Spotlight is a system-wide search system that facilitates quick item discovery on iPhones, iPads, and Macs. Unfortunately, the iOS version always lacked functionality and hasn’t been very accurate.

spotlight photo search on ios 15

With iOS 15, Apple is finally changing that to make Spotlight more powerful. So now, in addition to returning accurate results, it also offers rich search options and the ability to install/delete apps, carry out web image searches, and look up photos on your device.

Of all these, the ability to search photos through the Spotlight search happens to be the most valuable Spotlight feature. Follow along as we discuss the steps on how to use Spotlight to search photos on iPhone in iOS 15. [These steps also work for iPads running iPadOS 15, so you can follow this guide if you own an iPad too.]

Steps to Search Photos in iOS 15 Using Spotlight

First things first, make sure you have Spotlight for Photos enabled on your iPhone. Usually, this functionality is enabled by default, but in case it isn’t, follow these steps to enable it:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Go to Siri & Search.
    enabling spotlight photo search in ios 15
  3. Scroll down and tap Photos.
    enabling spotlight photo search in ios 15
  4. Toggle on the button for the following options: Show App in Search, Show Content in Search, Show on Home Screen, and Suggest App.
    enabling spotlight photo search in ios 15

With Spotlight for Photos enabled, you can search photos in the Photos app from Spotlight using the following steps:

  1. Swipe down on the Home Screen or Lock Screen to bring up Spotlight.
    using spotlight photo search in ios 15
  2. Type “photos” and enter your search term. Ideally, Spotlight can identify people, scenes, locations, and objects in images on your device. Not just that, thanks to Live Text, you can look up text in your photos, and Spotlight will pull up relevant results.
  3. Click on the Show More option to view all the photos that contain the search term. This includes results for both: photos that include your query subject, under the Photos section, and the photos that contain your query text in them, under the Text Found in Photos section.
    enabling spotlight photo search in ios 15
  4. In case you want to search for something else, tap on the Spotlight search bar and remove the text after Photos with your new query.

When searching for photos on Spotlight, make sure you always prepend your searches with the term “photo” to restrict results only to images and ignore everything else.

Although rare, in case the Spotlight fails to show results for your queries, you can use the following solutions to fix it:

  1. Reopen Spotlight search.
  2. Verify if Spotlight has access to Photos. (Refer to steps earlier in this section for this.)
  3. Try accessing Spotlight from the Home Screen (if it doesn’t work on the Lock Screen).
  4. Restart your iPhone or iPad.

While the Spotlight search functionality on iOS 15 is really convenient and comes in handy when you want to quickly find images on your device, there may be times when you wouldn’t want these results to appear within your search results, maybe due to privacy concerns.

In such situations, you can choose what items appear on the Spotlight search results by using the steps below:

  1. Open Settings and go to Siri & Search.
  2. Scroll down to select Photos and toggle off the button next to the options under WHILE SEARCHING and SUGGESTIONS options to disable them. Ideally, you want to make sure the Show Content in Search option is disabled.

Finding Photos in iOS 15 Efficiently Using Spotlight

Using the Spotlight search functionality in iOS 15, you can easily find photos on your iPhone right from the Home Screen or Lock Screen without having to go into the Photos app. This not only saves you a few steps but also brings essentially the same search functionality that you’d otherwise find in the Photos app at your disposal.

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