The weird world of Faces in iPhoto ’09

Government sanctions notwithstanding, I’ve managed to reproduce. Twice, actually. A boy and a girl who are fraternal twins. (And, yes, I feel I must add the "fraternal" qualifier, as we get no end of "are they identical" queries from mall walkers, their logic addled by the wafting tastiness of Wetzel’s Pretzels.) They are a whopping 13 months old. Needless to say, I have taken approximately sixty bajillion photos of the dynamic duo, mainly in a vain attempt to sate their grandmothers, both of whom refuse to move to Texas. Not that I blame them.

I’ve been using a digital camera for many, many years now. At least a couple more years than iPhoto has been available. And once upon a time, I had my own photo cataloging system down fairly nicely. A master folder for an event with two subfolders—one for hi-res originals and one for email copies. Of course, the problem was previewing all these photos back in pre-Quick Look days. So when I eventually bought (or was it borrowed) a new Mac that included the iLife suite, I went ahead and imported everything into iPhoto. And while I’ve never been happy with the amount of hard drive space it sucks up for its multiple versions of each photo cataloging scheme, it has been handy for sorting through my ever-growing oeuvre.

Let me stop here to answer a few questions:

  1. I know there are other cataloging programs out there. Personally, I’d rather use Aperture, but I don’t want to buy it.
  2. I know I could store everything for free online via Flickr or Picasa. While I do post to Picasa, I’d rather keep everything sorted locally.
  3. The rash is clearing up nicely. Thanks for asking.

With the exception of the last couple of OS X updates, I’ve never been one to jump on an upgrade as soon as it comes out. I’m more of a dot-point-one kind of guy. But when iLife ’09 came out and people started raving about the new iPhoto features like Faces and Places, I thought I’d give it shot. Besides, my PayPal account was still swollen with eBay sell-offs, so it was almost like getting it for free. Assuming I don’t need that kidney later.

I’ve had iLife ’09 installed for about three weeks now. Granted, the only program I’ve bothered running is iPhoto, so if you were hoping for a comprehensive review of the entire suite, well, methinks you’ve mistaken this space for Macworld.com. This is a blog. I ramble. You point out where I’m wrong. I ignore you. We move on. And so the circle of the intertubes is complete.

The first thing I did after opening iPhoto ’09 for the first time was—brace yourself, Pépe—wait. And wait. And wait some more. Because iPhoto is not what one would call snappy when it comes to analyzing 7,500+ photos and trying to figure out who is who. (For the record, I’m using a late 2006 MacBook Pro with a 2.16GHz Core 2 Duo, 3GB of RAM, and a 320GB hard drive.) How long did I wait? No idea. Something shiny on Facebook distracted me. Nor do I know if the prevalence of bald heads—both of the baby and grandfather variety—slowed down the analysis.

The fun began in earnest when iPhoto completed its initial pass and handed the reins over to me. I began by choosing a set for my daughter, Charlotte. iPhoto had already culled a couple hundred shots that it was fairly confident featured the undeniably adorable visage of The Bean. Then it had another couple hundred pics under the heading, "Charlotte may also be in the photos below." Hmm. "May" isn’t generally a word I like to see in computer programs. I prefer my silicon-based logic more crystal than fuzzy. But I knew this was coming—I would have to train iPhoto to recognize Charlotte. And every other person whom I wanted it to sort according to their facial features.

And it wouldn’t be hard. Just exceedingly tedious.

For each photo in question—including, for the first go-round, the shots iPhoto was fairly confident about—I had to click on it once to approve it as being Charlotte, or double-click to say, "No, you have mistaken my child for a poster of Winston Churchill." In fact, iPhoto thought Charlotte may have been: her brother (not surprising), one of my brother’s kids (not too surprising), one of my sister-in-law’s kids (a little surprising), and a random child from a photo I don’t recall taking (a bit odd). And it turns out that iPhoto must be a PC program after all, as it refused to use racial profiling in identifying photos of my pasty- porcelain-skinned little girl—it thought she may have been a child of obvious African-American heritage.

I finished this task in about fifteen minutes, after which iPhoto was so kind as to offer me even more photos that may or may not contain Charlotte. Apparently, as long as I continue taking photos of her, I’ll always be in some sort of Mobius strip of approvals. Sweet.

