Ever had a friends or family ask “Have you got any photos of [insert persons name]” handy?

I get it quite a lot.

I catalogue and edit my images in Adobe Lightroom 3 and have a structure to my archive, each day getting a dated and named folder, e.g. “2010-11-02 Snow!”. Having such folders doesn’t help much when it comes to finding past images of people. Especially since a) my sense of time isn’t linear and b) many images can contain multiple people. I can add keywords for any new images in Lightroom, but what about the tens of thousands of shots from past holidays, parties and images shot by both myself and other members of the family? There simply isn’t enough free time to wade through them all.

Step forward Google Picasa 3.8!

I’d got an update of the application and left it to index my entire archive again. I was looking for a specific set of images that I was certain I’d put on the server but couldn’t find. I don’t miss-file images often, but being human it can happen. The #1 feature I love of the app is it’s lightning fast scrolling of image thumbnails. If you know what you’re looking for it’s easy to spot as it zips past. I came back to it a few hours later to find a large number of square icons with faces neatly cropped inside, each with “Add a name” underneath and a new heading “People”. Huh? I’d not set that up. Then the penny dropped. Face Recognition! It does an amazing job of it too. Put a name to a face and it then finds other images of that person, letting you accept or reject its suggestions. If it’s really not sure you’ll often get a new icon and when you start adding a name it will show people it’s already indexed that look close.

I don’t know what metrics it’s using to work out who’s who but it can cope with all sorts of expressions and does a brilliant job. One such icon was of my daughter. The thumbnail was very low res, my first thought was “Why would I have kept that?”. I double clicked the thumbnail to find a snap of my office desk. That’s not a picture of Sophie I thought.

Then I noticed the small “[Heart] Daddy” photo frame under one of my screens that had one of my favourite images of her in the heart on the left. Magic!

The word is overused but this is Awesome! A definite “Must Have” for the PC Kit Bag.