search icon in the navigation/app bar

How to search for photos/videos that include a person

When you click/tap on the search field you’ll see faces of people. Click/tap on a face to search.

Search by clicking/tapping on a face

If you’ve previously added names to faces, you can search by name instead.

Search by name

Note, as an alternative to using search you can also click/tap Albums > People & Pets.

Find album of people in the browser on desktop/laptop by going to the Albums tab > People & Pets

Then click/tap on the photo of a face to see all of the photos/videos that include that person.

Pro tip: Add a name to the face if you haven’t already to make search easier in the future.

How to search for photos/videos that include things/objects

In the search field type in a word that generally describes the thing/object in the photo or video. Here are a few examples: beach, city, mountain, or food.

Pro tip: Searching for objects can be really useful when you’re trying to remember when a photo was taken. If you can think of an object that is in the photo, type that into the search field and look for it in the search results.

Note, as an alternative to using search you can also click/tap Albums > Things.

Find albums of things or objects in the browser on desktop/laptop by going to the Albums tab > Things

Then click/tap on a collection that Google Photos generated automatically with the photos and videos that contain the thing/object.

How to search for photos/videos associated with a location

In the search field type in the name of the location you are looking for like a city, state, country, business, or landmark. For example, Chicago.

And, like the examples above, if you don’t want to use search, you can also click/tap Albums > Places.

Find albums of places in the browser on desktop/laptop by going to the Albums tab > Places

Then click/tap on a place to see all photos and videos that Google Photos found associated with that place.

Search based on time

In the search field, type in the Year (e.g. 2018), Month (e.g. January, February, March, etc.) or time of year (e.g. summer, fall, winter, spring):

When searching for a year, Google Photos will show you which months in that year you have photos/videos in your library
When searching for a month, Google Photos will show you which years for that month you have photos/videos in your library

As an alternative to search, you can also scrub up and down on the timeline on the Photos tab of the mobile and web app on the right side to quickly get to a specific period of time in your Google Photos library.

Scrubbing the timeline on the Photos tab is an easy way to browse your library

Search based on other photo/video attributes like color

In the search field type in a word that you want to search for such as a color.

Search results based on color

Create an album with the search results

After you have used search to narrow down a set of photos/videos, select the ones you’d like to include in the album.

Selecting photos/videos from search results to add to album in the browser on desktop/laptop

Pro tip on desktop: Hold the Shift key while you select photos to select multiple photos more easily.

Selecting photos/videos from search results to add to an album in the mobile app

Click/tap on the + icon at the top right of the screen and select Album. You can then either create a new album with the photos/videos OR you can add the photos/videos to an existing album.

Adding photos/videos from search results to an album in the browser on desktop/laptop
Adding photos/videos from search results to an album in the mobile app

Wrapping up

Google Photos search offers a way to avoid spending hours digging through digital or physical boxes, albums, and folders for the photos and videos you want to use in your project. We hope some of these examples save you some time. Given the pace at which many of us are adding new photos and videos to our libraries, using search has become invaluable and Google Photos search is truly as good as it gets right now.

Articles on this topic by other people

How to Find a Photo in Google Photos and Organize Images (MakeUseOf)