Portrait Pro v12 Studio Max Editing Software Review

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V12-boxshot-750pxWorking mostly in fine art portraits I’ve never felt the need to try a retouching program.  I like to keep a natural look, using Photoshop only for any minor retouching needed. I had looked into a retouching program briefly, but after clicking on a few sites I never got further than looking at the before and after samples. I always preferred the natural before image to the over processed, plastic looking after images. I want my subjects to look like themselves, in their best light of course, but not like some barbie doll cyborg with lifeless eyes.

When our Digital Photography School editor offered a free download of Portrait-Pro 12 Studio Max to test out and possibly review I figured this was a perfect opportunity to see if this kind of thing is something that a cynic like me, I might actually find useful.

Editor’s note: we’ve been informed by the company that there are no versions 13 and 14 (they skipped those numbers) and the newest v15 was released Sept 17th, 2015 (after this review was published). So this review is not three versions outdated and while there are a few changes it is fundamentally the same product. You can see what is new in v15 here

Getting started

The download and install were super easy, off to a good start. There are instructional videos, tutorials, a forum, a support page, and a manual to download on the website. All good things, but I’m not one for instructions and just opened the program with a test image.

Portrait Pro did its thing and opened the before and its auto processed after image. It came up with an interesting eye situation and I thought, oh dear, this is not good.

My first attempt , not so great.

My first test image didn’t go so well, if I was going for a Picasso look, this would be great, but it wasn’t exactly what I was after.

Second attempt

Rather than succumb to instructions I tried another image. This one had the correct number of eyes, so I started playing around. The simple interface, and pop up instructions made it easy to just jump right in. I tested out the sliders and their effects, then went to town. It was pretty fun, with a bit of practice I eventually turned my blonde, brown-eyed, no make-up friend into a saucy red lipped, blue eyed, red head vixen with an uncanny resemblance to pop star Kylie Minogue.

I won’t show you the results, because the before shot was a not exactly flattering lighting test, when I say not flattering, a beautiful woman looked more like a potato than herself, and I would like to keep the friendship. I did show my friend both images and she really liked the after shot.

That had me thinking this program certainly has potential. I had only been mucking about and I turned an unusable portrait shot into something the subject of the portrait really liked.

Testing on a tough shot

So I decided to put the program through its paces with a poorly lit, overly grainy, weirdly white balanced shot of a dear friend who looks lovely no matter how terribly I might light her. Portrait Pro popped up with the auto version, it gave her quite the tan and sparkly, but kinda spooky eyes.

The auto edit can make for spooky eyes

Portrait Pro helps out by offering up an auto edited version to work from.

But this where the easy to use sliders come in. You can adjust how much the skin is smoothed, colored, alter lighting, or how much cyborg look you want in the eyes. I was pleased to see you could just use this program subtlety. I could do a fair bit of gentle retouching, even on this poorly photographed shot that I either would have been unable to, wouldn’t have been bothered to, or taken for ever to do in Photoshop.

Much less spooky looking with less slider action.

Pulling back the sliders to get a more natural look.

Of course after that I couldn’t help myself with pushing it a bit further.

The sliders can also smooth, lighten,add shine to hair.

It was super fun playing around with the hair/eye color adjusters. I can see this being handy for some of my more surreal fine art images. After showing this version to my friend, she is now considering this new hair color!

Testing on a saleable shot

I was pretty impressed that I could pull something out of a rejected shot with this program, but what about a shot I would use? Would it be subtle enough to be useful for my regular work? Turns out yes, the sliders make it possible to add very slight retouching, and still maintain the natural look of the portrait.

Subtle is best in my books. I like to see wrinkles and pores!

While Portrait Pro can smooth out wrinkles and pores, it can also be used very subtly without loosing the natural look of your subject.

After playing with some faces, I thought all well and good but now the neck looks weird and the face and body don’t match, but turns out you can adjust those too. You can also batch process with the Studio Max version and work directly with Raw files.

I was pretty much sold on the program by this point, but I had a free version, would I actually pay for it? I was pretty surprised to see that it sells for around A$100, depending on which version you choose. For that price, I absolutely would buy it, even as a photographer who likes to keep programs to a minimum, and doesn’t like to fork out for new ones.

Any issues?

My only issues were finding the face alignment tool a bit tricky on some images, but then again, I still haven’t actually read the instructions. That was the only issue I had with the program itself, I took a slight offence with the promotional line “Slimmer subjects result in happier clients and more revenue“ in reference to the program’s ability to change face and body shape.

I’m sure that is true, but do we as photographers, really want to make money out of peoples insecurities? To edit distracting parts of a photograph and improve lighting flaws, sure, but to pander to the illusion of perfection created by modern media, not so much. I’d prefer my subjects to see themselves in their portrait as they are and still like what they see with the only retouching being to fix faults in my camera work, not in them. Portrait Pro can do both.

