Picasa 3.5 face recognition is a blast – and addictive

I’ve been a Picasa addict ever since I first used the program a few years ago. Most people who have downloaded and tried the free software will agree: its simple, intuitive interface combined with amazing one-click photo enhancement features makes this a must-have app for any photographer.

Even die-hard Mac fans who use Apple’s iPhoto application, grudgingly admit that Picasa’s feature set is hard to beat, and many of them have become converts since Google recently released Picasa for Mac.

Whether you’ve never used it, or you use it daily, you are going to want to check out the latest release of Picasa: Version 3.5.

It was released about a month ago and it contains a number of improvements over previous releases, but the feature that has my family most excited is the new face recognition function.

On our PC I have well over 5,000 photos, most of which are of family – especially our two kids. If you’re a parent, I’m sure you have just as many if not more.

Not only am I the family photographer, I’m also chief archivist and librarian. Which basically means whenever we need a photo printed or sent to someone, I’m the go-to guy. It also means that whenever my wife goes looking for a photo and can’t find it, I get the blame for my poor cataloging skills.

“Why haven’t you labeled any of these?” is something I get asked a lot.

Now, instead of meekly admitting to my shortcomings in the filing department, I simply point to the laptop and say – “Look! Everyone’s there!”

Now I’ve read a review of the new face recognition feature that was less than glowing. In fact the author didn’t seem very impressed at all. But My experience has been the opposite.

Here’s an example:

picasa-babyHere’s a photo of my daughter at 2 months old. Adorable isn’t she? But there are a lot of adorable babies out there and let’s face it parents, they tend to look alike after a while. So I was amazed when Picasa recognized that this was the same person as…




picasa-girlYes, my daughter again, this time over 4 years later. If you had shown me these two images side by side and had they not been of my own child, I would not have been able to say they were of the same person. Could you?


As Picasa gets more and more confirmation from you that its guesses are correct, the better those guesses become. I’ve become a little addicted to the feature that lets you see all of the program’s unconfirmed guesses to see what it’s been able to find since the last time.

As you may have guessed, it ain’t perfect. There are a few drawbacks, namely: you get a LOT of faces that Picasa wants you to label. Faces in the background in crowd scenes, faces on posters, even faces of statues or stuffed animals. You can of course safely ignore these, but they clutter up the process of labeling the people you care about.

Also, sometimes Picasa simply doesn’t recognize the presence of a face in a photo. Here’s what I mean:

picasa-familyIn this photo, only the kids were recognized as faces. The adults didn’t register at all even though these same people were recognized and labeled correctly in dozens of other photos. You can add any missed faces manually, but it’s odd that you would need to.

Despite these quirks and few other minor annoyances, facial recognition is a worthy addition to Google’s already class-leading set of photo management tools, and I think once you try it, you won’t want to go without it. I for one, am very happy to have it around.


One comment

  1. Molly

    Hi Simon,
    Do you know if Picasa has a partner so I can build a Photo Book without having to download and upload the photos? I just want it to see my Picasa albums and build, thoughts? Thanks!