Dávid Koronthály is a co-worker of mine who was gracious enough to help me out with my back log of reviews by doing the much anticipated review of Portrait Professional. You’ve seen this software reviewed all over the Internet, so I thought it would be fun to finally get a review online.
I’ve used the product, but simply didn’t have time to do an in-depth review. However, I do offer my counter-point at the bottom of this article and we’ve created a gallery of images associated with this article here.
Portrait Professional from Anthropics technology is software for quick and easy portrait retouching. It can be purchased directly from http://www.portraitprofessional.com/. It is available as Standard, Studio and Studio 64 versions. The primary benefits of the Studio version are support for RAW images, color profiles and the ability to launch it as a plug-in directly from Photoshop. The version used for this review is Portrait Professional 10.1 Studio 64 Edition.
You can follow along with images for the discussion below at http://ronmart.smugmug.com/Blog/Review/PortraitPro.
Preparing the images
Even though Portrait Professional can open RAW images directly, my workflow starts with Adobe Lightroom 3. The RAW image was adjusted by slightly increasing the exposure and recovery sliders, to ensure that the background remains pure white but no details gets lost in the portrait itself.
Next step is to send it from Lightroom to Photoshop CS5. It is possible to open it directly in Portrait Professional, but I prefer to use Photoshop, as it allows me to work on layers. Duplicate the background layer and name it “PortraitPro”. The plug-in can be found via Filter/Anthropics/Portrait Professional menu. It is important to duplicate the current layer, as it will be overwritten.
Selecting face features
Once Portrait Professional starts, it assumes you want to use face sculpting and guides you through few simple questions. Alternatively, you can decide to use only the skin enhancing. The first question is identifying the gender and age of the person to be retouched. If you have more than one person in the photo, don’t worry – you will have a change to process them all, one by one.
After selecting adult male, the next steps are to mark important points on the face, such as outer corners of the eyes, tip of the nose and both corners of mouth. You do not have to be very precise yet, as you will have a chance to fine-tune it later. You can also specify that the picture was taken from a profile.
Then you select the outline of the eyes and eyelashes. The default selection is not always precise and you do want to correct at least the outline of the pupil and the eyeball – those areas will be darkened and whitened respectively in later steps. Use spacebar to move to the next step.
One you have adjusted the eyes, you will adjust the outline of the mouth and nose. First, you must select whether the mouth is open or closed. Finally, you have a chance to fine-tune the outline of the whole face. This is the last step and now Portrait Professional has all the information to process the image.
Portrait Professional is using statistical information on how ideal face looks like to adjust your image, typically my making it more symmetrical. After a short time the initial retouched image appears (capture 12). You can compare it to unretouched image by holding Enter (capture 13). You can use sliders on the right to adjust it to your taste.
The face sculpting sliders allows you to slim and straighten the face shape, prolong neck, widen eyes and more. You see the preview immediately as you are dragging the sliders; the complete image is adjusted after you release them. You can also remove distortion caused by dioptric glasses here.
Skin controls allow you to smooth the skin and remove all kinds of imperfections. The View/Edit Skin Area button allows you to paint the skin area, important when there is skin visible outside the face/neck that you want to adjust. The automatic selection does not always identify it precisely and the boundary between adjusted and not adjusted skin can be disruptive.
One trick that I am often using that is not demonstrated here is to process the sculpting separately from any other adjustment. That way I have layers in Photoshop where I can use additional techniques to fine tune the image to perfection. When the face sculpting was used, the original layer no longer matches the shape of the face and blending cannot be used.
Portrait Professional has sampled textures of human skin that are used to patch any imperfections without producing the porcelain look. Select the one that best matches your model. You can use the brush to pain in areas that require more retouching or erase areas that you want to retain unchanged.
You can zoom to 1:1 scale to see all changes precisely; use Spacebar to move around like in Photoshop.
The eye controls allows you to remove red eye, brighten and whiten the eye, sharpen the eye, eyelashes and brows, change the eye colors and more. If you are so inclined, you can add or remove reflections. You can control the changes separately for each eye. As you can see here, the red eye was not completely removed and darkening the pupil too much produces unnatural look. In this case, it is better to leave it uncorrected and fix it on a separate layer in Photoshop.
The mouth and nose controls are useful to whiten and brighten the teeth. You can use them to sharpen and change the color of the lips, but unless your selection was perfect, it is better to do that in Photoshop – otherwise the edges are unnatural and very obvious.
The hair controls allow you to adjust the color and brightness of the hair. You could edit the hair area the same way as you painted the skin area before. You could use the hair tidying mode to smooth the appearance, but beware that it will produce soft look – and it does not help with hair as in this image.
The skin lighting controls helps you adjust or correct light on just the skin area, which you can also edit here. The relight control is trying to fix incorrect lighting – it is quite useful for small stuff, but don’t expect miracles. I am skipping the general picture controls as both Lightroom and Photoshop provide much better tools.
When you are done, you can start from the beginning adjusting another face in the image or you can save and return to Photoshop. The current layer will be replaced with the adjusted version. The final step is adjusting the red eyes.
The portrait Professional is incredibly useful for quick retouching; you can produce good result in minutes where the equivalent work in Photoshop would take hours. At the same time, it cannot do miracles and it is not sufficient to perfect results alone – but it can be combined with Photoshop and other filters. As your skills grow, you can selectively mix and match the available tools to get the best of both worlds.
Before (Copyright © Dávid Koronthály)
After (Copyright © Dávid Koronthály)
CounterPoint by Ron Martinsen
I’ve got to hand it to Anthropics Technology for creating a brilliant product for a dirt cheap price. It does quite a bit for a fraction of what you’d spend using a collection of third party Photoshop plug-ins, and it offers more flexibility now to deviate from the default results than ever before.
Portrait Professional Version
Ron's Photoshop Workflow Version
Edit Time - 1 Hour
With that said, I think this product versus Photoshop is much like comparing Aperture Priority versus Program Mode on our DSLR’s. Like Program Mode on your camera you do get results, but they are rarely the results we really want. In addition it can be kinda obvious that we really weren’t in complete control of everything too.
Portrait Professional Version
Ron's Photoshop Workflow Version
To me its worth the effort to learn and master the techniques found in Scott Kelby’s Portrait Retouching Techniques book as a solid understanding of those skills can help you pickup where Portrait Professional leaves off (or fails) to get better results. However, I find my workflow which includes Portraiture, and Nik Software Complete Collection gives me results that I am overall much happier with. David is right, it does take hours, but I think some things are worth the extra effort.
While I can recommend this software for amateurs who are looking for a way to improve their portraits without spending much time or money, I don’t recommend it for professional or advanced photographers whose name depends on the quality of their work. This is a brilliant product and it is very good, but it’s still not a Photoshop replacement in my opinion yet.
I was provided a review copy of Portrait Professional by Anthropics Technology for the purpose of this review, but David actually purchased his directly. I may get a commission if you purchase links in this article.