Search the Photos app

You’d think that searching through your photos should be an impossible task. Unlike a text document, there are no actual words you can look for in a photo. But your photos can hold very precious information that can help surface some details about your shots. If you have Location Services enabled for your iPhone camera app, then all your shots contain location metadata, allowing you to perform very specific searches in the stock Photos app of iOS.

And with the release of iOS 8, Apple has included some very powerful features to help you find that one photo you were looking for.

How to search photos in the Photos app

Let’s imagine you want to show this great picture you took back in October last year when you were in Newport Beach to a friend. If you took hundreds of pictures since then, it can be a daunting task to just browse through all those photos. One way to go at it would be to use this trick to see where your photos were taken on a map, but that would require you to scroll through your Moments in the Photos app, which again can be time consuming if you have hundreds of photos.

Another option would be to just do a search!

Some of you are probably already thinking that this is a silly suggestion that everybody is already aware of. Not so fast though! I was myself aware of the search feature in the Photos app, but until recently, I never really realized how actually precise it can be.

With iOS 8, you can search your photos by the date they were taken, the location, or the name of an album. And with what Apple calls smart suggestions, one tap on the search icon will bring up a quick selection of photos taken nearby, at home, a year ago, and your favorites.

Photos app search location

When it comes to searching by location, smart suggestions will offer matching results as you start typing. Search by location isn’t limited to city, state, or country names either. You can be very granular and also search by street names for example (ie. Neptune Avenue), or by the name of specific locations (ie. school). Again, that’s some very powerful stuff.

If you haven’t played with the search feature of the Photos app before, I really invite you to try it out. Chances are you’ll be impressed.

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  • do ppl keep all of their photos on the phone?? every so often i just move them to my pc, cause they take up toooo much of that precious space!

    • I keep all my photos taken with the device on my iPhone, and I also back them up to my computer. When I get a new iPhone, I’ll start over and will keep all those new photos taken with the new iPhone until i get another one

      • 9to5Slavery

        Do you use alternative upload service? I thought about iCloud but now I am going to use Dropbox. What is the best cloud services coming in for our devices? Can you do an article on that? And please include the open sourceness of it (i.e. copy barracuda , etc etc)

    • Martin Lauritsen

      I recently moved all my photos into iCloud Photo Library, and then I’ve set it to optimized storage on my devices. Now I can access all of my 34 gigs worth of photos, but it only takes up a few gigs on my iPhone. Couldn’t be happier 🙂

  • It’s worth pointing out that although having the location a photo was taken can aid in the discoverability of photos it can also be considered a privacy intrusion for example if I take a photo outside my house and upload it to the Internet the location is embedded within the image so people can look at the metadata of the image and infer where I live…

    • Elias Chao

      You can always disable the location services for the Camera app.

    • Timothy

      There are various services which let you remove/add/change photos’ metadata! If you’re concerned about privacy, I recommend installing one.

  • Greg Warren

    Sadly, I’m not even remotely impressed. My library of photos is synced with iPhoto, and I’ve taken the time to tag a large amount of those photos both with keyword tags and faces. Searching by a person’s name fails completely and shows no results.

    Looking at the list of Faces produces a list of people sorted by no semblance of order whatsoever. Not alphabetical, not chronological, nothing.

    All of those keyword tags that I put effort into tagging in iPhoto aren’t searchable on the iOS Photos app. God forbid I only want to look through photos tagged as “vacation” or “meme” or “beach” or “gym”.

    Apple’s Photos app is awful, and the search feature is one of the worst parts.

    • Timothy

      You could maybe try PhotoTime? It still doesn’t support most of the things you were saying (like names), but it purports to let you search based on contents of the photo.

      • Greg Warren

        I tried PhotoTime a few weeks ago, but for whatever reason it did a poor job of tagging people. It barely got 10% of the people from my contacts list. And it’s frustrating when I’ve already done the tagging myself in iPhoto to think that I would have to do it all over again.

    • Swanny246

      Bizarre that it seems the OneDrive iOS app has more photo organisation features than the stock photos app.

      Seriously. OneDrive. From Microsoft!