Synology Photos FINALLY adds AI Subject/Object Recognition!

Synology Photos is FIXED – AI Subject Recognition is BACK!!!

That’s right! After 2 years of waiting, Synology has finally added support for AI subject recognition back into their premium photography application in DSM 7.2. Long-time followers of the Synology brand will be aware that in previous older versions of Synology’s DSM platform, there was a legacy photography application known as Synology Moments that not only allowed AI-powered facial recognition of your photos but also provided a similar service for recognizing objects and subjects in your photo collections. When Synology made the switch from Synology Moments to Synology Photos in DSM 7, many users were disappointed and angry that this incredibly useful element in the photography package was absent and, over the years, has been one of the most requested features to be reinstated! Hence my excitement to finally see the return of this feature and, arguably, finally fixing Synology Photos in my view! But what is AI subject recognition, should you care, how do you enable it, and why did Synology remove it for so long?

What is AI Subject/Object Recognition and Why Is it a Big Deal?

AI-powered photo recognition has grown in popularity substantially in recent years. Every month it seems like artificial intelligence is being integrated into practically every facet of our daily lives. Its utilization in photography is at its best when applied to a large photo collection, allowing people who may have decades of photography under their belt a substantially easier means with which to sort, catalog, and classify photos on the fly. For example, you have two decades of photos stored on your NAS. Many of these are from old mobile phones, old cameras, backed up from your first-generation digital camera, and maybe scans of old celluloid images. The bulk of these images are almost certainly not going to have logical names, instead having file names made up of the date and time of their production. That makes searching for a specific photo or theme in your photo (such as a person, group of people in specific photos, elements of a photo, environments, and categories) nearly impossible without spending hours, upon hours browsing through your entire collection.

AI-driven photo recognition massively decreases the search time on your photo collection, regardless of its scale. Thanks to AI facial recognition, scanning your photos and creating a database of the people inside, you can make your way through your photo collection to find those important memories fantastically quickly. But the inclusion now of subject recognition in Synology Photos (again, massively overdue) can seriously save time with AI. Subject and object recognition is when the Synology Photos AI analyzes every single photo in the collection, identifying themes and things actually in the photos beyond just people’s faces, then indexes and creates a massive database of your photo collection based on these more general themes. These can start in the more domestic, such as ‘food’, ‘furniture’, ‘cars’, but can get surprisingly sophisticated in some of the more nuanced searches and particularly when it comes to subcategories within general categories. So, a landscape recognized by the AI can also be broken down into smaller object recognition for things like trees, mountains, different variations of flora and fauna, ultimately creating a ready-to-search database of more human-friendly classifications of your collections. If your database of photos is in the tens or hundreds of thousands, and you need to access photos in that database in terms of more general themes and subjects, AI subject and object recognition is going to be enormously useful to you. Hence, why many were so disappointed to see the feature absent these last few years on Synology Photos, despite it being available in an older generation photo app from the same brand.

How to Download the Latest Version of Synology Photos with AI Subject Recognition?

Currently, the Synology Photos update that enables subject and object recognition is on a phased, gradual rollout across DSM, hardware, and versions. Normally, when an update becomes available to one of the apps on your Synology NAS, it will appear as an available update in the App Center which can be actioned manually. Or you can set the system to automatically install feature and security updates as they arrive. However, as (at least at the time of writing) the Synology Photos subject recognition update is not a general release, you will not see it automatically in your App Center. In order to download the Synology Photos subject recognition update, you have to head directly over to Synology’s download portal and manually download the app. You can download the SPK update file HERE.

Once you have downloaded the file, head back into your Synology App Center and click “Manual Update” in the top right of the screen. From here, you just need to click the “Browse” button and find the Synology Photos SPK file you just downloaded. From there, you simply have to follow the installation prompts in the install wizard, and Synology Photos will restart on the new updated version. However, just installing the newest version of Synology Photos is not quite enough, and you will not have immediate access to AI photo recognition straight away. So, how does one enable AI subject recognition?

How to Enable AI Subject Recognition in Synology Photos?

