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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.
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.
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.
Here is a breakdown of the manual retouching tools.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.