Batch Process Face Detection in 3 Steps with OpenCV

What will you learn?

You want to extract or identify faces on a bunch of images, but how do you do that without becoming a Machine Learning expert?

Here you will learn how to do it without any Machine Learning skills.

Many Machine Learning things are done so often you can just use pre-built Machine Learning models. Here you will learn the task of finding faces and extract locations of them.

Step 1: Pre-built OpenCV models to detect faces

When you think of detecting faces on images, you might get scared. I’ve been there, but there is nothing to be scared of, because some awesome people already did all the hard work for you.

They built a model, which can detect faces on images.

All you need to do, is, to feed it with images and let it do all the work.

This boils down to the following.

  1. We need to know what model to use.
  2. How to feed it with images.
  3. How to use the results it brings and convert it to something useful.

This is what the rest of this tutorial will teach you.

We will use OpenCV and their pre-built detection model haarcascade.

First you should download and install the requirements.

This can be done either by cloning this repository.

Or download the files as a zip-file and unpack them.

You should install opencv-python library. This can be done as follows.

pip install opencv-python

You can also use the requirements.txt file to install it.

pip install -r requirements.txt

Step 2: Detect a face

We will use this image to start with.

The picture is part of the repository from step 1.

Now let’s explore the code in

# importing opencv
import cv2

# using cv2.CascadeClassifier
# See
# See more Cascade Classifiers
face_cascade = cv2.CascadeClassifier("haarcascade_frontalface_default.xml")

img = cv2.imread("sample_images/sample-00.jpg")

# changing the image to gray scale for better face detection
gray = cv2.cvtColor(img, cv2.COLOR_BGR2GRAY)

faces = face_cascade.detectMultiScale(
    scaleFactor=2,  # Big reduction
    minNeighbors=5  # 4-6 range

# drawing a rectangle to the image.
# for loop is used to access all the coordinates of the rectangle.
for x, y, w, h in faces:
    cv2.rectangle(img, (x, y), (x+w, y+h), (0, 255, 0), 5)

# showing the detected face followed by the waitKey method.
cv2.imshow("image", img)

First notice, that the opencv-python package is imported by import cv2.

Then also, notice we need to run this code in from where the file haarcascade_frontalface_default.xml is located.

After that you will read the image into the variable img. Notice, that this assumes you run the file like they are structure in the GitHub (downloaded in step 1).

When you work with images, you often do not need the level of details given in it. Therefore, the first thing we doit to gray scale the image.

After we have gray scaled the image we use the face detection model (face_cascade.detectMultiScale).

This will give the result faces, which is an iterable.

We want to insert rectangles of the images in the original image (not the gray scaled).

Finally, we show the image and wait until someone hist a key.

Step 3: Batch process face detection

To batch process face detection, a great idea is to build a class to do the face detections. It could be designed in many ways. But the idea is to decouple the filename processing from the actual face detection.

One way to do it could be as follows.

import os
import cv2

class FaceDetector:
    def __init__(self, scale_factor=2, min_neighbors=5):
        self.face_cascade = cv2.CascadeClassifier("haarcascade_frontalface_default.xml")
        self.scale_factor = scale_factor
        self.min_neighbors = min_neighbors
        self.img = None

    def read_image(self, filename):
        self.img = cv2.imread(filename)

    def detect_faces(self):
        gray = cv2.cvtColor(self.img, cv2.COLOR_BGR2GRAY)

        faces = self.face_cascade.detectMultiScale(

        # drawing a rectangle to the image.
        # for loop is used to access all the coordinates of the rectangle.
        for x, y, w, h in faces:
            cv2.rectangle(self.img, (x, y), (x + w, y + h), (0, 255, 0), 5)

        return self.img

face_detector = FaceDetector()

for filename in os.listdir('sample_images/'):
    img = face_detector.detect_faces()

    cv2.imshow("image", img)

If you want to write the files to storage with face detections, you should exchange the the line cv2.imshow with the following.

    cv2.imwrite(filename, img)

Want to learn more Machine Learning?

You will surprised how easy Machine Learning has become. There are many great and easy to use libraries. All you need to learn is how to train them and use them to predict.

If you want to learn more?

Then I created this 10 hours free Machine Learning course, which will cover all you need.

  • 15 video lessons – which explain Machine Learning concepts, demonstrate models on real data, introduce projects and show a solution (YouTube playlist).
  • 30 JuPyter Notebooks – with the full code and explanation from the lectures and projects (GitHub).
  • 15 projects – with step guides to help you structure your solutions and solution explained in the end of video lessons (GitHub).

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