By default, Synology Photos does not enable AI facial recognition or AI subject recognition by default. In order to enable it, when you have booted up Synology Photos, in a new tab, go to the top right section where your user icon is. Then click and select “Settings.” From here, there will be a number of options available; scroll around halfway down, and you will see two boxes that you need to put a tick into in order for the system to enable AI recognition and begin indexing your photo collection. If you have already been using AI-powered facial recognition up to this point, that will already be active. However, you will still need to enable subject recognition for the first time.

Do bear in mind that when doing this, it will result in the system needing to re-index your photo collection. The amount of time this will take, as well as the amount of system resources that are consumed during this operation, will differ from one system to another. Ultimately, the more powerful your NAS system, the shorter it should be, and the lower the impact. However, if you are using a lower-powered NAS system or have a particularly large photo collection, then you can expect the indexing to take quite a considerable length of time and will result in a larger percentage of used resources throughout, which may well impact your other services running on the Synology NAS right now. So, it is recommended that you action AI photo subject recognition and the indexing during a period when your Synology NAS is not in active use, perhaps overnight or during non-working hours.

Which Synology NAS devices support AI subject recognition in Synology Photos?

Despite all Synology NAS systems arriving with Synology Disk Station Manager (DSM), it is worth remembering that not all Synology NAS devices are built equally, and you tend to find that the more affordable, low-price Synology NAS hardware (typically classified as part of the J or value series) tend to have the least resources available and often certain key features and services that Synology promotes may not be available. If you are concerned about whether your Synology NAS supports AI facial recognition and AI subject recognition, use the table below that details each current generation Synology NAS that supports Synology Photos and the extent to which you can use AI-powered services:

Note, the following list is from 27/07/23 and may see updates.

Supported AI-calculated features Series Models
Face and object recognition SA series SA6400, SA3610, SA3600, SA3410, SA3400
23 series RS2423RP+, RS2423+, DS1823xs+, DS923+, DS723+, DS423+, DS423, DS223
22 series RS822RP+, RS822+, DS3622xs+, DS2422+, DS1522+, DVA1622
21 series RS4021xs+, RS3621xs+, RS3621RPxs, RS2821RP+, RS2421RP+, RS2421+, RS1221RP+, RS1221+, DS1821+, DS1621xs+, DS1621+, DVA3221
20 series RS820RP+, RS820+, DS1520+, DS920+, DS720+, DS620slim2, DS420+, DS220+
19 series RS1619xs+, RS1219+, DS2419+II, DS2419+, DS1819+, DS1019+, DVA3219
18 series RS3618xs, RS2818RP+, RS2418RP+, RS2418+, RS818RP+, RS818+, DS3018xs, DS1618+, DS918+, DS718+, DS418play2, DS218+
17 series RS18017xs+, RS4017xs+, RS3617xs+, RS3617xs, RS3617RPxs, DS3617xsII, DS3617xs, DS1817+, DS1517+
16 series RS18016xs+, RS2416RP+, RS2416+, DS916+
Facial recognition only 22 series RS422+
20 series DS220j
19 series RS819, DS419slim
18 series DS418, DS418j, DS218play, DS218, DS218j, DS118
17 series RS217
16 series DS716+II, DS716+, DS416play, DS416slim, DS416j, DS416, DS216+II, DS216+, DS216play, DS216j, DS216, DS116
15 series RS815RP+, RS815+, RC18015xs+, DS3615xs, DS2415+, DS2015xs, DS1815+, DS1515+, DS1515, DS715, DS415+, DS415play, DS215+
14 series RS3614xs+, RS3614xs, RS3614RPxs, RS2414RP+, RS2414+, RS814RP+, RS814+, DS214play
13 series RS10613xs+, RS3413xs+, DS2413+, DS1813+, DS1513+, DS713+

Do you need to update your Synology NAS to the very latest version of DSM 7.2 Update 2 to use Synology Photos AI subject recognition?

I’m pleased to confirm that although the Synology Photos app requires you to update it to the latest version in order to access AI-powered subject recognition, you do not need to update your Synology DSM to the latest version to use it. This means that users that were concerned about updating a Synology NAS to a larger-scale update, potentially making some apps and services function differently or not at all without patches, do not need to worry.

You just need to update the individual Synology Photos app, and it doesn’t require you to update the whole OS at this time of writing.


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      65 thoughts on “Synology Photos FINALLY adds AI Subject/Object Recognition!

