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Lightroom CC Facial Recognition is an interesting new feature for portrait photography. I had a facial recognition feature in Aperture but found it caused poor performance as it scoured images for faces. Seeing if Lightroom CC facial recognition worked better for me seemed like a good idea.
Why Use Facial Recognition?
Putting the resource issue aside, the reason to use facial recognition in Lightroom CC is to make it easy to organize photos of a person so you can find them later.
Without facial recognition, that process is manually intensive. I used to create a Keyword category called Models and then put the name of each model as a sub-category keyword. Then I had to associate the keyword with every model photo manually.
Another way to do it is to create a folder or collection for each person and drag their images over.
If I didn’t use either of those methods on import, then I often neglected to do it later. Scouring through a ton of photos to sort them out manually takes time that most of us don’t have in abundance.
Lightroom CC facial recognition does a pretty good job of automating the process for us.
It works very well at detecting faces viewed straight ahead, but it needs some help with profile views. Fortunately, you can still manually tag the few photos it misses.
Getting Started With Lightroom CC Facial Recognition
You need to start in the Grid view, show below (click to view a larger image).
Take a look at the icons under the grid of photos. There’s an icon that looks like a little face, just to the left of the Spray Can icon.
Click that button to get started with Lightroom CC facial recognition. If this is your first time, you’ll see this dialog open.
My suggestion is to choose the second option to only find faces as needed. If you have a large catalog of portraits, it could take a long time to scan and identify every photo.
If you want Lightroom CC to scan your entire catalog, you can select it here or in the Catalog settings.
A third alternative is to click your Identity Plate and activate Face Detection.
Use facial recognition on your terms. You may not want or need to identify every person in a photo. This could be particularly true for event or wedding photographers. Think of all those background people that Lightroom CC will struggle to identify, and then prompt you to act upon the results.
I’ve worked with a local model named Vilmarie on a few different shoots and put her images in a Collection. To keep things simple, I ran facial recognition on her images and here are the results (click to view larger).
Most of the results are what I would expect and a few are head scratchers.
There are 244 photos in my collection for Vilmarie. 174 of them made it into the first stack. You can click on the number of a stack to see the photos inside.
There are multiple stacks. I would have guessed that photos in some of the stacks with fewer images would have been from the same shoot, but that’s not always the case. Take a look at this group in the stack of five images.
It shows five shots from three different photo sessions. There’s a difference in the facial direction, but they aren’t identical. Basically, I have no idea how Lightroom CC facial recognition determines what is or what isn’t related. Still, I think it does a pretty good job. Not perfect, but it’s a huge improvement over manual process or Aperture’s facial recognition.
Identifying The Results
Once you have results from Lightroom CC, you can click the question mark under a stack to provide a name.
Once Lightroom makes that association, a few things change. The most visible change is that your stack goes from the Unnamed group to the Named group in the People view.
You may have noticed that not all of the results include a face. There’s a shot of Vilmarie’s midsection, which clearly isn’t her face.
Then there are the other two shots that are clearly inanimate stone. It’s not a face by any stretch of the imagination. One is a stone angel in this photo of Vilmarie.
The other is just a wall behind her. It’s easy to get rid of these objects by clicking the “x” on the thumbnail.
What about the other thumbnails? Lightroom CC shows that it thinks those photos are of Vilmarie, but it isn’t quite sure. When you hover over a thumbnail, you see a Checkmark you can use to confirm that the photo really is of Vilmarie.
You can click the Checkmark to confirm or the round circle with a slash if the photo isn’t who Lightroom CC prompts you to confirm. Another way to handle the confirmation is to just drag the stack up to the Named people view thumbnail of the person. In fact, you can select multiple thumbnails and drag them all at the same time.
Using The People Keyword List
Once you name a stack created by Lightroom CC facial recognition, it creates a special type of keyword in the Keyword List.
You won’t see it by default, but it becomes apparent when you click the triangle shown after the search bar to open the Keyword List types.
You can see here that I’ve selected the People category of keywords. You can create hierarchies for your keywords if you like add some order. Steve Thomas is in my Friends category and Vilmarie is in the Models section.
Now that you have a Keyword that’s easy to find, you can use to for a quick search or to create a Smart Collection.
When I import photos of Steve or Vilmarie in the future, Lightroom CC will detect their faces and automatically assign the photos to their respective People Keyword in the list.
I’m loving it. There is still room for improvement, particularly with profiles, but this is a very nice start. It’s a feature I’ll use on all of my portrait photography in the future.
Want to know more about how to improve your Keyword strategy? Read my article on The Smart Way to Use Keywords in Lightroom.
Give it a try, but start small. I wouldn’t recommend trying to process your entire catalog at one shot, but I think it’s a great tool to use as you build your Named Person list.