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Keeping my photos in the cloud was a long story starting with Flickr, then Dropbox and finally Google Photos. Since Google Photos introduced the search feature, I found no reason to not using it exclusively for my photo library. It’s accessible on any device (Android Phones, iPhone, Tablets, Chromecast, Web, Desktop, etc.) and it does an amazing job recognizing people, places and things through deep learning (AI) techniques (it really gets better every now and then).

So I decided to upload my whole photo collection since my first digital camera (remember Sony Mavica??) back in 1998 (scans pending for older photos) on Google Photos and let Google do the difficult part of organizing them.

The first thing you’ll notice when you upload a good amount of photos is that when you click on “Search” you photos are immediately organized into sections which include:

  • People: Once you tag someone on a single photo, Google will be able to find all photos in your library with that person. I can say it’s very very accurate.
  • Places: All your geotagged photos are now organized into Places. Click on “San Francisco” and see all the photos you’ve taken. Switch to “Paris” with a single click!
  • Things: Google keeps amazing me with what I can find on this section. There are some obvious keywords like “Sky”, “Beach”, “Cars”, “Bridges” but guess what; Google recognizes some very cool things like “Legos”, “Ruins”, “Rainbows”, “Farms”, “Deserts”, “Stadiums”, “Skylines” and more! And should something come on your mind, just search for it, Google might have the answer and bring up some of your photos (I found an underwater photo of an octopus using the keyword search).
  • Types: You can find your videos here plus some auto-creations that Google creates and some of them are fantastic (including panoramas, animated GIF-style photos and more)

Google Photos search for places

But clicking on certain tags isn’t what Google is proud of; after all it’s a search engine and this means advanced search functions are expected to exist in Google Photos as well. But for whatever reason it’s quite difficult to find them. So here is the list of the best search “hacks” on Google Photos:

Specific Day Search:
Just try searching for “2014-01-31” and Google will show all the photos of that day if any.

Specific Month Search:
See photos of June 2003 by searching “June 2003“.

Show all your videos:
Search for #videos will come up with a list of all your videos on Google Photos.

Find all your panoramas:
Search for pano (without #).

Search for photos taken with your Sony camera:
#Sony will show you that. Of course you can search for specific models as well e.g. #ILCE-6000 will bring up all my photos taken with my Sony a6000 camera, or #iphone4s will do the same for iPhone 4s. This works for mobile phones too like let’s say #xperiaz.

View photos taken using your mobile:
Just search for #mobile.

View all Auto Awesome creations Google made for you:
Find them easily by searching for the #AutoAwesome tag.

Guess what? If you ever created a photosphere you can find it using #PhotoSphere

HDR photos:
They deserve their own tag. Search for hdr (note that it should not have the hashtag) and you’ll see them all in front of you!

Collage photos:
Again Google creates some collage photos when it finds it appropriate. You will be amazed what you’ll find when you search for collage.

Motion, animated GIF-style photos:
Search for motion will bring up all those animated GIFs created by Google Photos ready for some sharing to become viral:)

Animation photos:
Almost the same as motion, try searching for animation shows some additional GIF-like animations.

Photos with effects:
Sometimes Google decides that some photo is worth having an extra copy with an effect. These effects are usually gray scale images, frames or Instagram like filters. Search for effects to discover all those photos!

Photos that were auto-backed up:
Not really useful but if you want to see them, try searching for #autobackup.

Photos backed-up from Google+ Auto backup for desktop:
They can be easily located by searching for #desktop.

While there are no logic operators yet you can combine some of the search queries and bring up the related results.

For example “sri lanka 23 July 2010” shows up photos from that day of my trip in Sri Lanka.

Google Photos combined search queries

Do you have any other tips to share? If so please leave a comment to let everyone know!

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