      1. Although the facial recognition is very good a have a few caveats that makes it VERY time-consuming when you have a lot of photos. I have around 40K pictures spanning 40 years. So many of these issues listed below have to be handled by hand……….

        1. It lacks age awareness. Lets say I have a daughter, who is 10 years old. System will still try to assign her to 30 year old pictures because there happens to be baby photos at that time.
        1a. Possible solution: An easy way out is to be able to list birth date (and maybe deceased date) on persons so system will take this into account 🙂
        2. It lacks precision.
        2a. Being able to set “reference” photos of people at different ages would heighten the precision considerably
        3. The Separation of assigning people tags between Private and Shared Collections: There can be a lot of overlap between these, i.e. same people appearing in the same pictures. As it is now it’s a complete redo between these!!!
        3a. Just make the application share the people database and only count the number of pictures in the relevant collection for the appearance of a
        given person. Alternatively make it possible when you create a person to make them active in shared/personal/both collections for privacy.

        Just 2 notes:
        1st This is my absolute favorite application insofar I have complete control over the privacy of my own photos, including the facial recognition and facial annotations in pictures. HUGE KUDOS to Synology for creating this application.
        2nd YES I have tried to give my input to Synology but it’s just putting something into the cloud – it just vanishes. (we appreciate your input and have passed it on to Taiwan and do not know if this will be treated, if it will be added, it will – don’t know where, don’t know when 😉 )

        And thank you for excellent coverage of the NAS world!

      2. Subject recognition is not off every once in a while as you suggest. Every group that it’s made has been wildly off. I don’t care either because I’m really only interested in facial recognition but still it’s pretty bad but also slightly funny. Swimming? how about we include mostly track and wrestling. Table Tennis? Track & Wrestling again even though I don’t have any of that. Screenshots? I again don’t even have any but it sure thinks I have a lot. Animals? Well come on now I know they’re not the most attractive people but let’s not be rude. Transportation? How about a swimming pool, track and golf. Weddings? I don’t shoot weddings. Badminton? I don’t have that either but apparently almost everything is considered badminton including tennis, volleyball, dancing, basketball, fencing, track and lacrosse.

      3. Synology Photo’s is broken v1.6.1+ if you set it up for LDAP users, they cannot change the view to view the photos if you are giving them Assigned access (with all the options checked). The only way get the option to change from folder views to images is if they have full access, but the problem with that is if everyone has full access, they can see everyone else’s photos and edit or delete them. 🙁

      4. Synology Photos is still frustrating for me ????

        – Hardcoded photos folder
        – Limited functionality for “read-only” users (no timeline, no “smart” albums like “people”/“places”… etc)

      5. How can I run the facial AI function on existing photos on my Synology NAS (home/main) folder? If I add my main folder from my NAS to Synology Photos will it try to copy/duplicate everything? I just want to utilize the facial recognition with photos already stored throughout my NAS.

      6. Do you know how I can test the Synology app on Android without the need for a Synology device? The reason is that I want to check if the app has the tag filtering system, just like the desktop version. I want to know this before purchasing, as it is an important detail for me.

      7. does Synology DS224+ or any other synology for that fact, have the same feature as google photos where i could have 1 picture shown in multiple manually created albums, but without multiplying the storage used ?

      8. Able to do a review on the people recognition as personally I find it terrible. When you upload additional photos you nearly always have to go in and manually say yes that photo is of that person even with that person already having 5000 plus photos of them

      9. True – Synology Photos 1.5.0-0489 is required on a supported platform!

        Question: is it even possible to download a Synology Photos spk-file for a FALSE NAS and try to install Synology Photos 1.5.0-0489 on a NOT supported platform?

      10. What is the lowest cost device that still has object recognition? A used DS220+? I only have one drive (don’t care for local redundancy since I plan to use cloud backup) but it doesn’t look like any of the single bay devices (DS118, DS124) support object recognition

      11. before I could find Synology RS816 in the list of devices with Face Recognition.
        But if I look now there is only the article with Face & Object Recognition AND the RS816 is missing – NOT listed.
        Well I can confirm even with DSM 7.2 (not yet Update 2) there is Face Recognition active – as far I can tell.