What’s annoying is that Apple didn’t make batch approvals/disapprovals possible. You can’t shift-click on several photos or rows and give them a collective thumbs up. Nor can you take a photo you’re disapproving and assign it to the right face. And tags are apparently meaningless in helping the program find faces. These seem to be quite glaring UI issues to me. And I’m sure they will either be fixed in a dot release or summarily forgotten about by Apple. Flip a coin.

All in all, the facial recognition works fairly well. I’ve since set up Faces galleries for our immediate family and the grandparents. I also have no real idea what I’m going to do with any of this. Maybe if the E! True Hollywood Story needs a bunch of photos of Gideon one day, I’ll be ready to rock.

Now let’s turn to Places. Places sorts your photos according to GPS location data. If you have a newer camera that embeds this data in your files, Places is super easy. If your camera doesn’t have GPS built-in—and my Nikon D80 does not—using Places isn’t that hard. And it’s much less tedious than Faces. You still have to input locations manually, but you can do so in batches.

Once you’ve tagged your shots, iPhoto will display them on a world map—allowing you to either marvel at the extent of your travels or weep that you’ve barely made it beyond Joplin.

In the end, I think both Faces and Places fall more into the candy-coated side of the functionality spectrum. They’re entertaining enough. They can be useful is certain circumstances. Maybe. But they don’t seem to be must-have bits of technology. Must-have technology would’ve been something like automatic teeth whitening. If iPhoto can take the red out of a stoner’s eyes, why can’t it take the yellow out of a smoker’s smile?

Now that would be worth 1/20 of my kidney. But as it stands now, I believe I could’ve held out until iLife ’10 and put off straining my blood through a coffee filter one more year.

Later,

Fox

Comments closed
    • adisor19
    • 11 years ago

    WOW

    I think i burst in laughter at least 7 times while reading this article/blog post !!

    Fox, i am your fan. ๐Ÿ™‚ (some pple here will probably think that’s a BAD thing, but digress)

    Anyways, here’s my biggest complaint regarding iPhoto ’09 that i noticed is lacking from you article :

    No integration with Address Book.

    I mean, was it THAT hard to implement this ? When you start tagging a photo, it should automatically auto complete from the Address Book because chances are, you will take photos of pple you know more then pple you don’t know. This is a glaring omission by Apple and i don’t think it will be implemented until version ’10. :s

    Adi

    • nzunit
    • 11 years ago

    Faces has been a big help for me, as you can link them into facebook and automatically upload tagged photo’s to facebook, that feature has saved me alot of time

    • Rakhmaninov3
    • 11 years ago

    Hilarious article, keep it up!

    • derFunkenstein
    • 11 years ago

    I ended up with a soccer ball it thought was a face. I named it David Beckham.

    It also recognized faces on DVDs (like the spine of each season of Friends). I tagged them as the actual actors, in case I actually meet them or something.

    iPhoto’s recognition has alot of promise, but tons of mis-fires. Very 1.0. But I hope it continues to improve.

    • Moe_Szyslak
    • 11 years ago

    “What’s annoying is that Apple didn’t make batch approvals/disapprovals possible. You can’t shift-click on several photos or rows and give them a collective thumbs up. ”

    Yes you can. Just click on “Confirm Name” and select all the photo’s you want to approve. They will turn green. After having selected the photo’s you simply click on “Done”. There, you’ve just approved a batch of photo’s ๐Ÿ™‚
    Just to be sure I checked it out myself ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • Jason_Fox
      • 11 years ago

      Sorry, should’ve phrased my complaint better. You can’t, say, click on a photo, hold down shift, and click on a photo 10 slots away and have it select all the photos in between. That would be handy. Or just selecting the rejects tacitly approves the non-selected photos as approved. Anything to speed up the process.

        • Moe_Szyslak
        • 11 years ago

        That’s true. But iPhoto has a few other “quirks”. When I added my albums to iPhoto it just threw them in a big pile and basically said “You figure it out”. It didn’t recognise subfolders or anything like that. It’s properly displayed in Finder but somehow iPhoto just doesn’t want to do that. When you click on “Photo’s” it show ALL folders separately /[

          • Rakhmaninov3
          • 11 years ago

          Sounds like it’s missing some very basic things that make dealing with lots of files easy.

