Google has released Picasa 3.5, the newest version of their free photo editing software for Mac or PC.
Picasa 3.5 has many new features, but the one that will appeal to genealogists is that the incoporation of face recognition software which can help name the unknown people in old family photos. It also automatically organizes the photos into albums for each person.
Previously, to use Google's face recognition software, your photos had to be uploaded to Google Picasa Web Albums online. Now it can be done on your own computer.
Picasa uses name tags to power the face recognition software. The use of name tags then automatically organizes your photos by the people in them.
When you first launch Picasa 3.5, it will start scanning the photos in your computer's collection to create groups of similar faces using the same face recognition software that the Google Web Albums use. It puts all these groups into the "Unnamed People" album, where you can easily add a name tag to a set of faces by clicking "Add a name" and typing the person's name.
After you add a name tag, all pictures that Picasa has identified as that person are automatically added to a new album of their name. As Picasa scans more faces, it will suggest pictures that it thinks match faces already in your people albums. These suggestions are shown with an orange question mark next to the person's album. All Google suggestions can be confirmed or not. The face recognition is a tool, but it doesn't take the place of personal judgment.
With photos that contain multiple people, Picasa takes a thumbnail of each person to be tagged. For someone with old family photos, this is a very helpful way to find and organize all the photos.
It really didn't take me that long to name tag all the photos on my computer since Google grabs so many photos of the same person at one time. This allowed me to type the name once for a large batch of photos.
Once you have added name tags to your photos, you can do creative things with your photos in the new people albums. All the photos of one person, even if they appear in a group photo, appear in a album for that person. But you could also find all of the photos with the same two people in them. You can create customizable face collages and make time-lapse movies.
Since name tags now work on both Picasa and Picasa Web Albums, you can share name tags between the two. If you've added name tags in Picasa Web Albums, go to Tools > Download Name Tags from Picasa Web Albums in Picasa to import all the names you've added online. I found this saved me a lot of time.
It works the other way as well: if you're using name tags in Picasa Web Albums, any name tags you add in Picasa are automatically uploaded to Picasa Web Albums when you upload tagged photos, but you can keep all name tag info on your computer if you choose.
How Google Picasa Software Can Help Genealogists