Ponga Help

Using the Ponga Gallery: Organize your pictures—"auto-magically"

Put a name to a face once, and every picture is organized into albums and that person is labeled in every picture.

A Tour Through the Gallery

Your Gallery is a little like an inbox. We present you with the Portraits so that you can add names. Once you name or ignore someone, we won't bother you with them again. If you skip someone, they'll be right there waiting for you when you come back. That means the Gallery is open when there are portraits waiting for your review. It will be closed when there are no more faces to be named.

Every time you upload photos, we scour through each image to match the faces of the people in the new pictures to anyone you've already named. Any new faces are added to your Gallery for your review when you answer the question "Do you know who this is?"

If you upload a new batch of pictures that includes a clearer image of someone previously skipped over and not named, then the two will be collected together as the same person. Only the clearer of the two images will appear in the Gallery for your review.

How the Ponga Gallery Works

When you upload your pictures, Ponga examines each one to find faces. It then reviews all uploaded faces together to collect those that appear to be the same person. Ponga then presents you with the clearest image of each person's face in a collection in the Gallery. We refer to this image as the "Reference Portrait."

When you explore the Portraits in the Gallery, we ask you a simple question "Do you know this person?" and you have three options: Add a Name, Skip, and Ignore. Plus we give you a hint if you aren't sure about the name. Shortcuts:

  • Tab to move forward
  • Shift-tab to move backward
  • Return to select or confirm

Here's how they work:

Add a Name

Adding a name associates the name you add to that person's face in every picture in which they appear. If the portrait is of someone you've previously named, use the same name you entered for that person before and we'll put them in the same collection and album. (We'll auto-complete the entry as you type to make it easy.) If you make a mistake, no worries. You can correct spellings or correct a match in a separate Face Detail page.

Once you add a name to a person, we do two things:

  1. Create an album for them and fill it with every picture we find that includes that person. (Since one picture can be in multiple albums it's easy to find pictures that include multiple people.)
  2. Label that person's face in every picture in which they appear. You'll see a little bounding box around their face, mouse-over it, and the portrait you named appears. Click on it and the sidebar appears where you can add a few words, record a story, or click on their name to go to the Face Details page.

If you aren't sure about who a person is from the small Reference Portrait, just press Tab, and a larger Quicklook picture will appear with the face in the reference portrait selected. From here you can press Tab to go forward to Skip or Return to confirm and Add Name.


Hit Return when Skip is selected to skip the naming step for this person right now. Their portrait will remain in the Gallery where you can come back to add a name later.


Hit Return when Ignore is selected to ignore a person. We won't bother you with them again. This is a great way to not clutter your albums with strangers who happened to get into your pictures. If you realize later you can name them, that's okay too, see "Can I add names later if I ignored them in the Gallery?"

A word about Recognition

We're good, but you are always going to be better. We only match two faces as the same person if we have a high degree of confidence they are the same person. If we're matching someone in an image you just uploaded to a face you skipped earlier, we require a slightly higher degree of confidence. We do this to reduce the risk of error. Aggressively implementing our own judgment about matches could create a mess that's time-consuming to untangle. To make it easy for you to connect a face with someone you've named before we'll auto-complete names for you as you type.

Best Practices

There are all sorts of details that can make matching names and faces complicated. The faces, like the names of distant relatives, can be murky. There can be a strong family resemblance, and families often reuse names across generations.

Here are a few best practices for using Ponga to make it as helpful as possible:

Don't stress

It's easy to get all tangled up worrying about whether he's Richard M. Jones III, or just Uncle Rick. Our simple answer is: don't worry about it. Call him what you'd like now, and then ask him or your cousins about what's best. The name you use is simply what appears in a picture. You might want to consider who you'll be sharing the pictures with. If his name was "Tiberius James Brown" but everyone called him "TJ," then just go with "TJ Brown."

You can change a name everywhere in seconds and it's a cinch to change, so here are two good rules, be

  1. Specific enough to be clear,
  2. meaningful enough to the least connected person,
  3. Respectful enough to not offend anyone

This approach will answer questions about the use of married names, titles, and those kinds of things. Here are a few strategies:

  • On a first pass, use whatever name comes to mind, even "Mom," "Mary," and "Zeke," will do, for example.
  • How you share albums will affect the names that you use. You may not have it right the first time. That's okay, come back and update the names.
  • Every time you add or change names, labels are updated in every picture, and albums are renamed and sorted for you—in alphabetical order. Even if pictures and albums have been shared.
  • Adding nicknames, or traditional given names in quotes or parenthetical details can be helpful to others you plan to share the pictures with.
  • Since Ponga runs in a browser, you can feel free to use multiple scripts to capture the non-Roman characters or traditional spellings of names.

As a member, when you upload pictures, you "own" them. You decide who to share them with, only you can add or change the names of the people who appear in your pictures.

Skip or guess: A personal choice

We've noticed that guessing at a name (and updating it later) or just skipping-for-now is really just a personal choice.

  • If you're an inbox-zero kind of person, then you may find that leaving a number of people skipped in your gallery bothers you. No problem. Just give a guess as a name and come back to it later.
  • If you're the kind of person who uses your inbox as a tickler file, you may find it helpful to just leave portraits in the Gallery so you can come back to them later.
  • If for some reason you want to remove a label for a particular person in a particular album, you do that in at the picture level. Not a problem.

Sometimes, "Betty's husband" is a perfectly good solution. It gives you enough reference you can look it up later. Ask an auntie later, and fix it in the Face Details page you can get to from any picture of a person. Whatever works for you.

Remember, if you later upload a better picture of someone you skipped the first time, we'll put the two together for you and present the clearer of the two in the Gallery.

"Just ignore them" isn't always the best answer

Ignoring people can be appropriate. Strangers photobombing your birthday party just might need a cold shoulder. You'll find that sometimes our face detector is fooled by faces in artwork or shadow patterns. Go ahead and ignore those.  

If you ignore a face in the Gallery, we will ignore every other instance of that person (or pattern.) We won't bother asking you about them again when you return to the Gallery. We also won't ask you about them the next time you upload a picture that happens to include that same photo bomber.

As a practice then, if you run across someone that you don't happen to know, but might be important to someone else, you might be better off giving them a nickname or just skipping them for now and coming back later.

A few best practice tips

  1. Name people you're sure of right away. Using "Sis" or "Mom" is fine. You can refine it later based on who you want to share the pictures with.
  2. If they look familiar, and you want to see more, hit Tab and explore the Quicklook. (that's easy to update when you see it in context.)
  3. The name you use becomes an album title, so keep it simple. Starting with honorifics like Mr./Ms. or Lord/Lady can get complicated. You can add that as a comment.
  4. You can give two or more people exactly the same name in the Gallery. (There ARE a lot of Suzie Wongs in the world.) However, you may end up confusing yourself if you're not careful. "Suzie (Mei Ling) Wong" might be a good choice.
  5. Skip is great when you're confident you'll remember or you want to walk through all the ones you skip with someone else.
  6. Ignore is perfect for those shadows, distant smudges, or obviously irrelevant extras that seem to show up in every family album.

(Families and names are very personal. We're eager to hear your ideas for best practices and suggestions for features you'd like to see. Just reach out to us at the Live Chat window at left ⏎ )

✏️  Note: Join us for regular events for Ponga members, their guests, and the Ponga curious. Learn more at Ponga Events

Last updated:
October 24, 2022
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