Facial expression recognition with convolutional neural networks via a new face cropping and rotation strategy

  • Kuan Li
  • Yi JinEmail author
  • Muhammad Waqar Akram
  • Ruize Han
  • Jiongwei Chen
Original Article


With the recent development and application of human–computer interaction systems, facial expression recognition (FER) has become a popular research area. The recognition of facial expression is a difficult problem for existing machine learning and deep learning models because that the images can vary in brightness, background, pose, etc. Deep learning methods also require the support of big data. It does not perform well when the database is small. Feature extraction is very important for FER, even a simple algorithm can be very effective if the extracted features are sufficient to be separable. However, deep learning methods automatically extract features so that some useless features can interfere with useful features. For these reasons, FER is still a challenging problem in computer vision. In this paper, with the aim of coping with few data and extracting only useful features from image, we propose new face cropping and rotation strategies and simplification of the convolutional neural network (CNN) to make data more abundant and only useful facial features can be extracted. Experiments to evaluate the proposed method were performed on the CK+ and JAFFE databases. High average recognition accuracies of 97.38% and 97.18% were obtained for 7-class experiments on the CK+ and JAFFE databases, respectively. A study of the impact of each proposed data processing method and CNN simplification is also presented. The proposed method is competitive with existing methods in terms of training time, testing time, and recognition accuracy.


Face cropping Facial expression recognition Convolutional neural network Computer vision 



