Portrait Plus Retouching Software - A Review

Portrait Plus Retouching Software – A Review

Portrait Plus from ArcSoft packs powerful facial retouching tools into a user-friendly program.

Portrait Plus from ArcSoft packs powerful facial retouching tools into a
user-friendly program

One of the most difficult tasks in Photoshop is also one of the most common. Since we are in the business of making people look good, solid portrait retouching skills are perhaps some of the most important tools in your digital bag of tricks. A couple of months ago, I wrote an article detailing one of my favorite techniques for basic skin smoothing in Photoshop. It’s a pretty straightforward approach to smoothing skin and removing blemishes and I use it all the time. As convenient as it is, though, it can have an impact on editing time, particularly when I’m dealing with a lot of photos at once.

Portrait Plus from ArcSoft is a portrait retouching program that works as a stand-alone application (Windows and Mac) or as a Photoshop plug-in under the filters menu (Currently Windows only). It has a simple, user-friendly interface designed for efficient, seamless integration with your portrait workflow.

How does it work?

Simply put, Portrait Plus automatically detects the faces in your photos, and then identifies 24 key facial features. While this auto-detection is really pretty amazing, it’s not always perfect (and therefore my only real complaint).  Profiles turned too far away from the camera and semi-obscured features (think bangs over the eyes) will throw auto-detection for a loop. I had a couple of images where the auto-detection did not work, requiring me to manually select the facial features and target areas. While a bit frustrating, I don’t view this as that much of a negative, since you are likely to manually adjust the target areas yourself anyway as you become more comfortable with the software.

The overlay on the left shows the facial features automatically detected by the software.

The overlay on the left shows the facial features automatically detected by the software.

Once an image has been imported, you have a choice of using one of the program’s ten presets, or editing the photo manually, with the option of saving the results as a preset for future retouching work. While the manual editing tools are very extensive, and allow users to select specific areas and facial features, many of the test photos I ran through Portrait Plus for this review achieved excellent results with the presets alone. Facial retouching that could take several minutes or longer can be drastically reduced down to just one or two clicks of the mouse. In order to ensure consistency throughout the photo, Portrait Plus also detects all visible skin, giving the editor as much or as little control over the final image as possible.

Powerful editing tools

Here is a breakdown of the manual retouching tools.

Skin

Some skin retouching software simply blurs over the imperfections.  By identifying very specific areas of the face, however, Portrait Plus gives you extensive control over what to repair and to what degree, for a more natural-looking result. By taking this targeted approach, Portrait Plus eliminates deep scars, pimples, scratches, and other imperfections, while restoring or maintaining one of the most important aspects of all–original skin tone.

  • Skin smoothing
  • Skin tone
  • Brighten skin
Original on the left. Skin-smoothed on the right.

Original on the left – skin-smoothed version on the right

Enhancements

If you’ve ever wanted to get in touch with your inner plastic surgeon, here’s your chance. By giving the user control over specific areas like the mouth, cheeks, eyes, and nose, reshaping and fine-tuning facial features has never been easier. Tools included are:

  • Remove eye circles
  • Blemish removal
  • Brighten eyes
  • Deepen smile
  • Lift cheeks
  • Slim face
  • Enlarge eyes
  • Enhance nose
  • Remove shine
  • Whiten teeth

Makeup

Depending on your lighting and camera settings, makeup does not always have the look you were going for in the final image. By having the ability to make these adjustments in post-production, you can either save your original idea, or go in a new direction. You’ve got to be very careful with this set of tools, however–a single mouse click can be the difference between a subtle adjustment and “alien eyes”. Effects included:

  • Blush
  • Lipstick
  • Colored contacts
  • Eye color
  • Eye lashes
  • Eye liner
  • Eye shadow
  • Shape eyebrows

Comparison

The original version of this portrait is straight off the camera, only edited for size. In the Portrait Plus version, you can see how edits like basic skin smoothing, along with a wider smile, slimmer face, whiter teeth, and digital lipstick provide subtle, but significant changes.

portrait-plus-dps-review-007

portrait-plus-dps-review-006

Many of the effects in this software package would take months to learn, and years to perfect if you were to attempt them yourself in Photoshop. While Portrait Plus does have a bit of a learning curve, it is far less steep than what you’d experience by trying to learn all of these edits on your own.

Multiple Faces

Portrait Plus does a great job of detecting multiple faces within the same image.

Portrait Plus does a great job of detecting multiple faces within the same image.

