What could be solution for hiding/ obscuring the face of a person on a photo. The need is to protect privacy, yet still keep the image visually attractive.

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    In order to get good anwers, could you please elaborate what the use case is? About what kind of pictures are we talking? Profile pictures? Random pictures that could contain one's face? Aug 11 '15 at 8:59
  • So you want to censor pictures without blurs, pixelated blocks, black bars or (domain-specific) stickers/stamps (e.g. smileys)? You probably already know that some image effects are reversible, e.g. swirls, and hence unsuitable.
    – Crissov
    Aug 11 '15 at 9:12
  • The least distracting solution is IMO to crop the picture so the face is outside the canvas, but this is of course not always possible without also removing what you do want to show.
    – Philipp
    Aug 11 '15 at 11:07
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    The most confusing thing about your use case is I don't understand if (or why) you want to show the body but not the face. People are pretty identifiable from their body and clothing anyway, if you know them. Aug 11 '15 at 14:32
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    As always, context is everything. The answer to this depends on the specifics of your needs/goals.
    – DA01
    Aug 11 '15 at 17:07

Have a default face to put instead of the 'blurred' person.

That way you could have actual faces, thus leaving the overall visual of the image, whereas a blur or pixelation would make it more obviously edited.

enter image description here
(source: kym-cdn.com)

Note: I'm only half-serious about the solution, but if you do this you should obviously use a more neutral face like these.

It'll be (near-impossibly) tough to pull this off convincingly in an automated setting, though.

  • 4
    +1 for the work that went into providing that mockup. Very aesthetic indeed! :-) Aug 11 '15 at 13:15
  • Not a bad idea from an aesthetic point of view, but you should consider the personality rights of the person whose face you use for replacing other peoples faces. It would put them into situations they might not feel comfortable with. When you want to protect the identity of someone photographed in an embarrassing situation, puting a model from a stock photo in the same situation instead isn't much better.
    – Philipp
    Aug 11 '15 at 13:24
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    FYI, do not visit facesplat(dot)com. It appears to be a weird spammy virusy page. Aug 11 '15 at 13:27
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    @KenMohnkern just in case, here are virustotal's report and netcraft's report - doesn't seem virusy, but definitely looks like a spam trap: virustotal.com/en/url/… - toolbar.netcraft.com/site_report?url=http://www.facesplat.com
    – mechalynx
    Aug 11 '15 at 18:10
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    @ivy_lynx I'll update the answer with a different image, just in case. Aug 11 '15 at 21:01

Well, here are some of the common methods:

enter image description here

Are any of those aesthetic? Well, we are dealing with Trump. So we could argue they are all improvements. But, ultimately, no. None of these types of methods are aesthetic because they are all unnatural. Humans even at a few days old have an ability to 'see' faces quite well. Any editing that would seem the least bit unnatural is going to stick out in a photograph and ultimately be the main point of focus. So it's best to avoid any direct editing of the face if at all possible.

At that point, I think you're left with two options:

  1. Cropping
  2. Blocking the face from view

A (quick and dirty) example of blocking the face from view might be:

enter image description here

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    there's no mistaking that wig though
    – Dave Haigh
    Aug 12 '15 at 7:54
  • i liked the titles for each methods! Aug 13 '15 at 4:06

A Gaussian blur is definitely soft and appealing as a form of censorship. As far as straight up censorship goes, it's the least invasive and least harmful.

For better alternatives to blatant censorship, take a look at some advertising banners. You can often censor people's features by providing an overlapping object/banner. An easy way to do this is stitch two images together using another image of a person (without features), i.e. a rectangle with two sections, cut by a slash in the centre. It's all about crop and positioning.

Another, albeit when done wrong may look grimey, solution is to have a reel of images or text along people's features. Like in movie posters.

You can't please everyone with censorship or it's design.

  • Facebook is currently have blur option for people who are not in your friends of friends list. In other words, strangers can just feel what the pic is about but not clear crisp information.
    – Abektes
    Aug 11 '15 at 10:42
  • I don't think "censorship" is an appropriate term here. You use it a lot like you're trying to make some kind of point, but its meaning doesn't appear to fit the case in question. Perhaps redaction is what you're looking for? (yes, it can be applied to images as well as text) Aug 11 '15 at 13:12
  • It's definitely censorship. There's information that is being hidden for (privacy) reasons being controlled by one governing factor. That's censorship.
    – insidesin
    Aug 11 '15 at 13:27
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    be careful how you blur - blurring spreads the pixel information around but does not necessarily destroy it. i.e. it may be possible to partially or fully recover data from the burred part if all you doing is applying a gaussian
    – jk.
    Aug 11 '15 at 14:43
  • Yes. Like all sensitive information, it can be found out if you happen to secure it incorrectly. The bigger the lock, the more annoying it is for both you and the thief... That said the stronger your blur (lock), the more you lose information here, but so does any potential thief.
    – insidesin
    Aug 11 '15 at 14:54

Chop them off at the neck, like they do on netaporter (would work on a fashion sales site)

Create a mask to put over every face, like in Being John Malkovich (would work on a film review site)

You don't give much context to your question, so it's difficult to give a meaningful answer...

  • 1
    chop them off at the neck
    – Dave Haigh
    Aug 11 '15 at 16:13

The solution chosen by the iOS/Android camera app Aillis (formerly known as Line Camera) is a simple one, but one very dependent on personal taste: They offer censor bars/blockers which are themselves visually attractive (within a particular aesthetic of social media, which includes decorated photos). This is an effective option for photos of the type which Aillis is expected to handle, i.e. personal snapshots. It's the opposite of subtle - in fact, they're a lot more flashy than a solid-colored box. But in the casual context where personal snapshots are shared, it's more in keeping with the tone of the medium than blur/pixelation.

screen capture of the Aillis app's "Photo Hiders" option


I think silhouette would be one of the more aesthetically pleasing effects, provide a nice uniformity and you could set the dark to color to be something that harmonizes with the site colors. The question is is it anonymous enough?

enter image description here enter image description here


Wipe them out Back to the Future style. Content-aware option in Photoshop allows the background to show through... this keeps the image visually attractive.

enter image description here

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    A body without a head waving at me... You have a strange definition of "attractive" Aug 12 '15 at 7:02
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    in this particular example you could replace his head with the mickey mouse graphic.
    – Dave Haigh
    Aug 12 '15 at 7:52

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