This research was sponsored by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 51605464), National Basic Research Program of China (973 Program) (2014CB049500) and Research on the Major Scientific Instrument of National Natural Science Foundation of China (61727809).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. 1.
    Dalal, N., Triggs, B.: Histograms of oriented gradients for human detection. In: IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition, pp 886–893. (2005)
  2. 2.
    De la Torre, F., Chu, W.S., Xiong, X., Vicente, F., Ding, X., Cohn, J.F.: Intraface. In: IEEE International Conference on Automatic Face and Gesture Recognition, pp 1–8. (2015)
  3. 3.
    Ekman, P., Friesen, W.V.: Facial action coding system: a technique for the measurement of facial movement. In: Consulting Psychologists, Palo Alto (1978)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Glorot, X., Bengio, Y.: Understanding the difficulty of training deep feedforward neural networks. J. Mach. Learn. Res. 9, 249–256 (2010)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Gogić, I., Manhart, M., Pandžić, I.S., Ahlberg, J.: Fast facial expression recognition using local binary features and shallow neural networks. Vis. Comput. 1–16 (2018).
  6. 6.
    Goh, K.M., Ng, C.H., Lim, L.L., Sheikh, U.: Micro-expression recognition: an updated review of current trends, challenges and solutions. Vis. Comput. 1–24 (2018).
  7. 7.
    He, K., Zhang, X., Ren, S., Sun, J.: Deep residual learning for image recognition. In: IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition, pp 770–778 (2016)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Jarrett, K., Kavukcuoglu, K., Ranzato, M., Lecun, Y.: What is the best multi-stage architecture for object recognition? In: IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision, vol 30, pp 2146–2153 (2009)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Jin, H., Wang, X., Lian, Y., Hua, J.: Emotion information visualization through learning of 3d morphable face model. Vis. Comput. 1–14 (2018).
  10. 10.
    Jones, J.P., Palmer, L.A.: An evaluation of the two-dimensional gabor filter model of simple receptive fields in cat striate cortex. J. Neurophysiol. 58(6), 1233–1258 (1987). CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    King, D.E.: Dlib-ml: a machine learning toolkit. J. Mach. Learn. Res. 10, 1755–1758 (2009)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Krizhevsky, A., Sutskever, I., Hinton, G.E.: Imagenet classification with deep convolutional neural networks. In: Pereira, F., Burges, C.J.C., Bottou, L., Weinberger, K.Q. (eds.) Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems, pp 1097–1105. Curran Associates, Inc., Lake Tahoe, Nevada, USA (2012)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Liu, M., Li, S., Shan, S., Chen, X.: Au-inspired deep networks for facial expression feature learning. Neurocomputing 159(C), 126–136 (2015). CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Liu, P., Han, S., Meng, Z., Tong, Y.: Facial expression recognition via a boosted deep belief network. In: IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition, pp 1805–1812 (2014)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Lopes, A.T., Aguiar, E.D., Souza, A.F.D., Oliveira-Santos, T.: Facial expression recognition with convolutional neural networks: coping with few data and the training sample order. Pattern Recognit. 61, 610–628 (2016). CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Lucey, P., Cohn, J.F., Kanade, T., Saragih, J.: The extended cohn-kanade dataset (ck+): a complete dataset for action unit and emotion-specified expression. In: IEEE conference on computer vision and pattern recognition workshops, pp 94–101. (2010)
  17. 17.
    Lyons, M.J., Budynek, J., Akamatsu, S.: Automatic classification of single facial images. IEEE Trans. Pattern Anal. Mach. Intell. 21(12), 1357–1362 (1999). CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Lcun, Y., Bottou, L., Bengio, Y., Haffner, P.: Gradient-based learning applied to document recognition. Proc. IEEE 86(11), 2278–2324 (1998). CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Matthews, I., Baker, S.: Active appearance models revisited. Int. J. Comput. Vis. 60, 135–164 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Mayya, V., Pai, R.M., Pai, M.M.M.: Automatic facial expression recognition using dcnn. Proc. Comput. Sci. 93, 453–461 (2016a). CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Mayya, V., Pai, R.M., Pai, M.M.M.: Combining temporal interpolation and dcnn for faster recognition of micro-expressions in video sequences. In: International Conference on Advances in Computing, Communications and Informatics, pp 699–703. (2016)
  22. 22.
    Mehrabian, A.: Communication without words. Commun. Theory, 193–200 (2008)Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Mohammadi, M.R., Fatemizadeh, E., Mahoor, M.H.: Pca-based dictionary building for accurate facial expression recognition via sparse representation. J. Vis. Commun. Image Represent. 25(5), 1082–1092 (2014). CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Ojala, T., Pietikäinen, M., Harwood, D.: A comparative study of texture measures with classification based on featured distributions. Pattern Recognit. 29(1), 51–59 (1996). CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Owusu, E., Zhan, Y., Mao, Q.R.: An svm-adaboost facial expression recognition system. Appl. Intell. 40(3), 536–545 (2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Pu, X., Fan, K., Chen, X., Ji, L., Zhou, Z.: Facial expression recognition from image sequences using twofold random forest classifier. Neurocomputing 168(C), 1173–1180 (2015). CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Rashid, M., Abu-Bakar, S., Mokji, M.: Human emotion recognition from videos using spatio-temporal and audio features. Vis. Comput. 29(12), 1269–1275 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Rivera, A.R., Castillo, J.R., Chae, O.: Local directional number pattern for face analysis: face and expression recognition. IEEE Trans. Image Process. 22(5), 1740–1752 (2013). MathSciNetCrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Shan, C., Gong, S., Mcowan, P.W.: Facial expression recognition based on local binary patterns: a comprehensive study. Image Vis. Comput. 27(6), 803–816 (2009). CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Srivastava, N., Hinton, G., Krizhevsky, A., Sutskever, I., Salakhutdinov, R.: Dropout: a simple way to prevent neural networks from overfitting. J. Mach. Learn. Res. 15, 1929–1958 (2014)MathSciNetzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Sutskever, I., Martens, J., Dahl, G., Hinton, G.: On the importance of initialization and momentum in deep learning. In: International Conference on Machine Learning, pp 1139–1147 (2013)Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Uddin, M.Z., Hassan, M.M., Almogren, A., Zuair, M., Fortino, G., Torresen, J.: A facial expression recognition system using robust face features from depth videos and deep learning. Comput. Electr. Eng. 63, 114–125 (2017). CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Wen, G., Hou, Z., Li, H., Li, D., Jiang, L., Xun, E.: Ensemble of deep neural networks with probability-based fusion for facial expression recognition. Cogn. Comput. 9(5), 597–610 (2017). CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Yang, P., Liu, Q., Metaxas, D.N.: Boosting coded dynamic features for facial action units and facial expression recognition. In: IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition, pp 1–6. (2007)
  35. 35.
    Yu, Z., Liu, Q., Liu, G.: Deeper cascaded peak-piloted network for weak expression recognition. Vis. Comput. 34(12), 1691–1699 (2018). CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Zeng, N., Zhang, H., Song, B., Liu, W., Li, Y., Dobaie, A.M.: Facial expression recognition via learning deep sparse autoencoders. Neurocomputing 273, 643–649 (2017). CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Zhang, K., Huang, Y., Wu, H., Wang, L.: Facial smile detection based on deep learning features. In: 2015 3rd IAPR Asian Conference on Pattern Recognition (ACPR). IEEE, pp 534–538 (2015)Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Zhao, G., Pietikinen, M., Member, S.: Dynamic texture recognition using local binary patterns with an application to facial expressions. IEEE Trans. Pattern Anal. Mach. Intell. 29(6), 915–928 (2008). CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Zhao, J., Mao, X., Zhang, J.: Learning deep facial expression features from image and optical flow sequences using 3D CNN. Vis. Comput. 34(10), 1461–1475 (2018). CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kuan Li
    • 1
  • Yi Jin
    • 1
    Email author
  • Muhammad Waqar Akram
    • 1
  • Ruize Han
    • 2
  • Jiongwei Chen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Precision Machinery and Precision InstrumentationUniversity of Science and Technology of ChinaHefeiPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.School of Computer Science and TechnologyTianjin UniversityTianjinPeople’s Republic of China

Personalised recommendations