A growing number of digital cameras now include a Face Recognition mode. The camera detects faces in a scene and then automatically focuses (AF) and optimizes exposure (AE) and, if needed, flash output.
The technology can be effective when taking pictures of large groups, when a person is in the distance or when the subject moves into the frame. Even if a person moves, the camera will stay focused on it and adjust exposure. It is also effective when photographing people in bright light when the LCD is difficult to see.
Some digital cameras also have a tracking function that allows the user manually give priority to a single face. This comes in handy when taking photos in a crowd, at school plays and similar function.
Face the digital camera
A person’s face must be facing towards the camera for Face Recognition AF/AE to work most effectively. Like so many digital camera features, it also works best when taking photos in good light.
Face Recognition, also known as Face Priority, is typically activated when switching a camera to portrait mode or a dedicated face-detecting shooting mode. It is also the default for cameras that have intelligent auto modes, which automatically detect the scene you’re photographing (eg. landscape, person, close-up shot).
Since the technology is hardware based, it is generally faster than manually composing and locking focus and exposure on a face.
A word of caution about using face detection
It’s important to note that Face Detection (FD) may be associated with a multi-point autofocus mode, where the camera, not you, determines where to focus. When a face is not detected in a scene, some cameras will revert to this mode. Other cameras switch to a center focus point.
Many photographers find multi-point autofocus mode to be inconsistent They use Single Area focus instead to have precise control of where the camera locks focus. Except if using an intelligent auto mode, they only switch to FD mode when photographing people.
Soul Mate photo by Chad Forbes - Creative Commons Copyright 2006. (Face detection box is simulated by Digicamhelp).