Search Your Photos by Category in Apple Photos (Mac and iOS)

Apple’s Photos app combines tools to both manage and edit photos. Its cloud synchronization lets you store your photo library on your Mac, and on your iOS devices. You can search this library – on either platform – for names you have given to photos, keywords, dates, and locations.

But you can also search by category; unfortunately, Apple hasn’t published a list of categories. Some people have attempted to create lists, but this is difficult, since Photos only shows the existence of a category of you have photos that match that category.

Photos categoriesBut you can see some examples of what’s available in your library if you type a letter; Photos will show a list of complete words with that letter, albums, people, places, dates (months), keywords, and categories.

Unfortunately, as you can see at the left (or at least I can see easily, since I know from looking at the thumbnails what the actual photos are), this categorization is hit and miss. The path is really a street; the pond is the North Sea; the park is the back yard of the house I lived in ten years ago, the pooch is Titus the Cat; the wildlife park is the conservatory of the last house I lived in; and the performance is is an advertising float coming up a road before peloton of the Tour de France. The “state,” Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur – is correct, and all locations come from GPS data. The pub is a restaurant, but that’s not a big mistake; except my library shows no restaurants.

Suffice it to say that for most of the categories Photos shows me – if I click one of the entries I can see the number of photos shown at the right – it’s all wrong. That wildlife park category shows 9 photos of my cats, either indoors or in the garden of my current house. Except for one photo of my son and I sitting on a balcony in an apartment 25 years ago… No animals there.

Porch has one photo on that balcony; followed by four photos of the stage at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, and three photos of Rosalind the Cat looking out a window, and one photo of the stairs in my house.

Path does have one photo of an actual path; the rest or streets, the windows on the front of a house, a shot of a parasol and the sky, and a portrait of my son.

And pond shows rivers, seas, mountains, and some portraits. There’s one shot that does look like a pond, and I’ll give Apple’s AI the benefit of the doubt; it’s the edge of a river. The pond category is particularly interesting, because one of the photos it includes is geotagged as being the North Sea, so it should know better.

All this to say that there is this powerful neural engine (or whatever Apple wants to call it) scanning your photos, and getting most of them wrong. It shows eleven dog photos (all pictures of cats; I don’t have a dog), but it does find one photos of cows (though there are more than one). Type a letter, see what Photos displays; you’ll probably agree that it’s essentially useless.