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How to keep painful memories from showing up in Google Photos

If you'd rather keep your past out of your present, you can customize your Google Photo app settings to prevent certain memories from resurfacing.

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Google Photos now has a way to filter its story-like Memories feature for reliving older events. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you use Google Photos, you're probably familiar with the Memories feature, which resurfaces photos from the same date in previous years. While it can be fun to look back and reminisce on certain events, not all memories are ones you'd necessarily want to relive -- like a painful breakup, the loss of a loved one or the beginning of the pandemic. Now, Google has added a new tool that lets you remove photos from Memories. 

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Brett Pearce/CNET

Providing more control over whether or not they want to revisit memories also makes for a more inclusive experience for transgender users, Google said in a blog post.

Read more: Google Photos is ending unlimited free storage. Here's what to do about it

"We specifically heard from the transgender community that resurfacing certain photos is painful, so we've been working with our partners at GLAAD and listening to feedback to make reminiscing more inclusive," the post said. 

The move comes alongside other updated Photos features that Google announced at its I/O developers conference last May, including AI-based cinematic photo, and a more accurate camera that adjusts the auto white balance to better represent natural brown skin tones for a more inclusive skin tone dataset.

Google Photos uses AI to generate "cinematic moments" that create a moving image from two related shots.

Google

Here's how to customize your Google Photos to hide potentially painful or unwanted memories:

1. Open the Google Photos mobile app. Above Photo View, you should see Story-style creations like Spotlight, Recent Highlights, One Year Ago and more. 

2. If you tap one of the creations, you'll see options in the bottom right to favorite an image, share it or further interact with settings. Tap the Settings icon.

3. Choose Memories Settings in the menu.

From there, you can get pretty specific about what images you want or don't want to see. 

Hide people and pets

If you choose Hide People and Pets, Google Photos will show the People and Pets grid. Anyone that you no longer wish to see in memories or creations, simply tap the image and a little hidden eye icon will appear overtop of it.

Unfortunately -- at least for now-- this will only hide the subject as they'd appear in memories or creations. If you scroll through Photo View, there's still a chance you could come across an unwanted image. But deleting an image is still an option.

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Simply tap on a person's photo to keep them out of your Memories and creations.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Hide dates

If you'd rather not be reminded of a specific time period, you can choose Hide Dates. Tap Add Dates, and Google Photos won't show any more memories or creations in that time frame. You can choose dates going back as far as 1970. 

More options 

In addition, under Advanced Settings, you can specify the types of creations you'll see in your Memories, like animations, cinematic photos and collages, by toggling on or off.

You can even further customize which creations you see above Photo View -- or turn them off entirely -- by tapping Featured Memories. From there you can adjust whether you see Previous years, Recent Highlights or Themed Memories when you open Google Photos. Tapping Notifications also gives you control over what Google Photos lets you know about -- like when new creations or memories are available, as well as printing promotions and suggestions. 

Google Photos now also offers a passcode-protected Locked Folder where you can save photos separately, so they won't show up as you scroll through Google Photos or other apps, but you don't have to delete them.

Another note: Google Photos ended its unlimited free storage tier on June 1. You'll need to sign up for a Google One subscription to get more space. 

For more, check out how to transfer photos from iCloud to Google Photos, and how to back up your photos in an emergency.