      12. Haven’t tried Synology Photos since last year… have they added native playback of videos in their mobile app yet?? or are videos still only being played through 3rd party external app??
        Won’t touch with barge pole until they sort this out. This should really work like Google Photos to consider using it. Native HEVC support or auto re-encode to whatever format it does support (within mobile app and via web browser) is a must too…

      13. Does anyone know if it’s possible to enable Subject recognition for older Syno NAS like DS216+II ? By looking at the compatibility list it would only support Facial recognition and no Subject recognition. But I see a pattern here – Subject recognition is only supported for models with high amount of RAM. I’ve upgraded my DS216+II from 1 to 8 GB of RAM, so I believe technically it will be able to cope with it (it’s working fine with Syno Moments), but I don’t know if there’s a way to enable it unofficially like editing some internal config file? Anyone?

      14. Thanks for install details! Installed it. Seems like it did not catch as much as I would have expected. Is there a list of what it will find? Does it search all file formats? Will re-indexing cause issues with facial recognition? Is there a summary that says it checked all files?

      15. Just installed the update on my NAS all good, when I open the Photos app on my Android it informs there is an update, it takes me to the play store where Synology Photos app is already installed with no newer version than May, how can I get the July release so it works with the updated NAS Photos app?

      16. Now if only they would add in the Photostation map/GPS coordinate updating functionality so I don’t have to keep running a virtual DSM6 instance in order to update location info on photos from my Canon camera.

      17. This didn’t work for me it still only shows the option for indexing based on facial recognition not objects

        I have DS218+ , DSM 7.2-64570 Update 2, Photos 1.5.0-0489

      18. Hi, regarding the DSM version requirement I can’t install on DS720+ on DSM 7.1.1 as the installer prompts “ This package requires DSM version 7.2-60098 or onward.”

      19. what i think Synology should do is allow you to select those in a picture and everyone else not selected are the ‘blocked’ or not captured in future in the pic or others that it may group. would be handy for when taking a photo in a sea of people and it the populating in the ‘people’ loads of faces you have to then manually try and sort out; I give up now as I’d spend all day and never keep on top of it.
        They’d be wise to try and sort out their AI at face recognition as its quite poor

      20. Needs an web based photo editor comparable to Samsung gallery built in to synology… Otherwise, if I have to open my own editor on the PC…i might as well use their image management functionality.

      21. I have a DS918+ and I see synology_apollolake_918+.pat and I see the DS918+ on the Knowledge Center (DS918+ Intel Celeron J3455 4 4 ✓ Apollolake DDR3L SODIMM 4GB) I guess That means I can upgrade, or am I miss reading that
        but I use my NAS more for media and I use EMBY don’t know if upgrading will cause problems

      22. Great news – thanks Robbie!

        Does anyone know if it’s possible for Synology Photos to automatically share photos from multiple devices? I’d like to share photos with my wife, and vise versa. Thanks

      23. They should have the ability to unrecognize or unmatch some photos automatically recognized by the AI because I have some baby pictures where the bubble captures only my kid’s body without their head and it just doesn’t look right. I’d like to unmatch those type of photos as it looks scary. Please Synology.

      24. Nice video, thanks a lot. I just hope that next to the introduction of subject recognition that they have improved the facial recognition? It is not bad, but its not good either. Sometimes it racks my nerves when I’m working with it, recognizing a face on one picture and on the next not anymore. Although almost same angle, same distance, same quality of photo etc. I have opened so many complaints towards Synology about this, but they were never able to give me solution.
        So if you would ask me, rather introducing subject recognition, they should have put these efforts in improving facial recognition. Hopefully they have changed something there…

      25. I was really waiting for this, I was almost looking to change to a different photos program. But sadly the amd systems aren’t supported (yet)

        Edit: apparently the list you shared is a different list than the compatibility list for version 1.50, there the amd systems aren’t compatible

      26. I wonder if the CCP is stockpiling the AI analytical data of Synologys facial recognition. Has anyone monitored their network traffic when the AI recognition Is functioning on Synology?

      27. *Note* – I know the camera lens at the bottom seems a little muggy, I had to use a backup Webcam as my elgato is in use for a bunch of off site zoom bits. Hopefully this won’t ruin the vid for you. Have a great week!