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Photo managers with face recognition?

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Have any of you played with face recognition in your photo tagging workflows? Do any of you use it on a regular basis? If not, why not?

After using Picasa with the face recognition feature since I think version 3.5, I've become pretty attached to having this capability. Once you see what you can do with it and how often it's useful, I think most people would be sold on it. The "Make Face Movie" functionality alone is gold, but I've also had lots of requests from people since I told them about this for photos of themselves. It's a really cool thing to have. Unfortunately it seems relatively rare still in the world of photo managers. So I'm on the hunt for the best photo manager/cataloger/organizer that has some face recognition functionality.

You're probably thinking if I like Picasa so much, why not just use that? Well, there are a number of problems there. First, just on the face recognition itself, while I find the actual recognition capability to be quite good, it's rather unpredictable and hard to fully control the scan process. Any faces that are detected are easy to deal with, the problem is that scanning doesn't always detect all faces and it seems there's no way to force a re-scan without losing all your existing tagged faces in that folder. There's also no way to resume a scan that may have stopped for some reason. So while I have a great catalog of about 100 tagged faces/people and 1000's of photos of them labeled, I know there are many more that aren't tagged yet and I don't want to manually tag them. There's also no way that I can see to organize people into groups, which would be nice. Perhaps worst of all Picasa doesn't use standard meta data tags for face data, so the info is not portable to other apps. More generally speaking I also find Picasa's editing functionality rather limited, especially compared to higher-end (non-free) apps like Lightroom. Lord how I wish Lightroom just had good face recognition, I would just use that!

So what apps have I found and/or tested so far? Here's a short list, with some test comments following.

* Picasa - See above, in general I love the actual face recognition and tagging capability and the UI for dealing with faces, it's mostly bugs that put me off it
* iPhoto - Not tested, I'm not on a Mac and I also hate apps that enforce their own folder organization scheme
* IDImager - Has face recognition but is not cheap and from my (admittedly brief) tests the actual face recognition not only doesn't work that well, but is also cumbersome to use
* Windows Live Photo Gallery - Tested briefly, found it cumbersome and not very accurate either, confirmed by Cnet review:
* Photoshop Elements - Not tested, but reviews say it too is cumbersome and not as good as Picasa:
* digiKam - This is an open source photo suite which is a part of KDE I guess, and I hadn't heard of it before, but for an open source tool it's surprisingly nice; unfortunately only the 2.0 beta has face recognition and I couldn't find a Windows binary version to test, only source so far
* Fotobounce - A desktop app that claims to center its photo organizing around people "because that's the way we think users like to work with their photos"; requires Adobe AIR even though it's fully a desktop app (come on, seriously?); this app has an interesting, clean UI, definitely focused on face recognition, decent recognition quality and speed but the UI is overall slow (probably because of AIR) and the actual workflow is definitely clunkier than Picasa; so this one is promising but its lack of other features makes it pretty much a 1 trick pony for me so its integration with other apps (like a simple right-click "edit in this app" feature) will be key if I'm to use it any further
That's all I've found so far besides a few spammy hits with mention of one or two other apps where I couldn't confirm face recognition was even a feature, and I wasn't about to go installing more apps willy nilly to find out.

One annoying thing about all the apps I've tried, including Picasa, is they also don't seem to use the full power of my system in the scanning process. I have an i7 920 and 6GB of RAM, but CPU usage barely gets above 7% (less than 1 core fully utilized) when doing face recognition in Picasa. Fotobounce actually did pretty good int his regard, bouncing between 10 and 40% usage initially, later rising to 70-90% which is near ideal, but it was the best of the lot as far as fully utilizing resources, and the UI is rather "heavy" and clunky anyway. Maybe the bottleneck is elsewhere (disk I/O), but given how fast these apps can build thumbnails I have my doubts that's the problem; probably just need multithreading/better multithreading.

So that's it. Any and all additional suggestions greatly appreciated! Free or pay, doesn't matter to me.

Edit: More testing of Fotobounce and I have to say it's fairly promising. I'm still not a huge fan of the overall "feel" of the UI, but it's reasonably functional, albeit not as smooth as Picasa. I *do* think it does a better job finding faces than Picasa, but it also has more false positives. Then again it's hard to compare directly as well because Picasa, unlike Fotobounce, has options for how accurate you want the detection to be. So I could easily lower the accuracy threshold and probably find more faces but also get more false positives. At least Picasa gives you that option. Additionally I think part of the reason some photos weren't identified in Picasa is due to bugs in the scanning engine actually *not* scanning particular photos, rather than an inability for the algorithm to find a given face. In fact Picasa displays a fairly remarkable ability to find faces, better than any other algorithm I've seen, it's just that the scanning engine is not reliable or very controllable.

- Oshyan

Ok, I'm not terribly impressed with Fotobounce in the end. It found some photos Picasa didn't, but also missed a lot that Picasa found. It seemed particularly thrown off by sunglasses and faces turned downward or sideways, as well as faces that were small/in the background (although this may not be a bad thing). It did do a decent job of recognizing faces tilted at an angle but still facing the camera. Picasa does this alright as well.

Ultimately it's just not good enough to recommend over Picasa, especially given Picasa's superior UI and much more sophisticated capabilities. A good example is what you can do with face-tagged photos once you tag them. Here's a visual aid: It's actually *really* cool when you do this with photos of yourself or friends.

- Oshyan

tbh, i'm not a big believer of these type of software, as i have some apprehension over exposing my pictures/music/etc to software that modify data. however having said that, i am keen to know if there any good programs out there that could change my mind.

as for face recognition, Picasa has had a headstart since versions that supported it came out back in 2008. also having the advantage of being backed by Google means that future updates are more likely to be guaranteed.

Yeah, you definitely have to be careful with apps modifying your file's meta data. Many apps are surprisingly, frustratingly careless in this regard. So always test on a small group of photos that are *copies* of originals, just in case. If I were to do a review, that's definitely something I would test and report on.

Believe me I'd love to stick with Picasa. But there are enough long-standing issues, with multiple Google support threads and no response from Google, that it's a bit discouraging. Some of these issues date back to 2009 or even earlier, a lot of the same things I'm talking about, with scans never completing, or very obvious faces not being detected. The baseline functionality and UI are great and I applaud them for that, but it still needs a lot of work.

Not to mention that even if the face stuff was perfect, it would still be lacking some important basic editing functionality. So unless it can finally write out data to standard meta data tag or sidecar format, it still won't likely keep me as a user long-term.

In the end probably Lightroom will get this capability once it's beyond the clunky implementation in Photoshop Elements. Then I'll have everything I need. :D It's just a matter of when, and it so happens that I am on a photo organizing kick right now and would really like to get this all out of the way. I'm still hoping there's a better tool out there. It seems surprising that a *free* tool from Google of all companies - not exactly focused on imaging software - would have the best capability in this area, in a field where there are multiple high-end, expensive options like Lightroom, Bibble, Capture 1, DxO Optics, IDImager, etc.

- Oshyan

I don't know of any non-mobile end-user software. But you might want to see if OpenCV or OpenCVDotnet for sample projects -- that's pretty common:

I have yet to explore the SDK, but it looks promising from what I've seen.


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