PetaPixel

Playing Around with Average Faces Using Martin Schoeller’s Celebrity Portraits

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Yesterday, PetaPixel shared photographer Richard Prince’s composite portrat created by blending together 57 faces of girlfriends seen on Seinfeld. I also enjoy playing with the idea of image averaging, and can’t get enough of it. Late last year, I started experimenting with the idea of averaging faces by blending portraits.

I needed a set of faces that were all semi-similar enough to create good averages with. Well, if you haven’t seen the work of photographer Martin Schoeller, you are missing out! He has a series of close-ups that are shot with very similar lighting styles and compositions of famous (and not-so-famous) people. It’s simply mesmerizing to see. I grabbed the shots above to try face averaging out with.

In GIMP, to prepare the images, all I did was aligned the images based on the subjects eyes (tried to get them on the same level, and the same distance from the centers).

At that point the fun begins! All I had to do was pick and choose whose faces I thought would be fun to see averaged together. To begin with, here is the image matrix from above, but with averages calculated for each row and column appended to it:

Blends averaged on rows and columns.

Blends averaged on rows and columns.

What I learned from this matrix is that George Clooney and Justin Timberlake make attractive composites (and that Mickey Rourke makes them very scary).

So first I went ahead and just blended all of these faces together to see a total composite average image:

Composite of all of these portraits blended.

Composite of all of these portraits blended.

While that is interesting, the things that made me laugh out loud were the composites of faces I knew pretty well being put together in funny ways. For instance, what about a simple two image blend with Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson)?

Harry Granger or Hermione Potter?

Harry Granger or Hermione Potter?

Another funny two person blend was George Clooney and Christopher Walken…

George Walken or Christoper Clooney?

George Walken or Christoper Clooney?

Well, what about mixing it up even more? How about just the ladies?

Jolie, Watson, and Blanchett...

Jolie, Watson, and Blanchett…

Or what about just the younger actors in the list?

Ledger, Radcliffe, Timberlake, and Watson

Ledger, Radcliffe, Timberlake, and Watson

Or how about the more “distinguished” older gentlemen?

Clooney, Eastwood, Murray, Nicholson, Walken and Rourke.

Clooney, Eastwood, Murray, Nicholson, Walken and Rourke.

And finally my personal favorite so far, all of the “dreamy” men as one composite:

My personal favorite - Clooney, Ledger, Timberlake and (Kelly) Slater

My personal favorite – Clooney, Ledger, Timberlake and (Kelly) Slater

Honestly, after setting up the command and getting the images the same size and aligned, it was super easy just to drag-and-drop the ones I wanted to see mixed up. The variations were way too funny, and I was genuinely surprised at how some of them turned out.


About the author: Pat David is a Director of R&D by day, and an amateur photographer by night (and some weekends). You can find him writing up GIMP tutorials and other errata on his blog, or peruse more of his photography experiments on his Flickr page. This article originally appeared here.