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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? Commented Aug 11, 2015 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
    Commented Aug 11, 2015 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
    Commented Aug 11, 2015 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. Commented Aug 11, 2015 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
    Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 17:07

7 Answers 7

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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.

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    +1 for the work that went into providing that mockup. Very aesthetic indeed! :-) Commented Aug 11, 2015 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
    Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 13:24
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    FYI, do not visit facesplat(dot)com. It appears to be a weird spammy virusy page. Commented Aug 11, 2015 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
    Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 18:10
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    @ivy_lynx I'll update the answer with a different image, just in case. Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 21:01
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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
    Commented Aug 12, 2015 at 7:54
  • i liked the titles for each methods!
    – Praasshant
    Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 4:06
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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.

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  • 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
    Commented Aug 11, 2015 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) Commented Aug 11, 2015 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
    Commented Aug 11, 2015 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.
    Commented Aug 11, 2015 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
    Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 14:54
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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...

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    chop them off at the neck
    – Dave Haigh
    Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 16:13
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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

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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

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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" Commented Aug 12, 2015 at 7:02
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    in this particular example you could replace his head with the mickey mouse graphic.
    – Dave Haigh
    Commented Aug 12, 2015 at 7:52

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