How Google Photos' new custom-labeling feature can help clean up your collection

Google Photos Custom Person Labels

A new feature rolling out to Google Photos is even more useful than you'd think.

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Sometimes, even the smartest systems can make mistakes.

Google Photos has an automatic face-identifying system that's wildly impressive -- most of the time. The system scans the faces in your images and recognizes when the same one shows up in multiple photos. It then gives you a scrollable list of people from your collection so you can see all the shots of your Great Aunt Myrtle or BFF Gertrude in a single place.

The system is supposed to be able to identify people consistently from birth to old age -- that was the promise at the service's launch -- but in reality, it doesn't always work that way. In my Google Photos collection, I often see photos of the same person split apart into multiple groups, as if each group represented a different person. Sometimes my daughter appears in as many as five or six different spots. (She's a girl of many emotions, to be sure, but I'm fairly certain Happy Baby, Silly Baby, and Belligerent Baby are actually all the same creature. Well, 90% sure, at least. Okay, maybe 85.)

Here's the good news: As I had hoped, the new person-labeling feature announced for Photos yesterday (and rolling out to Android users via a Play Store update as we speak) makes it possible to correct those errors and merge mistakenly split-apart groups together.

It's easy to do: Once you have the update, just tap the circular blue search icon in the lower-right corner of the app's main screen and then tap on a face. You'll see a prompt at the top of the screen to input that person's name. If you select a name you've already assigned to another group of photos, you'll get an option to merge the current set of images with the other one. That's all there is to it.

Google Photos Add Custom Person Label

In theory, of course, this shouldn't be necessary, but Google's auto-identification system is clearly not picture-perfect. C'est la vie, right? This should go a long way in helping to clean up its errors and make it easier to find all your photos of a particular person -- either by scrolling through the list of faces in the app or by simply searching for that person's name.

And that, my friends, is a fine reason to say (and/or eat) cheese.

[SEE ALSO: 16 cool things to try with Google Photos]

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