Searching For Faces Within Photos for iPad

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Faces Support in Photos app for iPad

There’s a lot that you can accomplish within the Photos app on your iPad on iOS 8:

  • Built-in tools help edit the exposure, contrast, saturation, and more with non-destructive edits
  • Videos in the library can be trimmed so that you’ll always fast forward straight to the best parts
  • Third-party photo extensions can spice up images, or even show you the EXIF information of your shot (e.g. ISO, shutter speed, etc.)
  • Photos are auto-sorted by Moments, Collections, and Years; but you can also create albums out of hand-picked collections of pictures and videos

However, Faces are still strangely only half-supported on iOS. I love this feature on the Mac because it helps me identify and tag the faces of friends and family in my shots. The first few times require some manual tagging, but the algorithm quickly picks up on who “Po”, “Nicole”, and “Leona” are, and their names start to appear automatically as suggestions for me.

Unfortunately, aside from albums, there isn’t any way to tag sets of pictures on iOS — but don’t worry, as long as you’ve got a Mac, specifying Faces in Photos for OS X will sync that same metadata over to iOS. The only catch is that you’ll have to search for the names in the search bar, because they won’t appear as albums on your iPad.

I’m not sure why Apple has hidden this feature so deep in the system, because it’s a really great one and a very natural way of finding and sharing pictures.

Take, for example, a chat with my friends about the good-old-days in high school. The super baggy leather jacket I used to wear will come up, and I’ll take the iPad out to find the picture. I have a good memory for moments, but I’m horrible at relating moments to specific years. With over 11,800 pictures in my library, there’s a lot of media to scroll through. Thankfully, while I might not remember the specific Moment a specific high school pictures is in, I do recall which of my friends were in the shot.

With the Faces data I’ve synced over from my Mac (via iCloud), I can search for “Thomas Wong” within the Photos app and tap on the result that says “Faces” as the album type. This album will show all of the pictures I’ve ever been tagged in, and it’s the easiest way to remind my friends how badly I used to dress in 2007.

I’m hoping that future iterations of iOS and the Photos app support tagging right on the iPad itself. Tagging faces feels like it would be one of the perfect candidates for a Force Touch interaction.

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