How To

Photo Search & Rescue: 4 Tips to Help You Find Your Photos Faster

I'm Maria!

As a Certified Photo Manager and Digital Organizer, I ensure my client's files are safe and easy to find. Follow me for tips on how to get your digital life in order.

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It’s a universal scenario: you’re out with a friend you haven’t seen in months and telling her a story. You pull out your phone to quickly show her a picture that brings your story to life. You start scrolling through your camera roll, and scrolling, and scrolling. After a few silent seconds of scrolling, your friend starts to fidget, and you know you are about to lose her interest. If only you could find that photo! It’s here somewhere, you assure her. But after a few more seconds of scrolling, You finally give up and return to your story. Vaguely disappointed by the missed opportunity.

Being unable to find a photo can bring up feelings of loss, anxiety, and guilt. You may think you need to sit down and organize your entire photo collection, but who has the time for that?!

The average smartphone user takes 200 photos per month. Parents, creative professionals, and online business owners take anywhere from 500 to 1,000 photos monthly. That’s anywhere from 2,400 to 12,000 photos a year! With those numbers finding a photo starts to feel like finding a needle in a haystack!

Does this mean we’re all doomed to scrolling until we’re cross-eyed and ready to throw our phones out the window? Or do we need to spend the time and money to organize our photos before we can enjoy them?

My answer is not at all! With the tips I am about to share, you should be able to find that photo in no time!

By narrowing down your search. After all, would you rather search through 3,000 photos or 100 photos? I know my preference. 


  1. Think about where the image might be. Most people have photos scattered across multiple locations. While the majority of photos are in smartphone camera rolls, the rest could be on a computer, hard drive, old smartphone, or one of the many cloud accounts. It’s all too easy to forget where you last saw a photo. Before searching your camera roll, take a moment to think about where the photo you are looking for might reside. Upon reflection, you may recall that the photo you are looking for is in an email attachment.

2. What kind of image are you looking for? Is it a selfie, video or screenshot? Almost all camera roll applications automatically sort images into folders depending on their media type. If you are looking for a selfie, check the selfie folder. If you are looking for a screen recording, look in the screen recording folder. You get the idea. Within these media folders, the images will be sorted chronologically based on the date you took them.

Smartphones use AI and metadata to identify things like;

  • Objects
  • People
  • Colors
  • Capture dates 
  • Or the location where the photos were taken. 

Some photo apps are going to have more advanced search features than others, but they all provide a way of searching your photos. To search for a photo this way, look for something that looks like a tiny magnifying glass. Clicking on this magnifying glass will bring up a search bar where you can enter the details of the photo you are looking for. Bonus tip; start out with a simple search using one keyword, then continue to narrow down the search by adding additional keywords. 

3. Set yourself up for success. How you set up your phone/ camera can help you organize your photos before you take a single picture.

First, turn on location services in your camera settings. Turning on this setting will allow you to search for photos based on location. It’s a powerful feature that will automatically organize your photos.

After you’ve turned on location services, go into your camera roll and identify the people you photograph most often. Apple Photos and Google Photos allow you to identify the faces AI finds within your photos. Setting this up will allow you to search for a photo based on the people in it.

If you are using a digital camera in addition to your smartphone, make sure it is set to the correct date and time. This will allow your camera roll to place photos in the correct location on the timeline. It will also make photos searchable by date.

4. Practice searching for photos. Practicing searches will allow you to familiarize yourself with your camera roll software. With each search, you will become more confident and efficient. This skill will come in handy next time you want to share a photo!

With these four tips, you’ll be a pro at finding photos!

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Maria Mesick

Personal Photo Managment for creative professionals.

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