Photos of foliage in southern Arizona taken during a trip in November, 2018.
Last month I saw a post titled, "Managing Your Identity on Facebook with Face Recognition Technology" from Facebook. The post goes into some details about how Facebook will recognize people's faces in photos uploaded to their system and notify them.
The notification only happens in the case when the person in the photo (let's call them the subject) is part of the audience for that photo. To illustrate this, let's look at a few scenarios:
- The photographer is a "friend" and uploads with privacy setting set to "Friends". The subject is notified. e.g. Photos from a party.
- The photographer is a "friend" and uploads the photo into a private group that doesn't include the subject. The subject will not be notified. e.g. Photos from an event uploaded to a private group of event organizers and staff.
- The photographer is unknown to the subject. Photo is uploaded to their newsfeed or photography page with privacy setting set to public. The subject will be notified e.g. Photos taken on a public square, or a public park.
- The photographer is unknown to the subject. Photo is taken on a public square, or a public park. It is printed and displayed at a museum. A third party takes a photo of that print and uploads it to their Facebook newsfeed with privacy setting set to public.
There are several other permutations but let's just consider the last two, which are most relevant here. Those are two scenarios of street photographers sharing their work. Street photography is as old as photography itself and has gained widespread adoption in the digital age due to its nature. As an avid street photographer, and a person who works in technology, I was concerned that this would be coming someday. This post talks about Facebook in reference to their blog post, but this is relevant for any social network.
My main concern is regarding the expectation of the subject when they become aware that someone has posted a photo of them. Perhaps they like it and share with friends and move on. For example, I took the photo above in Portland. About a year or so later I came across the woman with the green hair at an event and showed it to her on my phone. She really liked at and if I recall I ended up sending her a copy. That was a great experience all around.
But what happens when the subject dislikes the photo? Perhaps they have the means and let it be known to the photographer, who may then ignore them, or may remove the photo. This could get very tricky in that last scenario. Maybe the subject is offended and decides to take legal action. There are precedents. The most famous one I can recall was of a man in New York that sued the photographer. The court ruled in favor of the photographer since US law has wide leeway for photos taken in public places that have no expectation of privacy. More details in this article.
What’s most interesting is that at Facebook scale there are a lot more chances of such interactions happening. How people feel about it, how it is expressed over time, and how expectations evolve will likely have a significant impact on street photography as an artistic medium.
What do you think?
When the iPhone X was announced, I was quite excited about it for a few reasons: the dual cameras, the OLED screen, and the smaller than Plus form factor. Ever since Apple introduced iPhone models with dual cameras, I've wanted one, but I just didn't want the added bulk of the Plus models that had that capability.
One of the interesting features on the iPhone X's Camera app is the Portrait mode that applies a faux bokeh (fokeh, if you will) on the subject being photographed. This is another one of the new computational photography features, like HDR, in the iPhone line and was introduced as a beta last year on the iPhone 7 Plus.
I decided to compare the fokeh with bokeh produced by my dedicated camera, Leica M with a Summicron-M 35mm f/2 lens. Following are a few examples. You can select each photo to see it in a larger size.
All photos were taken handheld. This is significantly harder on the Leica M because of the manual focus and extremely shallow depth of field. That the iPhone makes this effortless is great.
All Leica M photos were taken with the Summicron lens wide open at f/2. The iPhone's wide lens is f/1.8 but I used the Camera app on auto and let it pick whatever settings it wanted.
I tried to keep the frame the same. In hindsight, I should've used a 50mm lens on the Leica M to keep the focal lengths more comparable. However, I don't think that would alter my observations or conclusions.
In the iPhone photo above left there is an obvious artifact on the lower part of this hummingbird feeder. The left side of the feeder is in sharp focus whereas the right side is blurred.
Sometimes the fokeh works but creates completely unexpected artifacts as seen in the following photo of my glasses on a beer bottle. It appears to be due to the transparency and the background. I've never seen this happen when I'm wearing these glasses, as can be seen farther below.
I shouldn't forget that this feature was primarily designed and marketed towards taking portraits of people, and in that respect it continues to do an admirable job. Here are a couple of photos of my partner, Jenni, in different lighting conditions.
I have occasionally taken a selfie with the Leica M in the past but I usually don't bother because it is unweildy to point at yourself at an arm's length. This combo is just over 2 lbs 2 oz and there is no way to see the frame. The iPhone has this down like nothing else.
So the following are all iPhone X images, in normal mode, and portrait mode, with HDR equivalents. These illustrate how useful it can be to blur out the background when it is not at all interesting. Or if you want that pole sticking out of your head to be less prominent. Also illustrated here is the benefit of HDR combined with portrait mode (with only a minor artifact).
Overall, I would say that Portrait mode does a great job of using technological advancement to render this optical effect quite nicely. Subjectively, I find the bokeh to be more pleasing than the fokeh, but ask me again after a couple more generations of hardware and software enhancements.