How to manage your digital photos: Ditch iPhoto. Get Picasa.

Innovation, the Internet, gadgets, and more.
Oct. 21 2010 5:28 PM

How To Manage Your Digital Photos

Ditch iPhoto. Get Picasa.

(Continued from Page 1)

But it's not just that Picasa has a better face-detection interface—it also has a better detection engine, meaning that it finds more matching faces than iPhoto, and it does so with unbelievable accuracy. A few weeks ago, in a comment on a column I wrote about Google's self-driving car, a reader named "nerdnam" sang the praises of Picasa's face detection. "I put about 90 years of family photos through it and it could match faces through infancy, childhood, middle age, and old age," the commenter wrote. "It wasn't defeated by costumes, wigs, going bald, or even Halloween makeup. It didn't match every single face, but of the ones it did, I think there was only [one] mistake."

How does Picasa perform so well? Lisa Conquergood, a product manager for Google Photos, says the program's face-detection analysis is similar to the technology behind Google Image search. To identify faces, Picasa measures key distances between prominent facial features, essentially reducing your mug to a number. To find matches, Picasa simply looks for other photos with similar numbers. Conquergood says that engineers are constantly testing the system to identify weak spots in its matching algorithm. Recently, they noticed that Picasa wasn't doing a great job identifying children's faces. The team expanded its pool of test photos to include a lot more pictures of young people, and Picasa's latest version is now a lot better at spotting kids.


Not just kids—babies! Nearly six weeks ago, my wife and I had our first child, and since then we've snapped hundreds and hundreds of the cutest baby pictures the world has ever seen. These photos show that our baby has changed remarkably over the span of his short life—he's gained half of his birth weight, his eyes have widened, his nose has grown, he's picked up a double chin, and he's gotten his first haircut. What's more, the shots reveal an astonishingly wide variety of facial expressions—my baby curls and purses his lips, scrunches his eyes, and strains and tenses his whole body, turning his forehead beet red. (Babies, I've learned, are born with lots of different facial expressions to express discomfort, but exactly zero to register pleasure or even mere contentment; happiness, it turns out, is something you've got to learn.) But even with all these challenges, Picasa is undaunted. However much my son's face changes as he grows, and whatever strange things he does with his eyes, nose, and mouth, Picasa always picks him out.

I will note one pet peeve with Picasa: It lacks Facebook integration. While iPhoto easily lets you upload pictures to the social network (which is by far the world's largest photo-sharing site), you need to download a plug-in to do so from Picasa. But that's a quibble. Looking at Picasa's stream of close-ups of my baby's face has become a good way for me to while away half a weekend—and if you give it a try, the same will happen to you, too.

Become a fan of Slate  and  Farhad Manjoo  on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

Farhad Manjoo is a technology columnist for the New York Times and the author of True Enough.



Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?


Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member
Oct. 20 2014 11:36 PM Forget Oculus Rift This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual-reality experience.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.