How to prompt your memory with Google Photos

Memory is a tricky thing. Some of us are great at attaching names to faces, while others (and here I raise my hand) have always had a problem with remembering names, especially when you meet someone out of context. For example, imagine the embarrassment when someone you know from work suddenly shows up at a friend’s party, and you spend the next hour trying to remember their name.

As a result, I’m always looking for a way to be able to put a name with a face. While there are some mobile apps that claim to be able to help with that, I haven’t found any decent ones for my Android phone. (The only app that really worked for me, Evernote Hello, was killed back in 2015.) However, there is one app that can help jog a faulty memory: Google Photos.

Google’s photo collection app automatically gathers your images together in a variety of categories — including one called People. The People page offers a representative photo for each person who appears in your collection; select one, and you’ll see all the photos featuring that person.

What makes the People page even more useful is that each of the photos on the page can be tagged with a name. So if you see someone at a party and just can’t remember their name, you can find a corner, grab your phone, go to the Photo People page, and swipe down until you see their photo — and their name.

But that won’t work unless you first label the individuals in your collection. It’s easy, although it can be time-consuming, depending on how many people appear in your pictures.

Of course, sometimes Photos gets it wrong. In that case, you can remove a photo from someone’s page.

You can also remove anyone you’re not interested in seeing at all — say, an ex who brings up bad memories — from the People page entirely.

Unfortunately, Google Photos is missing some features that would be handy to have. For example, you can’t actually add any photos to somebody’s People page — you have to hope that the Photos AI will recognize and add all your photos of that person. (Something that can be very frustrating.) Keep an eye out for an extra link that sometimes appears on an individual’s page labeled “Same or different person?” In that case, you can tell Photos that yes (or no), that is indeed a photo of that particular person.

Again, identifying and tagging a whole slew of friends and associates will take time (especially if you have to look up their names). And since this is Google, it’s a safe bet to say that it will eventually change the functionality of the app (for better or worse), or sunset it altogether. I know several people who spent hours organizing and IDing their photos in the popular image app Picasa only to have owner Google pull the rug out from under them in 2016.

But if you’ve got problems remembering names and are desperate for anything that might help, give Photos a try.

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