When shooting portraits, even a flawless face needs a little post-process retouching—especially if you can’t afford to hire a professional make-up artist. Retouching portraits can be tedious, time-consuming work, taking up precious hours that you’d rather spend behind the camera.
Pretty much any image-editing software can handle the tasks of making your subject look their best in a photograph but more than the basic touch-ups often require excellent skills and an investment of time at the computer. Fortunately, there’s an easier and more efficient solution to retouching portraits: PortraitPro—one of my go-to software applications for post-processing portraits. And while the “Pro” stands for professional, you don’t have to be a pro to use it.
For this review, I asked my model to show up without any makeup in order to demonstrate how effective the software can be. I also wanted a dramatic before and after. However, I went against the “less is more” philosophy of retouching and was heavy-handed in my retouching so that the PortraitPro adjustments would be more visible.
Generally, you want to make your subjects look good, but you still want them to look like themselves.
How It Works
PortraitPro comes in three different editions: Standard ($45), Studio ($70) and Studio Max ($140). If you shoot in RAW or want to use this as a plug-in, you’ll need one of the Studio editions. I used Studio Max as a standalone application for this review with JPEG images, but other than the Batch mode and RAW compatibility, the features discussed here are available in all three editions. (Visit portraitprofessional.com for a chart outlining the differences in the three editions.)
The software is fairly intuitive once you understand some of the basic navigation. And pop-up tool tips are extremely helpful, providing you with basic information about using the tool. You can also click the question mark next to a feature in the Controls panel and the link takes you directly to that section of the user manual.
Download the PDF user manual from the support section of the website for additional help. There are so many features that you may overlook some. So look through the Reference section of the manual to find out what options are available in each section.
Anthropics made a couple of important updates in PortraitPro 18, including the ability to add logos to images and, more importantly, its artificial intelligence capabilities have been improved: The software uses advanced AI to automatically create a mask of individual facial features (eyes, nose, lips, eyebrows, hairline and skin). This allows you to selectively apply corrections to specific areas of the face with simple to use sliders. Initial options include selecting whether your subject is male, female or a child.
Once you open the image, PortraitPro automatically applies a standard preset, which can be changed or adjusted. But first, you begin working with an overlay that PortraitPro places on the subject’s facial features. As you can see in the screenshot, PortraitPro does a good job in identifying and selecting the subject’s features.
Active points along the purple lines allow you to tweak the selections. This is a very effective method to easily and quickly create masks. I’d love to have several more moveable points for each facial feature, though, to really fine tune the outline. But the selected areas can be adjusted at any point during the process. So, if you find that your initial tweaks weren’t perfect, you can fix them down the line.
Once the mask outlines have been adjusted, you can either start working with the default Standard preset (you can change the default if you’d like) or, as I did, select a more dramatic preset from the Preset tab, like the more extreme Maximum Lighting option. You can create and save your own presets, which is useful when working on a single-portrait setting so you can simply apply the same preset (and make small adjustments if the lighting or other conditions changed for specific shots).
For the ultimate fast workflow, check out PortraitPro Studio Max edition for batch processing.
Starting with a base preset, you can make adjustments to just about any facial feature you can think of (and perhaps some that you haven’t thought of). If you have a full-body shot, you can make adjustments to whatever skin is visible and part of PortraitPro’s selection. (For full-body adjustments, including slimming, check out PortraitPro Body software, also from Anthropics.)
To the left of the Preset tab, you’ll find the Controls section. I like to keep both the Before/After windows open so I can more readily see the differences between the original and the adjusted version, but if you want more screen space, you can select a single view.
Controls are divided into nine different sections:
- Face Sculpt
- Skin Smoothing
- Skin Lighting and Coloring
- Mouth and Nose
Within each heading, there are multiple options and sub-options from which to choose, For example, in Skin Lighting and Coloring, I got rid of a pink tint from the original photo, as you can see in my demo,
The Picture group provides access to standard, global-image adjustments including color, exposure, brightness, contrast, tone curve and vignette correction. This is generally a good place to start if you want to make basic overall adjustments.
For the Eye section, you can enhance the whites of the eye (which I did in the below screenshot), eliminate redness in even slightly bloodshot eyes, darken pupils, sharpen the eyes and even choose which parts of the eyes to sharpen. There’s even a Master Fade control to increase or decrease other Eye adjustments.
PortraitPro’s can also make teeth whiter and brighter. At the same time, you can sharpen the mouth, moisten lips for a bit of shine and adjust the contrast around the nose. I’ve never found a need for the nose contrast adjustment, but the teeth whitening feature is a must for most smiling subjects.
To add a little more glam to this shot, I went into the Makeup section to apply some eyeliner, false eyelashes and add a little blush to the model’s cheeks.
As you can see, this software is extremely easy once you know where to find specific options. It takes no effort or skill to move a slider, so even people with minimal computer skills can handle PortraitPro 18.
I have to say, though, that making adjustments to hair is the most frustrating aspect of this—and, frankly, any—software. In this app, you have access to a number of features including the ability to change or adjust hair color, smoothness, shine and vibrance. You can even fill in those pesky shadows that sometimes appear between strands.
Unfortunately, PortraitPro didn’t do a very good job masking the hair. While you can paint in or erase portions of the hair mask, I took the lazy way out and darkened the background a little so you can’t see any wisps of hair. You can even change hair color on a model, but it’s probably one of the most challenging aspects of any portrait workflow.
When you first open PortraitPro go to “PortraitPro” > “Preferences” in the top left corner. Be sure to check the boxes: “Don’t Save Over Original” and “Automatically Find Faces.” Then make sure that the “Add Suffix to Image Filename” contains an easily recognizable suffix such as “_pp” so you can identify the PortraitPro file (and not write over the original).
When you’re trying out different looks on your subject, it’s important to go back to previous versions of the same image. Of course, there’s always Undo and Redo but I really like PortraitPro’s Snapshot feature. With one click, you can save an image in its current state and go back to it during the session, under the Snapshot tab.
Final images can be saved as JPEG, TIFF or PNG, with control over compression, so you can easily save a high-resolution image for the final product and a smaller image for posting online.
When you’re ready to shut down the computer and pick up the project later on, be sure to save the session—an option under “File” > “Save Session.” This applies a PortraitPro Project suffix (*ppx) so you can easily find the file again when you’re ready.
The Bottom Line
I’ve been using this software for years, and it has saved me countless hours of retouching, which is critical when you’re up against a tight deadline. PortraitPro’s countless features and ease of use, are attention-getting. But they mean nothing without quality and performance. Other than the hair mask that I always have trouble with, the software is extremely effective at producing quality adjustments.
The software is extremely robust and except for the few seconds it takes for PortraitPro to analyze the initial image for facial features, adjustments happen in real time—even on my 5-year-old MacBook Air with 8 GB RAM, using OS 10.13.6, and that’s saying a lot about PortraitPro’s robust performance.
Even if you only shoot portraits occasionally but want to speed your post-processing workflow, the Standard edition is priced so reasonably at $45, you’ll be glad to have PortraitPro in your software tool kit. Be sure to download the free trial to see how good this application really is.
For more, visit Portraitprofessional.com.