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July 21, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
July 21, 2014

Since I’ve been spending a big chunk of the past week labeling faces in iPhoto, I wanted to spend a bit more time describing the process.

When you open iPhoto and click on Faces near the top of the menu pane on the left side of the screen, a special icon appears. On the metallic bar at the bottom of the iPhoto window, a trio of head-and-shoulders silhouettes will be near the lower right corner; it’s labeled “Find Faces.”

Selecting Find Faces will open a special kind of screen. This space always shows three relatively large square frames, each of which displays an image that iPhoto has identified as comprising one face. The program sometimes goofs; occasionally, a frame will display two faces in close proximity, or a random pattern that may or may not resemble an actual face.

A small black label descends from each frame. Sometimes, the label contains white text that asks “Is this {a previously identified person}?” Next to this question, iPhoto displays a check mark and an X, which the user can select to confirm or reject the identification.

Usually, however, the label will contain one gray word: “unnamed.” In this case, the user can click on the space and begin typing a name — belonging to either a person who has already been identified in the iPhoto database or of a “new” person. iPhoto can access the Contacts program, so some familiar names will pop up for possible selection as they are typed in, even if the person isn’t already in the files of your photograph management program.

If a frame contains a face (or a non-face) that you don’t wish to identify, the user can put the cursor over the frame and then click on the X that will appear in the frame’s top-left corner. This will gray out the picture, which presumably means that iPhoto will stop asking the user to identify the person contained in the image. (If you deactivate the photo by mistake, clicking on the X a second time will once again make it an active, unidentified face.)

Unfortunately, the Find Faces space doesn’t provide the title of the photo that it’s showing, thereby depriving the user of a bit of context that can sometimes be helpful in identifying the person on view.

When you have finished labeling, removing or ignoring the three frames, you can use one of the two bottoms that iPhoto displays in the lower-right corner. The top button is labeled “Show More Faces”; pressing it will show three more frames. the bottom button is labeled “Continue to Faces,” and clicking on that leads to the main Faces environment.

Before we continue, a quick note about Find Faces: In my experience, it presents a relatively small subset of images, even if (as in my case) iPhoto has thousands of unidentified faces. Combined with Find Faces’s failure to provide photo labels, this makes the mechanism less than ideal for IDing people in bulk.

The main Faces environment resembles a bulletin board on which are tacked head shots for every face that has formally been labeled in iPhoto’s database. The so-called head shots are dynamic: If there are multiple pictures of a given individual, moving the cursor over a frame will quickly display the various images of that person.

The main work of Faces is done by clicking on a particular person’s head shot, which opens a space. Each of these is similar to the album or event environment that iPhoto has had for years.

The difference is that when a Face is opened, iPhoto scans your pictures for other possible instances of the person in question. If it finds any, the program puts a notification near the bottom of the window that says, “{A previously identified person} may be in {#} additional photos.” The program will then present a button with the label, “Confirm Additional Faces…”

This presents a gallery of images that may or may not be the person in question. The size of the images can be adjusted, from very small to very large and points in between, by using the magnification slider in iPhoto’s bottom-left corner.


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