    • UberGerbil
    • 11 years ago

    g[

    • UberGerbil
    • 11 years ago

    g[

      • Machupo
      • 11 years ago

      many days I think about walking around malls with a cricket bat dealing with imbecility…

      you figure the one being a boy and one being a girl would give it away…

    • ssidbroadcast
    • 11 years ago

    I’ve never understood the obsession of taking pictures of your own infant children. Luckily for the rest of us Jason works at home, so he won’t be “that guy” that plasters the /[

      • UberGerbil
      • 11 years ago

      It wears off the more kids people have. There will be albums of pictures of the first kid, but by the time they get to #3 or 4 they’ll be lucky if they have a shot from the holidays.

      • zqw
      • 11 years ago

      You take photos of strangers? That’s Art!

        • ssidbroadcast
        • 11 years ago

        ha, I obviously had meant that the pictures plastered across the cubicle would be of /[

      • oldfogey
      • 11 years ago

      I find this display of pop masculinity (after all, what’s more masculine than successful reproduction) much more palatable than penis size comparisons, chest thumping, beer bong competitions, and hollering at passing women.

      So go ahead. baby photo’s galore! It’ll give you something to weep over once they pass 12 and turn into monsters for 8 years.

        • Buzzard44
        • 11 years ago

        I turned 20 a few months ago. Guess I’m not a monster anymore. Hooray!

      • derFunkenstein
      • 11 years ago

      when you have your first kid you’ll “get” it. I didn’t “get” it until mine popped out. And the novelty has largely worn off, but I’m sure to get some every month.

        • Meadows
        • 11 years ago

        Novelty from the same kid, or a new one every month?

          • axeman
          • 11 years ago

          LoL best Meadows post EVAR!

    • eitje
    • 11 years ago

    q[

      • wingless
      • 11 years ago

      Texas is a really great state! Only state in the Union with a surplus at the moment too. We also don’t have state income tax.

        • TurtlePerson2
        • 11 years ago

        I wonder if that has to do with oil. I think Alaska is doing pretty well too.

        • Jason_Fox
        • 11 years ago

        Okay, okay. There are some good things about Texas. It has a very low hippie ratio. No state income tax. Almost everyone is genuinely friendly. I live about 5 miles from the Woot warehouse.

        But I am not a hot weather person.

          • Buzzard44
          • 11 years ago

          “…a very low hippie ratio.” – except in Austin

          Also, Texas has awesome roads. At least they are compared to Louisiana, anyway.

            • titan
            • 11 years ago

            You, my friend, have got to travel a bit more. Texas’ roads are not that great. Minnesota takes better care of their roads. And they have to deal with ice breaking them up. What’s Texas’ excuse? The freeways are alright, but not so much for the city streets.

            The way construction is handled is baffling. I’ve seen new pavement laid down on a street only for a section of it to be torn up less than a week later to do something that should have been fixed before the road was repaired — which the road had been in disrepair for two years — and they laid concrete down instead of pavement. (That made my father shake his head, and if you knew my father, you know that isn’t good.) Another road had been started on one side, then after they tore that side up started on the other, so that everyone had to go off-roading — ricers wouldn’t make it down that street. I have never seen such incompetence in any other state.

            How traffic is handled on the freeways is laughable, too. (At least, in San Antonio.) You’ll pass a “Construction Ahead” sign after you enter into the construction area, and you’ll go from three to two lanes before you see a “Right/Left Lane Closed Ahead”. Thanks for the warning! (And then there are the police officers positioned at key points with their lights on blinding the drivers at night so we’re sure to be safer drivers going through?)

            But the people were nice.

            • Joshvar
            • 11 years ago

            Seconded to the second power. The roads in Austin, Dallas, and Houston at least, are pretty garbage, and construction is handled as detailed. I often wonder if the people/companies performing the work are fed instructions backwards or in a random order, because it sure as hell isn’t in any meaningful, logical manner. My most recent favorite was the maintenance work on I35 the day before Thanksgiving. Yeah, gotta give a big thank you to the person who scheduled that.

            • Joshvar
            • 11 years ago

            I’ll take the hippies, the rest of Texas can have its rednecks ๐Ÿ™‚

          • BiffStroganoffsky
          • 11 years ago

          You forgot the best thing about Texas…most of the Texans are there!

            • Kurkotain
            • 11 years ago

            chuck norris? (RUNS AWAY REAL FAST!)

            • MadMax
            • 11 years ago

            George Bush?

            (Runs away faster)

      • GTVic
      • 11 years ago

      I went to Texas once. The AC in the van was great at cooling my hands, and arms up to the elbows. The temperature was passable at night though…

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This