The debate about whether or not photographers should blur people’s faces when capturing protest photos rages on, but one developer has already created an iOS Shortcut that will automatically do the work for you.
In recent days, photojournalists of all stripes have weighed in on a debate sparked by this Poynter article, asking whether or not photographers should be blurring their subjects’ faces when capturing photos during the recent Black Lives Matter protests going on nation-wide. Some argue that it’s the right thing to do, others, like veteran photojournalist Yunghi Kim, believe that doing so would be unethical.
But while professional photographers figure it out, regular iPhone users who want to capture the protests are being handed a solution that will blur faces and remove metadata automatically.
The tool was created by developer Noah Conk, and it comes in the form of an iOS Shortcut:
I created an iOS shortcut for those who are out there protesting. This shortcut will blur faces and make a copy of the photo—which will have zero metadata
Feel free to donate: money is for server & software costs
— I Noah guy who’s staying in (@NoahConk) June 3, 2020
For iPhone users, Noah’s tool promises to be a simple solution. All users have to do is “Allow Untrusted Shortcuts” under Settings > Shortcuts (Note: you need to run a basic shortcut first before this option is even available), and follow the link in the Tweet above. Then scroll all the way down and tap “Add Untrusted Shortcut,” to install.
Once installed and given all appropriate permissions, the shortcut can be used to create a second copy of any photo you take in which all faces are blurred out and all metadata—such as GPS location, camera model, or copyright info—is stripped from the file. You can do this three different ways: by selecting a photo through the Shortcuts app itself, by using the Shortcuts widget panel in iOS, or within the Share menu in the Photos app.
Here’s an example photo we created moments ago by clicking Blur Faces in the Shortcuts app, and selecting a this public domain protest photo:
As you can see, even masked faces were recognized and blurred out.
The Shortcut is available to download for free, although Noah does include a link to his CashApp username. As of this writing, the shortcut has become so popular that all server and software costs have been covered, so all further donations will be going to People’s Breakfast Oakland.
Whether or not you want to use an app like this is still up for debate among professional photographers, but it’s definitely an option for those who are using their iPhone as a backup or want to strip info and blur faces automatically before uploading photos to social media. Meanwhile, regular protest-goers who fear their images could inadvertently incriminate others have very little reason not to use it.
Image credits: Header photo by Alice Donovan Rouse, CC0