Finally Facial Recognition

By Mark

Lightroom has really become part of the whole Creative Cloud environment. With the release of LR4CC, Adobe has taken a huge step forward in improving performance as well as adding some great new features. This gives Roger and me a lot of material to cover in upcoming blogs. 

We have written extensively about the importance of keywording. One of the most requested features that LR has been missing is automatic facial recognition. Aperture and Picasa have had it for years. Reportedly, Adobe had been working on it for quite some time. As a first impression, well let’s just say they’ve left themselves plenty of room for improvement.

As part of the facial recognition feature, Adobe has added a new class of keywords called “Persons.” If you highlight a keyword and select “Edit Keyword” for an existing name you will now find a checkbox in the Keyword Properties page. Enabling it identifies the keyword as “Persons.”  

I have always tagged pictures with the names of the people in them. With this new feature turned on it identifies all of the people in the picture, even those I am not interested in tracking.  Luckily, you can select your entire People keyword list and make them all Persons as well.

How do you go about using it?  Well this is one of the few times I recommend going back into your folders because the process for identifying facial regions is very time consuming.  If you want to have it take on your entire catalog, do it before you go to sleep and it might be done in the morning.  I found it far easier to manage, one year at a time.  In the Library View, they have added a new People View.  

With a folder selected, if you click on it; it will open up a new People Pane.   

As you begin, LR will go through your images and identify all of the facial regions it can.  It will try and group them into similar looking individuals.  As you begin either typing in the name or dragging your already created keyword into the name box, LR will then start “learning” and will start recommending names for the unknowns.  A couple of things to note; First it is not always accurate in identifying all of the faces in a picture.  Some things like statues, definitely give it a hard time.  

This is not my talented musician friend Ric Sweeny.   

This however is, and you can see why it would potentially identify TJ as Ric.  

Secondly, you will notice that it missed Sarah entirely.   If it does not detect a face, you can just use the new Facial Region tool and draw a box around where you want it.

So, you can’t assume that it has found all of the people for you.  Thirdly, sometimes it identifies patterns in clothing or buildings as potential people.  You have to click on the box itself to make those regions go away. 

Back in the people pane, you can select multiple images it has correctly identified and then, either just click on the little check box confirming that it is correct or drag the pictures up into the Named People box.   If the person has not been previously identified, you can add a new name and it will create a new Person keyword.  It irritates me that LR does not let you set a default where the new name goes, it just adds it alphabetically.  Since all my people are in a top level hierarchy cleverly called People, I have to go and drag the names into the keyword list.

If you drag an image from the unnamed section and it is actually only part of a picture with multiple people, it will rename all of the people for you.  Definitely something which needs to be fixed. 

If you don’t care about who the person is, just delete the facial region and be on your merry way.   If you have a lot of images in your catalog, recognize that this will take a while to work through. Eventually you will wind up with all of the faces in the Named People pile and you will feel virtuous.  

However, just like in regular keywording, taking small bites will help you eat the entire elephant.   Adobe and of course KelbyOne have posted a lot of videos featuring the new capabilities.  We will be exploring them ourselves in the weeks to come.

What is White Balance?

By Mark

Our eyes and our cameras see the world very differently.  In lots of ways, our eyes have evolved into much better image and motion detectors than our technology can reproduce.  One of the areas that our optical system manages without our even noticing, is the mental adjustment of our images, to how they should look, despite the variations in the lighting.   Our cameras provide us the opportunity to adjust that lighting to match the images we see with our eyes.  That component is called the White Balance.    WB definitely impacts how your images look, but also lets you add some artistic choices to your image.  Just for the record, my sister Donna is NOT an oompa loompa. 

Too much warming or a bad spray tan?

Too much warming or a bad spray tan?

The color of the light changes how we see objects.  In the red glow of the sunrise, things look warmer, in the gathering twilight; things take on a bluish hue.   Light is actually measured by temperature.  Here is an easy graphic showing the color scale.

Fluorescent lights are really greenish, while tungsten lights are quite blue.  “Daylight” is actually fairly balanced light, containing much of the visible spectrum.   In your camera you can choose what kind of light you want the camera to think it is seeing.

You have the opportunity to change those settings after you shoot.  Here is the original nicely balanced daylight image I shot of my sister last week.  

We were in a greenhouse with translucent glass panels which acted like a giant softbox.  I added a little fill flash to give some shadows.   In Lightroom, under the Develop Module>Basic  Panel, the very first thing in your work flow is to evaluate and adjust your White Balance.  

You can drag the Temp Slider left towards the blue which cools the image, or to the right towards the yellow to warm the image.  When you shoot RAW, (as we strongly recommend that everyone should), then you have some precise choices from the pull-down menu.

Starting with our old friend Otto, (Auto, for you purists), which does a decent job of creating an average photo, then onto the standard values established by the gods of photography.  By changing the image to Fluorescent, it will try to correct for the green hue of that ghastly light.  