I have no doubt I will continue to use this program, both in my fine art and regular portraits. It will clearly save some editing time and in some cases does a better job that I would in Photoshop. I particularly liked the ability to adjust the lighting and skin tones. I’m even inclined to read the instructions and check out a few tutorials to really get to know the program. In fact I wish I had found it sooner.

Having fun with eye color!

My favorite part of this program was how much fun I had playing with it and how easy it was to use straight away, with impressive results even on not so great original images.

I can’t compare Portrait Pro to any other retouching programs, but as someone who has been against them in general and preferred to stick to Photoshop, I’m converted. It’s simple and fun to use, you have a lot of control of the subtlety with the sliders and it produces great time saving results. It’s a thumbs up from me.

How do you feel about retouching? Would you use a program like this? Have you ever tried a program like this? Tell us about your experiences and results.

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Portrait Pro v12 Studio Max
Author Rating
4

Read more from our Post Production category

Lea Hawkins

is an Australian photographer working mainly in the areas of portraiture, fine art, and for the local press. Her work has been published, exhibited, selected and collected – locally, nationally and internationally, in many forms. All shot with very minimal gear and the photographic philosophy that it’s not so much the equipment, but what you do with it. You can see more of her work at www.leahawkins.com

  • Charles G. Haacker

    I LOVE Portrait Pro! The trick (as Lea Hawkins has discovered) is to throttle it back. If you let the program do its thing full out you will get airbrushed plastic (yuk!). It even changes the shape of a face! I was a full-time portrait and wedding pro with my own studio looooong before digital. I used to hand-retouch large-format black and white negatives with graphites, dyes, and even an etching knife to literally shave away density—knocking down glasses highlights for example. That was HARD! I’d have sold my mother for Portrait Pro! (Kidding) But if you first carefully place the face recognition lines you will not get a third eye, then if you back off the master face shape slider, or even take it to zero and just work the skin and lines, you can get a terrific, natural result. If you retouch a face in Photoshop you are building the retouching UP; using Portrait Pro you start with too much and take it DOWN. I think that’s easier.

  • Mike C

    BTW it is now at version 15

  • Lea Hawkins

    So it is! I was given 12 only a few weeks ago to review. Not sure what happened with 13 and 14, can’t seem to find them, but nice to know they are constantly upgrading.

  • Lea Hawkins

    Less is more!
    Love hearing about old school retouching techniques, I used to work in a darkroom but the etching knife was a new one for me. I can’t even imagine how you managed that!
    Yes carefully placing the face recognition lines is key it seems, and backing off all sliders, then just gently working back in.
    I wouldn’t sell my mother but maybe a kid or two (also kidding)
    Great post Charles, thanks for the input.

  • Yip couldn’t agree more with you guys. I’m a complete amateur but if you get the face recognition lines correct and then SIGNIFICANTLY back off on the auto changes, the pictures look amazing. Can’t imagine what a huge difference this type of software must make to full time busy pro photographers

  • Briony – Anthropics Technology

    We went from Version 12 to 15, skipping 13 and 14 because some people find these numbers unlucky. 15 also corresponds with the year, as we officially launched version 15 this month. We are constantly working to improve the software, so occasionally you may find an updated version available to you by going to Help and Check for Updates.

  • Briony – Anthropics Technology

    You may find it helpful to create your own preset, and set that as your default. For more information check out the PortraitPro blog: http://www.portraitprofessional.com/blog/ and go to: http://www.portraitprofessional.com/blog/preset.php

  • Thanks for clarifying!

  • Paul Trantow

    Note that v. 15 has some bugs. The hair area feature usually (most often on women) extends into the background, usually at a very low opacity (but enough to see on a seamless background). And the click-to-move anchors both on the jawline and mouth are all over the place, at least on Mac. Grab one, another moves. A lot. Adjust the chin, the mouth changes, etc. The worst part is that some of these were happening in 12 (Studio, 64-bit) too but never got fixed.

  • Briony – Anthropics Technology

    Hi Paul, We’re aware of the things you mention, and they’re still being worked on. You can edit the hair mask in a similar way to the skin mask. If you need specific assistance, our customer support team are happy to help. You can contact them at: https://www.portraitprofessional.com/support/ You may find other useful tips on the PortraitPro blog: http://www.portraitprofessional.com/blog/

  • Paul Trantow

    Right, but editing a bad mask over and over sort of defeats the purpose, right? It was a bug in the last version (I reported it a year ago), and it still is. And the anchor points moving around is really something that shouldn’t have gotten past beta testing. These are two features that will come into play every single time a photo is retouched, so please don’t treat them like they’re some obscure bug that nobody is ever going to see! Let us know when they’re fixed, and we’ll all be very happy about it.

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