How to Make a Facial Reference Catalog - Step 3


So, you’ve taken pictures of all your friends, scanned everything in all the photo albums you have, done some horse-trading with other forensic artists, and still you need more photos. Here’s the good news: you can get more online…Here’s the bad news: You may not be able to use them.

One reason might be low resolution. Just because something looks good on your computer screen doesn’t mean it’s going to print well, especially if you enlarge it even more.

mugshot low res.jpg

This is because you are viewing images at the screen resolution of 72 ppi (pixels per inch). When you try to download what looks like a 1x2 photo on screen, enlarge it by 50%, then try to print it at 150 or 300 dpi, it’s going to look horrible. Something like the above.

The other reason is copyright protection, and privacy laws. Many people think mugshots are fair game, because they believe that they are public domain.  Some of them may be. Or, they may not.

It’s your responsibility to make sure that any photo you use, you are allowed to use. When in doubt, contact an attorney. The last thing you want is to get in trouble, or sued. Just like several major companies are being sued by Patrick Tribett, who found himself on T-shirts and coffee mugs after this  unfortunate mug shot was posted online. 

tribett mugshot.jpg

Now that you’ve got some images, the time has come to sort them into categories. You can either use Adobe Bridge for this, or use the thumbnail view. I like Bridge better because I can change the size of the images much larger if I want to get a closer look at something.



Above, I have Bridge open on the left, and another window open with my folders on the right. If you’re sorting things like jewelry, hats, or glasses, it’s a no-brainer to know which category to put them in. But if you’re sorting facial features, it’s different; you have some decisions to make. My thought is just to go on your gut reaction when you look at a photo: what’s the first thing you notice about that person’s face? If the first that you notice is really wide-set eyes, just grab that photo and drag it over into that category. A really high forehead? Drag it over to that folder.

Nothing really remarkable going on? Don’t sit and study it trying to find something, just put it into the “average” folder. Later on, you can break down the “average” category into average eyes, average mouth, etc. But for right now, average is average, and more likely than not you’ll have more photos that fall into that category than you could hope for.

When you get 16 images in a folder (or 9, if that’s all you want in each category) then step back and look at them in context and see if there’s anything that doesn’t belong. You can just open that particular folder in Bridge, size them for four images across and 4 down to give you an idea of how they all took together as a group. You can also click and drag them to rearrange them any way you want.

This is the part that will take you the longest: not the actual mechanics of putting this book together, but the thought process that goes along with it. Depending on your personality, you can spend waaaaaay too much time on this. I would suggest to not over-think it. If you see an image and immediately think “look at the size of that nose” then that’s your answer.

Some time later, you will have decided on all the photos you want, and have them sorted. At any point in this process, you may want to print them out on a page as mock-ups so you can see how all the pages look together as a whole. From Bridge, go to “Tools>>Photoshop>>Contact Sheet II”, set the images for 4 x4, and hit OK. You can also do this through the “File>>Automate>>Contact Sheet II” function in Photoshop.



And then you will end up with this:


Most likely you have photos of all different shapes and sizes, and depending on where you got them, all different resolutions too. We’re going to crop these photos so they are all the same aspect ratio in the next lesson. For now, you want to make sure that you like the actual images that are there. If not, keep re-arranging. Now on to the last step.