Portrait Professional

Over the years I’ve used several generations of photo retouching software. Like most things related to electronics they keep getting better and cheaper. The results have been mixed, the software took some time to master and I was seldom thrilled with the outputs. I’m happy to say that Portrait Professional has crossed a line of usability/results and I’m very happy with the output.

 

This is why Portrait Professional impresses me so much. It gives me most of what I want (and sometimes more) in an easy to use interface and allows me to do the job in a time efficient manner.

To keep it in perspective I would rate my photo-retouching skills as “intermediate”. I can do most of what I want, though not necessarily in a time efficient manner. This is why Portrait Professional impresses me so much. It gives me most of what I want (and sometimes more) in an easy to use interface and allows me to do the job in a time efficient manner.

 

Going through an Image

 

When you launch an image you go through an identification process to locate major facial features. This is both quick and easy. It starts by asking you if it is male or female and/or child. This is essential as it goes through the later processes it uses programmed “beauty” criteria specific to your subject. This “intelligence” about beauty is perhaps what distinguishes this product from its predecessors. It takes into account the geometries and features that make someone “good looking” sparing the user the need to learn all that.

 When you launch an image you go through an identification process to locate major facial features. This is both quick and easy. It starts by asking you if it is male or female and/or child. This is essential as it goes through the later processes it uses programmed “beauty” criteria specific to your subject. This “intelligence” about beauty is perhaps what distinguishes this product from its predecessors. It takes into account the geometries and features that make someone “good looking” sparing the user the need to learn all that. 

 

The system uses this data to build the equivalent of selection masks for use with the further processes. After the system does a rough selection you refine the mask by dragging selection points to cover the eyes, mouth, eyebrows, nose and outline of the face.

 The system uses this data to build the equivalent of selection masks for use with the further processes. After the system does a rough selection you refine the mask by dragging selection points to cover the eyes, mouth, eyebrows, nose and outline of the face.

 

It’s even smart enough to show you some example guides with the portrait oriented in the same way as your subject, a very nice touch for beginning users.

It’s even smart enough to show you some example guides with the portrait oriented in the same way as your subject, a very nice touch for beginning users.

 

 

Once the masks are built you get into the controls. It starts with its “best guess” of settings to use. Then you’re off into editing. 

Once the masks are built you get into the controls. It starts with its “best guess” of settings to use. Then you’re off into editing.

 

The interface is broken down by features such as skin, eyes, mouth, hair etc

The interface is broken down by features such as skin, eyes, mouth, hair etc.

 

When you open each control you have the Master Slider which applies all the various settings in a pre-determined ratio. Or you can move each slider individually to increase or decrease a certain setting.

When you open each control you have the Master Slider which applies all the various settings in a pre-determined ratio. Or you can move each slider individually to increase or decrease a certain setting.

 

For common tasks (whiten teeth, bigger eyes etc) there are some easy presets if you find the sliders too intimidating. You can also save your own settings to speed up workflow.

For common tasks (whiten teeth, bigger eyes etc) there are some easy presets if you find the sliders too intimidating. You can also save your own settings to speed up workflow.

 

It takes a while to appreciate the subtlety required to bring the image to its best level of perfection without going overboard. Like other products if you do too much of a good thing you end up with plastic people.

Working your way down the controls, you can customize the edits to your liking. It takes a while to appreciate the subtlety required to bring the image to its best level of perfection without going overboard. Like other products if you do too much of a good thing you end up with plastic people.

 

What really impresses me with this software compared to others is how well they did the skin texturing, even at the more industrial strength settings.

But if you back it off a bit you can get some excellent results. What really impresses me with this software compared to others is how well they did the skin texturing, even at the more industrial strength settings.

 

For finishing touches there is an excellent touch up brush for zapping moles and wrinkles too large to be smoothed over by the general settings.

For finishing touches there is an excellent touch up brush for zapping moles and wrinkles too large to be smoothed over by the general settings.

 

 Multi-Faced Work

 

After you are done with one face you can move on to another and go through the masking process again. The only catch is you can’t go back and forth, once your done the edits are saved.

The software is capable of doing multiple faces individually, which is another improvement over other packages which slather the same settings across the board. After you are done with one face you can move on to another and go through the masking process again. The only catch is you can’t go back and forth, once your done the edits are saved.

 

Different versions

There are three different versions of this package, the main difference being the bit depth, image type and relationships to workflow. A comparison of versions can be found here.

The basic version is a very affordably priced. Do the options on the more expensive packages make a difference? Here is the same image processed from JPG vs. a 16 bit TIFF straight out of Lightroom.

 

8 bit JPG Source 

8 bit JPG Source

 

16 Bit TIFF Source

16 Bit TIFF Source

 

Here is the Original out of Lightroom for comparison

 

Lightroom JPG Output 

Lightroom JPG export

 

The trial version is fully functional from a user standpoint but the image is watermarked on the screen and you can’t save any type of output.

 

My Thoughts

I think this software is great, for me it’s a real timesaver. It lets me quickly and easily add something to those special images. It also makes me more comfortable in offering photo retouching services to my portrait clients. After a bit of practice I can confidently price retouching services knowing I can deliver consistent results without spending more time than I want in order to deliver that value.

Many of the edits the software can be duplicated in Lightroom (and certainly Photoshop) with a steady hand and a bit of knowledge. If you’re just looking to whiten some teeth or zap a mole this might a bit much (though you can turn off the different edits).

Processing images thought the software is a good learning tool in and of itself. There is a lot of knowledge captured in the programming. Spend some time playing with the sliders of the different settings. Look not only at what it’s doing but imagine behind the scenes how you would use other tools to accomplish the same effect. You begin to see how tools like clarity, saturation, fill light, contrast can be used to improve a portrait. The trial version is perfect for this even if you don’t want to buy the software.

I’ve also found that it does “more” for light skinned and fair haired subjects and for darker skins and hair. Maybe because light skin is like white canvas, it responds better to painting.

 

The Real Challenge

For my final test I took a picture of a weathered friend of mine, in some lousy lighting at F2.0, ISO 3200. This was a real test of software to make him look better. Did it pass? You decide.

 

Before Processing 

Before

 

After Processing

After

 

Conclusion

Portrait Pro is the best retouching software I’ve ever used. I’m very excited to have it and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. If you’re a Photoshop Guru maybe you can do better faster with your crazy skills, but if your not get this software. Its feature rich, has a good interface and best of all is reasonably priced, even the high end version.