5 Google Photos Features You Should Try Now

This Google service does more than just share and store photos.

Zachary McAuliffe Staff writer
Zach began writing for CNET in November, 2021 after writing for a broadcast news station in his hometown, Cincinnati, for five years. You can usually find him reading and drinking coffee or watching a TV series with his wife and their dog.
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Zachary McAuliffe
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phone showing photos of flowers in Google Photos

Google Photos has much more to offer than just storage.

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Google Photos launched in 2015 as an online photo and video storage platform, but over the past eight years it's grown to include more, like photo sharing. But if you're using Google Photos for just storing and sharing photos, you're missing out on a lot of useful features. 

Here are five Google Photos features you should try now.

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Search for words in images

Let's say you get a new device and have to enter your Wi-Fi password. You took a picture of the password months, or even years ago. Instead of digging through your photos to find the password, you can search for "Wi-Fi," or any other phrase, in your Google Photos library.

Google Photos uses optical character recognition, so it recognizes words in your photos. All you have to do is enter the phrase into the search function and Google Photos will find photos with that phrase in it.

Make your next purchase from a photo

When shopping for large items, like a couch or dining room table, you might want to shop around to make sure you're getting the best deal. You can run your Google photos through Google Lens to find similar products to make sure you're not getting ripped off. 

You can also use Google Lens to identify and purchase other items, like food, plants and clothes, and you can use it to translate and read signage for you. Here's how to use Google Lens in the mobile app.

1. Open Google Photos on your phone or tablet.

2. Tap the photo you want to use Google Lens on.

3. Tap the Google Lens icon near the bottom of the screen -- the icon has three rounded corners and a dot in place of the fourth corner.

4. Google Lens will generate a new menu across the bottom of your screen with options like TranslateSearch and Shopping. Tap the one you want to access.

You can use Google Lens in the desktop version of Google Photos, but it only transcribes and translates text in images. Here's how to use it.

1. Go to Google Photos and sign into your account.

2. Click the photo you want to use Google Lens on.

3. Near the top of the photo, you should see a bubble with the Google Lens icon and text that reads "Copy text from image." The text in the image will appear next to your photo in a separate menu.

Hide specific people and dates from Memories

Memories shows you photos and videos from years ago, content based on certain events and places and items with certain people present in them. Google lets you hide these pictures, though, thanks to the company's facial recognition software. That's helpful in case you break up with your significant other and don't want to see their stupid face anymore. 

Here's how to hide certain people and places on your mobile device.

1. Open the Google Photos app.

2. Tap your profile in the top right corner.

3. Tap Google Photo settings.

4. Tap Memories.

From here, you can select Hide people & pets or Hide dates. Choosing people & pets brings up the faces of people and pets in your photos, and you can select as many to hide as you wish. Choosing dates asks you to give it two dates, a start and end date, and any photos within those dates won't appear in your memories. 

You can do this on desktop, too.

1. Go to Google Photos and sign into your account.

2. Click Settings

3. Click the arrow next to Memories

You'll see the same Hide people & pets and Hide dates options, whichfunction the same way as the app versions.

Make a scrapbook or canvas print

With Google Photos, you don't have to go through a third-party shop or website to make a scrapbook or print your photos onto a canvas. You can put all of these together and purchase them in Google Photos through Print Shop. 

You can go to the Print Shop in the mobile version of Google Photos -- represented by a shopping bag icon in the top left corner of your screen -- and the desktop version -- found on the left side of your screen. Once here, you can choose to make a canvas print, scrapbook or picture prints of your photos. Google Photos also shows you the starting price for each item. You can have your items shipped to your home or delivered to a local participating store to pick them up.

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Edit the sky

A purplish night sky with a red moon and a tree in the foreground

This picture was taken around 4 a.m. in January.

Zach McAuliffe/CNET

Not every day can be blue skies and sunny. If you're a Google One subscriber though, you might be able to make it look that way in your photos. Google Photos has plenty of editing options, and one called Sky lets you adjust the appearance of the sky. The feature won't make a picture taken at night look like it was taken at noon, but you can at least make that night picture look like it was taken at dusk.  

For more on Google services, check out why you should download Google Maps offline before your trip and how to blur your house on Google Maps.

Watch this: How Apple and Google Make Photobombs a Thing of the Past