Whose face is that? – Picasa 3


I have recently upgraded my Picasa to version 3 and let it start running through my photos looking for faces so I could tag them. Picasa is photoorganising, editing and sharing software from the Google people. It’s free.

The scan started two days ago, and it’s now 32% of the way there. Yes, I have a lot of photos. I have restricted to photos in the My Pictures folder for the present, which it says contains about 14,000 photos.

Despite the slowness of it, and the fact that it uses up to half my CPU continuously, I will let it finish. I really like it. I am amazed at how it recognises faces, and find it much more useful than I expected to.

It works like this. It goes through all my folders of photos that you see on the left, looking for faces.

Picasa faces

When it finds one it draws a box around it and asks you who it is. If it thinks it knows it makes a suggestion for you to confirm. Simple!

Picasa bunnies

Out of all the lions in this photo it picked out my niece, Madeleine [sorry Mad]. If I want to ignore the others in the photo I can click on the X.

Eventually, it has a list of people and shows you the thumbnails of the person from each photo in which he/she appears. If it has made a guess then it asks you to confirm. Here you can see some suggestions it has made about photos of me:

Picasa confirm my face

They are all me! I can click on the green tick for each one, or remove the ones that aren’t me and then click on ‘confirm all’.

Where it gets tedious is when it doesn’t recognise what it sees as a face, because it’s tilted at an angle or half in the shade. You can manually draw a box around the face and name it just the same. It also has trouble with fuzzy old black and white photos, although not as much trouble as I feared.

Where it gets interesting is not where the suggestions it makes are correct, but are nearly correct. It chooses siblings or direct ancestors such as parents or grandparents.

Actually, I don’t know whether it’s just going for the law of averages. When it identifies a photo of my grandmother as being me it is very interesting try to work out why. Sometimes it’s a face at a similar angle and lighting to another photo, but sometimes it must be facial similarities.

Try it out for yourself! I’ll let you know when it is finished. It seems to be speeding up, but it will still be some days away.


  1. This looks like the facial recognition tool in Photoshop elements that I ditched in favour of Picasa.

    I am following your progress with interest. Having 67,000 digital photos tagged in Picasa I don’t know if I should give this a go. I’m wary of crashing.

    As my photos are in folders arranged chronogically by date I might try this out on a folder today.

    I wonder if Picasa will confuse me with my paternal grandmother – I think the resemblance is strong.

    Do keep us updated on your progress.

  2. In my experience Picasa is meant for digital photography on a fairly casual and tied-to-other-Google-products basis.. Anything else is asking for trouble.

    I no longer use it since I’ve had the experience of it corrupting the embedded (IPTC) information in other software specifically built for IPTC. Also, last I saw, it does not do anything even remotely functional annotation-wise, particularly on the tif format which is used for archival purposes.

    There are other issues involved here of metadata corruption that is not on the tip of my mind presently. I’d have to look it up again, but suffice to say …

    Also, have you considered your backup options for this face-tagging? I have people coming to my site daily looking for a cure.

    The face-tagging is ‘cute’ but is it worth the other costs? I think not. A more mature option, worthy of our genealogical efforts, is GeoSetter, also free.

  3. Carole Riley says

    Thanks for the recommendation, I’ll check it out.


  1. […] have posted previously about letting Picasa 3 scan for faces so I can identify them. I had hoped to publish the results at […]