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Faces; A First Look (And Something Great About Smart Albums)

PhotoJoseph's picture
February 14, 2010 - 8:02am

One of the features I was hoping for the most in Aperture 3 was Faces. OK, I’ve probably said that already about most of the new features in Aperture 3, but come on… it’s a great upgrade!!

I’ve put the library update on hold so I could play with a few things in Aperture tonight. I created a new library and imported a few hundred iPhone photos. Perhaps not the easiest thing for Faces to deal with, since these are pretty low resolution and of dubious quality, but hey, it’s what was handy… and, they have GPS data for Places, too. Sweet.

A note: The following is a result of me writing this entry as I go. It’s NOT a cleaned-up, “how to use Faces” entry. So come along for the ride… maybe we’ll all learn a thing or two!

Once imported and processed, I jumped right into the Faces view and started naming people in my pictures. This is a pretty limited collection of faces; mostly my kids, my girlfriend and me. I ended up telling it to skip a few (but not many) non-faces that Aperture had determined were faces (always a laugh), or of people I don’t actually know, but after typing in the same four names a bunch of times, I decided to go ahead and open a name on the cork board and see what it was showing me.

The initial results were great. I think in the first round, every possible match was an actual match. I went through the four names on the cork board, then started typing in some more names on the photos hanging out in the “Unnamed Faces” area below.

You can even see here that it’s already asking “is this…” on some of the faces below. So I went through those, and cleared it out, and at that point it would appear that all photos were identified.

Naturally, I dug further.

I opened up this project and scanned through, and saw faces I was pretty confident had not been in the Faces list. So my first thought was to jump to the search and see what search criteria for Faces had been added. Sure enough, there are a few. I decided to make a Smart Album to track unidentified faces. Here’s what that looks like.

Click on the Add Rule menu in the top right of the Smart Album, and add the Face category. Once added, select Face: is not detected to find all photos without any faces detected. Since Aperture doesn’t find faces in video, you can add that File Type category and set it to File Type: is not > Video. There’s not a file type “picture”, or I’d say to choose is > picture. There are individual file types (RAW, TIF, etc) but not a general “pictures” type. Owell. Finally be sure to select All > of the following that  > match in the top of the smart album.

That resulted in a big chunk of photos, including ones that absolutely have faces in them. Some which are astonishingly obvious. So hmm, something doesn’t seem right here. I actually selected all the photos and chose menu Photos > Detect Missing Faces and let it churn away. I didn’t notice if this collection size changed (oops, bad science here) but did see additional faces show up in the Unnamed Faces window (in the Faces view). Curious.

From here I opened up a name on the cork board, and sure enough there were more faces there. Presumably the Detect Missing Faces did something? Seems odd to me though, because that had already been run (on import). Entirely possible (and likely) I’ve munged something up here. 

I also created another Smart Album with this criteria:

Which will show all the photos with identified faces, but no names assigned to them.

NOTE: see the new “Source” choice at the top of the Smart Settings window? This is HUGE. It used to be that the source of the Smart Album was determined by where it was created. Even if you moved the Smart Album, the source was always from where it was created. Which was handy if you knew that, but could cause mass confusion if you did not. Now there’s a choice there, just select what you want the source to be. (The “Management” option is a folder I created that this Smart Album is sitting in.)

This Smart Album now shows me 71 photos. Time to go back to Faces and start confirming and naming pictures.

As you can see, it did find a few that did not match. But that’s OK, it’s a learning engine! As soon as I hit Done after confirming the batch above, a few more faces jumped in for confirmation. I then went through the four faces and did the same.

After that, it still had a bunch in the bottom that were still unnamed. So, next step is to fill all those in. This time, I went ahead and kept on typing until Aperture gave me no more faces. Perhaps that’s the mistake I made earlier; expecting too much too quickly.

So now all the faces are cleared from the Unnamed faces area in the Faces view. Time to go back to my Smart Album’s to see if they are also empty!

Turns out the answer is no. First of all, the faces I’d skipped are in here. I noticed that not only do you have a “skip” button when confirming faces, but you also can right-click and select “Not a Face”. Perhaps that’s what I should have been doing.

Ah, yes isn’t that interesting. I selected a single photo and chose Detect Missing Faces. Then back in the Faces view, that showed up again. Perfect. So that’s the kicker of running the command again… it will re-identify the faces and put them back in the Faces window. Hmm seems there should be a faster way to do this.

So this time I chose “not a face” for that photo, and sure enough, it was removed from my “Face not named” Smart Album.

What’s a good way to get rid of these not-really-faces (or faces I don’t want identified) so they don’t show up at all anymore? Fortunately you don’t have to go to Faces view to do this; from any view you can click the Name button and start removing unwanted face boxes. I have to say, it’s pretty impressive what Aperture’s catching here. Check out this example.

That “unamed” in the background isn’t a ghost, it’s a photo on my wall. Impressive.

Anyway if you roll over those boxes, the face box will appear with an x the corner… click that, and away it goes. If the other face in the photo is named, it should disappear from the Smart Album view. It’s pretty funny what some of the supposed faces are… cookies, smudges on the ground, the burner on a stove; it’s amusing for sure. Anyway it took a while but I cleared out all the non-faces.

Is this necessary? Good question… I’m assuming not. I like a clean library but I really don’t know that it makes a difference, having “unnamed faces” where faces really are not. It’s more important to find faces that Aperture missed. So that first Smart Album is still a Very Good Thing™. Looking at it now, there are faces that Aperture completely missed. It’s pretty quick to add them in; just click the Name icon, click the Add Missing Face button, drag around the face and name it. Looking at the first Smart Album above, there’s a few hundred non-face photos. In a real library, that will have thousands and thousands of photos. Obiously not ideal.

At this point, I’m gonna say that if Faces are important to you, then go through each project when you import it. Name the faces that are in there, confirm the ones Aperture has found, and then quickly search for Face: Not Detected and see if there’s anything important that Aperture missed.

As always, your feedback below will help others, so if you have any unique experience with Faces, please share!

Apple Aperture

Just caught your article here. I’ve been having a similar experienc. It seems to me this is a little more difficult to actually use then they make it out to be in the marketing videos etc. I’ve found it to not be picking up on a lot of faces that are obviously faces from a large MP camera. Then on my iPhone it works great for a lot, kind of an interesting observation.

I figured before it was just me not understanding how it is working, but I’m glad to see others having similar results. Thanks for the smart albums folder tip I’m going to try that and see what I have missing.

Keep the info coming it’s been awesome.

In digging into the Faces feature, it seem Aperture is actively learning about the faces in your photos. The more photos I identify, the more show up. I think it does an initial pass on facial recognition, but keeps going in the background. I have also seen photos with obvious faces that were not recognized. Once I “show” Aperture where the face is, other photos start popping up.

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