Use Smart Albums to help set iPhoto ’09 Faces and Places

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After upgrading to iPhoto ’09 a few weeks back, I’ve been slowly but surely working my way through my huge library, trying to name faces and places to take advantage of iPhoto ’09’s Faces and Places features. At first, I was working my way through my events, one event at a time. However, I found this time consuming and a bit confusing, as I’d sometimes mark one person in a photo, but not others. I also tried using the Faces entry in the Library to quickly confirm or reject more photos for an already-identified face. This worked pretty well, but I wanted some way of knowing when I’d finished my entire library—if iPhoto doesn’t think there’s a face in the photo, then it won’t show in the Faces library.

To measure my progress in tagging faces and places, I decided to use Smart Albums. For places, this is actually pretty simple, because a given photo (or group of photos) can only be associated with one location. To find all photos for which you need to set a location, create a new Smart Album (File -> New Smart Album), name it appropriately (Needs a Place), and set the conditions to Photo : Is Not : Tagged with GPS, then click OK.

The resulting Smart Album will contain every photo you’ve taken that doesn’t have a location set—regardless of whether that location was set via a GPS chip in the camera, or by you manually setting its location in iPhoto ’09. This works great, and has eased the herculean task ahead of me (though I still have well over 15,000 photos to locate!).

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You can create a similar Smart Album for photos with no face entries, but there are a couple of additional steps needed to make it work better. As a first step, create a new Smart Album with two conditions (name it something like Needs a Face - Master), and with the Match pop-up menu set to All. The first condition should be Name : Does Not Contain, and then leave the text box empty—this basically finds all photos that don’t have any identified faces.

However, it also identifies photos that have no faces at all (i.e landscape shots). To make it easy to remove these non-face images from your smart album, set the second condition to Keyword : Does Not Contain : nofaces. The nofaces keyword can be whatever you’d like it to be. Whatever you use, after you create the Smart Album, open the Keywords window (Command-K), click the Edit Keywords button, and add that keyword (and optionally, a key assignment) to your keyword list.

Your new Smart Album contains every image in your collection, excluding those in which you’ve already named a face. To narrow down the selection, use drag-select, Shift- and Command-clicks to select batches of images that don’t show a visible face, then press whatever shortcut you assigned to the nofaces keyword. I found it relatively painless to work through my entire photo collection, removing large batches of images that don’t need to be tagged with names. As you tag each batch of images, they’ll vanish from the Smart Album, thanks to the conditions you set when creating the album.

Once you’ve removed all the images that don’t need face identification, you might think you’re ready to go…but not quite. If you use this Smart Album and start identifying faces, you’ll notice that there’s a problem. If a photo has more than one face, as soon as you identify even one face in that image, the picture will disappear from the Smart Album. That’s because the Name field for that photo is no longer blank, so it no longer matches your criteria.

To work around this problem, simply convert the Smart Album into a regular album. Select File -> New Album, then select all the images in the Smart Album, and drag them into the newly-created normal album. Name this album appropriately (Needs a Face), and you’re ready to go. The downside of this method, of course, is that you won’t see your album size shrinking as you name faces. However, your Smart List will continue to update as you identify faces—so once it’s down to zero, you know you’re done naming faces. (More correctly, you know you’ve named at least one face in every image that contains a face.)

Even with these helpers, though, it’s going to take me a long time to work through the faces and names that need to be added to my photo collection.

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