My First Failed Attempt At Exploring Lightroom’s Facial Recognition
June 2, 2015
2 comment

If you follow me on Twitter (which you totally should), you already know that I was…underwhelmed…by the new features released in Lightroom 6. I was already happy with my Photomatix workflow for HDR, and the features and control available with Photomatix dwarf what is included with the HDR-merge feature of Lightroom. Then there is facial recognition…something I dabbled with in iPhoto and Aperture but that I never felt an overwhelming need to incorporate in to my workflow.

My therapist says that I need to learn to let things go, however, and that I should give people the benefit of the doubt. So I meditated, found my inner calm, and decided to give facial recognition a try.

I knew almost immediately that I had made a terrible mistake.

lightroom facial recognition performance poor sad

Simple actions, like adding a name to a face, would take Lightroom almost 10 seconds to complete. My computer was slowly grinding to a halt. I checked Activity Monitor and Lightroom was clocking in at 269%.

Lightroom Facial Recognition Performance

Lightroom Fanatic > Lightroom Facial Recognition Performance

I closed all my other applications and even reboot my computer, and that didn’t really help. My computer is probably average or above average compared to other photographers and Lightroom users, and my catalog of 30,000 isn’t out of the ordinary.

I saw that DropBox wasn’t synchronizing, and discovered that my preview file was at more than 5 GB. I thought maybe that had something to do with it, so I deleted my preview file, but that only made things worse because now Lightroom had to re-render all the preview files for all the images that it was trying to show me faces for in the Faces module. I think my Mac became sentient and developed emotions because I’m pretty sure I heard it crying and begging for mercy as it tried to handle the workload.

Maybe it’s my fault. Maybe my expectations were too high. I expected to be able to turn on the feature, have Lightroom scan my catalog and find faces, then start matching and learning who is who as I trained it. From what I can tell, it does a passable job at finding similar faces. The problem is that I can’t tell Lightroom that it is doing a good job for more than a few pictures every minute. At that rate, I might be done by Lightroom 7. Or 8. Maybe.

Here are a few assumptions. First, Lightroom needs the preview files rendered for my images because they are what is being shown in the Faces screen. Second, rendering preview files and trying to find faces at the same time is a bad idea. Both appear to be resource intensive. Third, trying to do facial recognition on my full catalog was a bad idea. I should have been more practical and selected a smaller subset.

All that said, I’m committed so see this through the end. Or maybe if I try to see it through to the end, I’ll get committed. I’m not sure. Maybe that’s what my therapist had in mind. Maybe I need a new therapist. For now, I’ll assume the former and dedicate the next few posts to things I discover using the new facial recognition feature. I think I’ve already found some neat stuff that I’ll share, but I would love to hear your feedback on the new feature, as well. Please leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter.


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There are 2 comments

  • David says:

    I found that doing the recognition in smaller chucks works best. My catalog is about 26,000 photos and I did a year at a time. The bigger years were definitely slower, but not beyond my tolerance.

    After I was all done I did check the whole catalog just to make sure I didn’t miss anything and fixing those last 6 images that I missed took FOREVER!

    • dave says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience, David. I’m still struggling to get through it, but I’m really trying to give it a fair chance.