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Cornell University Library

See How Yearbook Photos Have Evolved Over the Past Century

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Cornell University Library

High school picture day is a tradition that dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. And while the basic formula of a front-facing pose against a neutral background hasn’t changed much in the past 100 years or so, facial expressions certainly have. For a better look at the similarities and differences between yearbook photos through the decades, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley recently compiled data on tens of thousands of images from the past 110 years [PDF].

The team's research marks one the first times machine-learning algorithms have been used to mine historic data from a collection of photographs. The high school yearbook photos were gathered from the digital databases of local libraries across the U.S. After downloading 150,000 pictures, the team eliminated all the photographs that weren’t front-facing portraits, leaving them with 37,000 samples from over 800 yearbooks from 26 states.

Next, they generated an “average” image for the men and women of each decade. By superimposing the groups of portraits together, they were able to then identify any trends exhibited in the composite images. One of the more interesting changes these pictures showed was the evolution of the subjects’ smiles.

When photography was still gaining popularity at the turn of the 20th century, it was normal for people to adopt a neutral expression for their portraits. According to the authors of the study, the earlier expressions might were partly a product of the beauty standards of the time: "Etiquette and beauty standards dictated that the mouth be kept small—resulting in an instruction to 'say prunes' (rather than cheese) when a photograph was being taken." (Not, it should be noted, due to long exposure times. By the late 19th century, innovations in photography had cut exposure time down to mere seconds.) 

As the 20th century wore on, the classic posed smile we adopt today began to emerge. An algorithm measuring the yearbook photos' shifting degrees of lip curvature supports this, and the trend can also be clearly observed in the composite images. Notably, this was around the same time that Kodak began releasing advertisements of happy people "smiling for the camera." The authors of the paper suggest this had a significant impact on how people chose to pose for their pictures.

The process also revealed data-backed proof of shifting trends in other areas, such as average hairstyles for each decade. While women of the '30s rocked finger waves, pin curls dominated the '40s and '50s, Afros took over in the '70s, and perms and bangs had their moment in the '80s and '90s. The data the team gathered on the progress of male fashion was slightly less interesting: men have been wearing standard suits in their high school yearbook pictures for over a century. 

Images Courtesy of the Cornell University Library.

[h/t: MIT Technology Review]

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Check Out These Images of Last Night's Spectacular Harvest Moon
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Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Each year, a special moon comes calling around the autumnal equinox: the Harvest Moon. The Harvest Moon—the full moon that falls nearest to the equinox—rises near sunset for several days in a row, making early evenings extra-bright for a few days when farmers traditionally reveled in the extra-long twilight while harvesting their crops at the end of the summer season. And because the moon looks larger and more orange when it's near the horizon, it's particularly spectacular as it rises.

The Harvest Moon
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October 5 marked 2017’s Harvest Moon, and you may have noticed an extra spectacular sky if you were looking up last night. It's rare for the Harvest Moon to come so late in the year: The last time it came in October was in 2009. (Last year's fell on September 16, 2016.) Here are a few luminous lunar pictures from the event, some of which make the moon look totally unreal:

And if you missed seeing the event yourself, don't worry too much: the moon will still look full for several days.

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Adobe
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With Help From Photoshop and AI, No One Will Know You Blinked in That Photo
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Adobe

After 15 minutes of posing for group photo after group photo, it looks like you’ve finally snapped the perfect one. Grandma is smiling, your nephew is sitting still, and even the dog is looking at the camera for once. Then, you find yourself in the corner: The shutter managed to capture the exact moment you blinked. Time to resume the positions.

With a new tool from Adobe, this scenario could become less common. Instead of retaking a picture every time someone closes their eyes, this feature would let you salvage the “ruined” photograph with a few clicks in Photoshop, Gizmodo reports.

The latest update of Photoshop Elements allows users to select the “Open Closed Eyes” option, choose which face in the photo they want to correct, and provide several additional photos of the subject with their eyes open. The software uses artificial intelligence to analyze each picture and determine which pair of peepers best matches the colors and lighting from the primary photograph. It then automatically pastes those eyes over the lids and blends them to make the addition look seamless.

Photoshop Elements (a simplified version of Adobe’s original image editor) offers many features that use AI algorithms to improve picture quality. Elements can automatically generate backgrounds when you move objects in a photo, suggest the best effects, and turn frowns into smiles. It even remembers the look you prefer and suggests personalized tone corrections. All of those capabilities and the new “Open Closed Eyes” tool are available today to customers who purchase Photoshop Elements 2018 for $100 (or upgrade their existing license for $80).

[h/t Gizmodo]

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