While I’ve not yet tested it on photos with more than two faces, ArcSoft’s website claims that Portrait Plus can detect up to 20 faces in a single image. This can come in particularly handy for event photographers, who often find themselves editing photos of large groups of people. Portrait Plus also allows you to “lock” faces, selecting which faces in a photo are retouched and which are left alone.

Supported file formats

The Windows stand-alone version can import JPEG, TIFF, PNG, and BMP images of 24 bits per pixel, while the Mac stand-alone imports JPEG, TIFF, PNG, and RAW files with 24 bits per pixel. Both Windows and Mac export JPEG and TIFF files. The Photoshop plug-in will import and export all Photoshop-supported file formats.

Wrap-up and recommendations

As a portrait photographer, I strive to get everything as close to perfect in the camera as I possibly can. While even the best portraits can always use a tweak or two, the reality is that some portraits require significant retouching. As important as the editing is, though, so is time with my family. So, whatever I can do to cut down on my editing time is a bonus. As good as I am at retouching, Portrait Plus is a bit of a game-changer. An intuitive, user-friendly Photoshop plug-in, Portrait Plus can seamlessly add a whole new dimension to any photographer’s editing arsenal.

Portrait Plus is available for download on the ArcSoft website.  Enter coupon code Portrait45 at check-out for a 45% discount. Valid through March 31, 2014.

Summary
Author Rating
4
Software Name
ArcSoft Portrait Plus
Operating System
Windows, Mac
Price
USD 149.99

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Jeff Guyer is a commercial/portrait photographer based in Atlanta, GA. Still an avid street photographer and film shooter, Jeff also launched a kids photography class ("Digital Photo Challenges") three years ago. You can check out more of his work at Guyer Photography, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

  • leVisitor

    The frame of the window besides the brides cheek gets distortet…

  • Mary Johnson

    Thank you! Also check out this great photography and photoshop tips and tricks http://www.99phototricks.com

  • Jeffrey Guyer

    Oddly enough, I’d not noticed that until you pointed it out. Looking at it more closely, I think it had to to with the proximity of the window lines to the facial lines when I applied the “deepen smile” enhancement. Re-straightening the window lines is a pretty easy fix in PS, so I wouldn’t let that discourage me from using the enhancement again. It is a good idea, though, to pay attention to any other nearby lines when applying effects– regardless of whether it is in Portrait+ or any other software.

  • ccting

    excellent..

  • ThePicChick

    Hmm. I downloaded the free trial and thought it was okay but I already use Portrait Professional for work and I find it much easier to use. Plus it only cost me about £30. Each to his own I guess.

  • CAgirl

    I purchased and used this software as a Photoshop plugin and I was very disappointed. It crashed my Photoshop software repeatedly. The tooth whitening doesn’t work most of the time and then randomly with more than one person. I have been working with their support team, they basically told me it will take a long time to fix. The sad thing is that Version 2 worked well. The new version 3 is a disaster. They did give me a full version of V3 to use while I wait for a fix that doesn’t constantly crash Photoshop (apparently a known bug), however the tooth whitening still doesn’t work. I really don’t like to be mean, but I’m really disappointed in this software. Perhaps I’ll try the software mentioned below.

    Portrait+ has a lot of features that would make it great if the detection software was better (not great even on full frontal photos with multiple people) and all the features worked (and of course didn’t crash Photoshop).

  • Widgeon

    I am not a fan of over re-touching. The first picture series is a prime example of what I hate most about the trend of retouching. The girl has beautiful freckles in the original and she looks too smooth and too plastic in the re-touched version. A little retouching is okay, completely changing the looks of the subjects is not. We are all unique and should be photographed as such; not turned into plastic dolls.

  • Jeffrey Guyer

    I tend to agree with you on the less-is-more approach to retouching. We do, however, sometimes have to give the client what the client wants. I decided to push the example shot farther simply to show what the plug-in is capable of.

  • Jeffrey Guyer

    Thanks for the input. I’ve not experienced any of the glitches you have, but I hope they help you get it worked out.

  • Flavio

    I agree with Widgeon, over retouching just doesn’t look good.
    I understand giving the client what the client wants, but I find the “enhanced” smile of the bride simply grotesque, and the teeth are stretched and way too white.
    I tried Portrait Professional in the past, but you have to set everything to manual and use the tiniest amount of corrections to get anything resembling the real thing, otherwise the portrait becomes distorted, plasticky and surreal.
    I reckon this software is the same in that respect…

  • Fiona

    Hi CAgirl, thanks for your comments of the plug-in. Our tech team has solved the problem of plug-in. Please download the software again. Sorry for the problem…Feel free to let me know if there is any other questions. Here is my email: fchou@arcsoft.com

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