Using Facial Recognition in Lightroom

Lightroom incorporates advanced facial recognition technology to help put names to the faces in your photos. It’s remarkably effective at recognising the same face, even under unusual conditions, but it does need a bit of help.

To get started with the facial recognition system, go to the Library Grid view. On the bar at the bottom of the view window you’ll see the row of viewing option buttons that we discussed earlier, and next to them a button with a face on it. This is the People button; click on it or alternatively use the hotkey shortcut O.

If this is your first time using the facial recognition system, you’ll see an introduction screen with two options. You can choose either to fun face recognition on your entire catalogue of images or to just use it as needed. The first option will produce more useful results in the long run but the second is more convenient for a single image.

Click on the ‘Start finding faces…’ button and the program will start going through your image library looking for faces. If you have a collection of thousands of images with many of them containing people, this process may take a long time. For example, a collection of more than 50,000 images could take around 24 hours.

If you are able to leave your PC switched on overnight, you can leave the search running and it should be complete by the morning. If not, don’t worry. You can close the program and switch off your PC safely. The search will resume the next time you start Lightroom and will carry on running in the background.

By default, the system will start searching through and indexing your entire picture library but you can set it to just look in one particular folder. While the search is running, go to the Folders tab and select the folder that you want to search. The system will immediately begin indexing that folder and any sub-folders that it contains.

As the system starts finding faces, you can start adding names to them. At first, obviously, it won’t recognise anyone and the faces will just have question marks under them. Click on the question mark to add a name to the face and the system will then start suggesting similar faces to the ones that you’ve identified.

Once you’ve added a few names and the system starts making identifications, you can confirm the correct ones by clicking on the Tick button under the thumbnail. The more correct identifications that you confirm, the more accurate the face detection algorithm will become. You’ll be surprised by just how accurate it can be.

Similarly, if the system makes an incorrect identification, click on the button on the right below the thumbnail to let it know that this is not the person it thought it had recognised. The suggested name will revert to a question mark, so if it is someone you recognise you can click on that and enter the correct name instead.

Although the face recognition algorithm is extremely good, it’s really only identifying patterns of pixels that look like a face, so it will sometimes make mistakes. Statues, posters and cats (although not dogs, strangely) will confuse it, as will other face-like shapes. You can remove these by clicking again on the right-hand button.

You’ll be amazed at how successful the face recognition can be. It can easily recognise photos of people taken thirty years apart and has no problem with sunglasses, fancy dress costumes and people pulling silly faces. The mistakes can be quite amusing too, a depiction of Satan on a poster mistaken for a former boss, for example!

Mark Frost

Mark started work as a commercial artist during the good old days of Letraset, spray mount and having to process your photos at a local chemist. Having discovered his passion for photography, Photoshop and the wonders of digital image manipulation, he has not looked back. He is well on his way to owning more cameras than he’s had hot dinners.

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