Fluorescent makes my sister just a little blue.

Fluorescent makes my sister just a little blue.

If you move it to Cloudy, it will warm the skin tones.  

Cloudy warms up the images just a bit.

Cloudy warms up the images just a bit.

Unfortunately, if you only have jpegs, you just have to drag the sliders around until you get the adjustment you need.   

There are lots more ways to adjust and use this seemingly simple first step, that really will make visible differences in your photos.  

Annual Wrap Up

By Mark

It is hard to believe that 2013 is pretty much gone.  With all the racing around for the holidays, Roger and I switched days this week.  He has a family gathering tonight.  I’ve been going over my years’ worth of work.  The Library Filter tools really allow a data geek to go crazy.  I know that I shot 5046 images this year that I kept.  Almost half of them that I shot were in the month of June, while we were on our great Southwestern vacation.  

Images by month.PNG

Not surprisingly, I shot 82% of them with my favorite 70-200 mm f2.8 lens.   

Images by Lens.PNG

If you have been good about filling in your location information in your metadata, you can even tell which states or cities you shot in.   I can tell from this that I need to clean up my naming conventions.  Is it DC or District of Columbia?   

Images by State.PNG

Using the same progressive filtering, you can even tell what type of subjects you shot most by examining your keywords.  Here, I feel like Buffalo Bill because I managed to shoot quite a few of them on the plains.  

Images by Keyword.PNG

As important to me as what I shot, is the question of the quality of the pictures I took.  Of the 5046 pictures I “selected” 507 of them as above average photos.  That is certainly within my target range of 10%.  From that initial breakout, I had 59 pictures that I rated as 3 star or greater.  I only rated 10 images as meeting my own criteria for 4 stars.  Here are my Top Ten images from this year. 

DC Sunrise 

DC Sunrise 

Kale, kale the gang's all here

Kale, kale the gang's all here

Boston Holocaust Memorial

Boston Holocaust Memorial

Warrenton Heritage Day

Warrenton Heritage Day

Liberty Bell

Liberty Bell

Sedona Courtyard

Sedona Courtyard

Taos Pueblo 

Taos Pueblo 

Rancho Taos

Rancho Taos

Moonrise, Monument Valley

Moonrise, Monument Valley

Cadillac Ranch, Texas

Cadillac Ranch, Texas

I would really like to know which one is your favorite.  Next week, actually the first blog in January as we are taking the week off for Christmas, I will tell you which one was my favorite.  

Correcting Perspective in Architectural Photos

This month’s theme at our local camera club has been Architecture.  One of the most common issues in shooting pictures of buildings, especially tall buildings is how they seem to lean back away from the camera, and how the sides of buildings all seem to tilt inwards.  Well, it is a little known fact that buildings tend to be camera shy and don’t like having their photos taken.  Actually, the effect is caused by the difference between how cameras process and how our brains automatically make corrections.   When you tilt your camera backwards to get the entire building in frame, the light is no longer hitting your camera at a parallel angle.  When the camera and computer go to process the image, it thinks that the top part of your picture is farther away, hence it looks like it is tilted away. Luckily for us there are some basic techniques to fix this, both in camera and in post-processing.  In camera, the easiest way to get true vertical buildings is to keep backing up until the lines really are parallel.  Unfortunately, on most city streets this is just not practical.  A second way is to focus in on some architectural detail, which can serve to suggest the entire structure.  Again, that often does not convey the impact of capturing an impressive building.  The last way in camera is to buy an expensive Tilt-shift lens.  These lenses allow you to change the plane of the subject to match the backplane of your camera.  All you need for this is money.

Fortunately, the tools available now in both Lightroom and Photoshop have made the process much easier.  For any of these techniques, the first step is to make sure you have enabled the Lens Correction checkbox as part of your import preset.  Your camera can tell your computer a lot of things that will automatically handle a lot of distortion. We have discussed this before, so I am not going to cover that again right now.  In LR, the next step is to get your horizon level.  In the develop module, select the Crop overlay and either use the handles on the grid or drag the ruler from the Angle window across the line you want to be horizontal.  Now it is time to go back down to the Lens Correction panel and select the Manual tab.  This will give you access to sliders which allow more detailed Distortion, Vertical, and Horizontal control.  In LR 4 and earlier, this part of fixing the picture is up to you.  You have to make adjustments until the lines are vertical enough.  One of the unfortunate side effects of this can be seen here.  The keystoning of the image means that you may have to recrop the photo to remove the gray areas.  Or of course you can use content aware fill over in Photoshop.  In the new LR5 Beta, they have introduced a new choice in the Lens Correction panel.  It is called Upright and is found under the new Basic Tab.  The video shows its power far better than I.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4-V2hLgf7Q

Having your buildings stand up straight and proud is part of what sets snapshots apart from photographs.  People will notice they are better, but won’t always recognize why.