Facial Recognition Technology in Professional Photography

The future is here! Are you ready for it? If you can imagine it or you have seen it in a sci-fi movie, there is a good chance someone is actively working on it. Computer vision, computational photography, facial recognition and other forms of artificial intelligence are technologies that have been excitedly discussed for the past decade and have finally come to fruition.

Artificial Intelligence (AI if you want to be hip with the lingo) is entering the world of volume sports photography with a bang. Recently, companies, including H&H, have embraced and demonstrated or released facial recognition and other AI capability software services to improve the quality of our service offering to professional photographers and their customers. “Innovate or die” is the battle cry, but this begs the question. When is technology for the sake of technology a good thing vs a bad thing? Are technologies like facial recognition always good for consumers? Are there any potential side-effects? Let’s explore some of the concerns below.

Is the convenience worth trading off our privacy?

No. We do not believe there is an alien invasion coming and we do not have our windows and walls lined with tinfoil. This is a serious question worth considering.

Yes, facial recognition can save the photographer time and help parents find their images by allowing the studio to skip the step of matching images to data. This happens by asking the consumer to upload an image from their phone of the person they are looking for in the gallery (in theory their child). Then, a well-trained facial recognition algorithm can retrieve all gallery images that match a selected face.

Sounds AMAZING! Right? Until we introduce the villain in this real-life sci-fi movie “the creeper”. You know, that person who is uploading random pics he downloaded from a social media site trying to find someone else’s son or daughter. This is not fear marketing. This is a real-world scenario with cases of cyber stalking all over the United States. It’s at least something worth talking about.

Facial recognition as a filtering tool makes it easy for anyone to find an image. It does not discern if the user should have access to the images it is asked to find.

Would we be better stewards of the privacy of families images by doing the work as professionals and matching the data to images and providing unique, secure access to each family? In light of recent trends, more and more parents are opting out or limiting use of the digital world for their kids.

What about the other service items studios have to deliver?

You realize at this point, this is not a sci-fi movie? This is real life. Does anyone remember the paperless revolution that happened in early 2000? Where we were going paperless. Yeah, that worked out well.

Many times the studio needs to provide service items such as ID cards, admin exports, senior banners or roster books to sports and school organizations. So you still need to actually match an image to the youth data, not just find an  image in a gallery. And we need image and data match for the entire organization, not just the end consumers.

H&H Color Lab has had fast, proven and effective methods to match images to data for over 10 years. So, before you open your door to public facial recognition, educate yourself to all the data match options available. Most importantly, think through the appropriate use of facial recognition and potential privacy issues versus saving you a little time.

What seems too good to be true, may very well be.

Facial recognition is far from perfect. 

Have you read the recent article on embarrassing facial recognition failures from Amazon?  Before you decide to make the move, test any facial recognition system yourself with a variety of subjects including light and dark skin tones and different expressions. After you see the results for yourself as your clients would, then make your final decision on the technology. It might truly shock you.

The unintended consequences of facial recognition. 

While running some tests on H&H’s facial recognition software, we ran into some unintended consequences. When we used this image from a cell phone, the computer found more faces than we expected.

Can you count how many faces are in this image?

How many faces are in this image?

Of course we see 4 people, right?

But, wait, the A.I. finds more faces – in the background! Including this one in the banner on the wall!

Now let’s look at what the technology is able to find in the professional gallery from this cell phone image face found in the banner in the  background

Sometimes the technology does more than we can anticipate, and this example demonstrates that we located more people in a gallery from a banner in the background than the subject we were actually looking for.


Because many of the photos professional photographers take include children, we believe that privacy will continue to become a greater concern for families and studios alike, as technology capabilities grow. In addition, as AI capabilities like facial recognition expand, it is our job as professionals to be wise in our application of all technology.

We believe facial recognition has great potential for use in solving a host of back-end studio image management challenges (more on this coming from H&H in the future). It also may find some use in graduations and other public events.

We should continue to strive for ways to make our clients lives better, while we maintain their privacy.

We all want easy, but at what cost? Just because you can do something, doesn’t always mean you should.

Tell us your thoughts, we would love to hear from you.

Team H&H

H&H Color Lab is not only the market leader in the sports photography business, we are your partner. We’ve been helping independent sports photographers run profitable businesses for 49 years.

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