PSA: You can search your photos by text found in the images

To my surprise, I discovered today that the same technology that powers Live Text can also be used to search your iPhone photographs for written text.

So yet, Apple has been mum on the subject, which may be for the best…

For the time being, the function is a little buggy, with certain photographs that should have been simple to locate being absent while others that you may have anticipated to be missed are appearing.

Even Glenn Fleishman, Macworld’s editor-in-chief, had no idea the function existed. It’s not in the Photos app, as you would assume, but rather in the system search (swipe down from the middle of any home screen).

The addition of Live Text in iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS 12 Monterey (for models that support it) brings a new layer of utility to photos and other images. Click or tap an image, and you can select words or an entire password or translate text. But searching against that text is trickier.

Photos for iOS, iPadOS, and macOS don’t include a way to search for recognized text. Seemingly, Live Text works only on demand. But Apple tucked away a text-searching feature that you would think the company would trumpet. In iOS and iPadOS, you can use the overall search feature (swipe down and tap to enter text) to find matches in photos […]

It was surprising to me when I first saw it because Apple doesn’t note it in the list of features for iOS 15 or iPadOS 15, nor does the company mention it in any of its support documents. The search works even when you have iCloud Photos enabled and set to optimize images and videos to reduce storage overhead.

I’ve just had a few minutes to play about with it, but it seems more like a beta feature than a feature in the final release of iOS 15. There were just a tiny number of photographs with matching text that I could find in my testing.

There was no picture of a sign outside the venue with the name of the venue written in huge letters when I looked for Marabu, for example.

When searching for “orchestra,” it missed several clear poster photographs but turned up a few of mentions in tiny text inside a picture of a program.

With a single phrase as your starting point, you can then scroll down to the section labeled “Text Discovered in Photos” and begin using the feature.

Show All is available when there are numerous matches, so you’ll view a few of them before seeing the rest.

If you don’t see the choice, it’s likely because the search has failed. You should be able to see it if you try a few different combinations of words.

The feature is still amazing to see, and perhaps it will develop quickly. If it works for you, please share your experience in the comments section below.



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Peter Graham
Peter Graham
Hi there! I'm Peter, a software engineer and tech enthusiast with over 10 years of experience in the field. I have a passion for sharing my knowledge and helping others understand the latest developments in the tech world. When I'm not coding, you can find me hiking or trying out the latest gadgets.


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