My favorite part of shooting portraits is interacting with clients out on location. We talk about the session, share ideas, try poses, laugh a lot, and make some good memories (in addition to making great images!). Of course, I want my clients to look their best, which means I spend a lot of time in Lightroom and Photoshop – cleaning up files, removing blemishes, and handling other retouching tasks. The retouching side of portrait photography may not be glamorous, but it has to be done, and it takes as long as it takes…right?
Maybe not! Enter the Retouch4me plugins, which are designed to address workflow issues common to many portrait photographers. Each plugin enhances images in specific ways – by healing spots and blemishes on skin, removing red blood vessels from eyes, applying overall portrait enhancements, and more.
Retouch4me plugins speed up the retouching process immensely. As I explain in this Retouch4me review, the plugins give great results with minimal effort so you can spend more time creating art and less time in Photoshop.
Retouch4me plugins: overview
For this review, I tested the Heal, Portrait Volumes, Dodge&Burn, Eye Brilliance, and Eye Vessels plugins.
While each plugin produces different results, the overall interface is fairly similar. Using the Retouch4me plugins is surprisingly easy, and I appreciated the relatively small number of options, buttons, and sliders compared to other software. Best of all, the AI-based approach does most of the heavy lifting for you, so you get great results while saving significant time behind the computer screen.
Retouch4me plugins work in Lightroom, Photoshop, and other editors. They also work as standalone applications. I mostly use Lightroom, which means I had to set the plugins as an External Editor by clicking Preferences>External Editing and selecting each plugin:
To use the plugin on an image, right-click the image in the Library or Develop module, select Edit In, and then choose the plugin from the menu.
The software will automatically analyze whether you have a close-up, half-length, or full-length portrait and apply some default adjustments. You can use the sliders at the top to adjust the intensity of your edits, and you can use the buttons on the left to pan and zoom, erase adjustments, and brush adjustments back in. Buttons in the top-left let you quickly compare the original and edited versions, and when you’re done, you can simply click the Apply button.
One of the biggest strengths of the Retouch4me plugins is their simplicity. Artificial intelligence does all the hard work, and I rarely had to use the eraser to remove adjustments from unwanted areas. Most of the time, the default edits were just fine, and if I needed to make any changes, it only required some quick tweaks to the sliders.
Now let’s take an in-depth look at the specific plugins I tested, starting with:
I found the Heal plugin to be especially useful in my own portrait workflow. I take a lot of high-school senior portraits, which means I encounter blemishes and acne that need removing. While the Lightroom Spot Removal tool does the job, I have to manually click each individual spot – and since these tools work by pasting cloned areas over individual blemishes, the results can be less than ideal. There are some automated solutions, but I haven’t yet found one that works quite as well as Retouch4me Heal.
From Lightroom, you can quickly open an image in Retouch4me Heal, and the default results usually look fantastic. The plugin automatically detects faces and removes spots and blemishes accordingly, with seamless results that look far better than the Spot Removal tool in Lightroom.
You can use the slider at the top to adjust the plugin sensitivity, and you can manually brush out areas that you want to keep, such as moles or other distinguishing facial characteristics. It’s a few seconds of work that gives consistently better results than I can get from several minutes of editing by hand.
One thing I really appreciate about Retouch4me Heal is that the results look natural and not overprocessed. The plugin removes blemishes but leaves skin texture and skin imperfections intact, so the end results don’t have that artificial airbrushed look often produced by similar software.
In fact, while all the Retouch4me tools were impressive, if I had to pick just one to recommend, it would be Heal. It solves the most pressing issue that I face in almost every portrait session, and the final results are amazing. Many photographers, even casual and hobbyist shooters, will find a lot to like about this particular plugin.
The Dodge&Burn plugin aims to smooth out areas of high contrast that can show up in portraits (especially if you don’t have full control over the lighting conditions). This was helpful for me because I do a lot of my portraits outdoors in natural light. I often find myself having to selectively lighten and darken different portions of each image, but Retouch4me Dodge&Burn takes care of that while also fixing issues like bumps on the skin and minor wrinkles.
I was quite pleased by the results I got from Retouch4me Dodge&Burn, and I appreciated how the plugin fixed some blemishes and imperfections while also smoothing out the lighting to create a more even, balanced portrait. No, the plugin isn’t quite as life-changing as Retouch4me Heal, but it quickly and easily takes care of portrait dodging and burning.
Retouch4me Eye Brilliance
Eye Brilliance is one of Retouch4me’s most subtle plugins, but it gave me great results and fixed an issue I’ve had with post-processing for years.
You see, I like to give my subjects’ eyes an added boost of brightness, but this can be a painstaking edit that requires careful masking in Lightroom. Over the years, Adobe has sped up the process with auto-masking and other tweaks, but nothing works quite as well as this Eye Brilliance plugin.
Note that the plugin doesn’t just whiten the eyes. It gives a boost to the iris and brings out the natural beauty of my client’s eyes. It’s a holistic, subtle solution compared to the Lightroom Masking tool.
For most of my portraits, I don’t meticulously edit each individual eye; instead, I go with simpler solutions, such as adjusting the highlights and shadows for an entire image. I just don’t have time for fine-grained editing.
But Retouch4me Eye Brilliance solves this problem, and in a few clicks, I can get consistently excellent results on as many pictures as I want – results that would take me hours to produce by hand.
Retouch4me Portrait Volumes
In a sense, this plugin is the opposite of Dodge&Burn. Instead of smoothing out the lighting, lifting shadows, and lowering highlights, Retouch4me Portrait Volumes adds a sense of depth by increasing shadows and adding contrast that can sometimes be missing from the original image. I don’t normally perform this kind of edit on my images because I find the process to be somewhat cumbersome (especially since I use a mouse and not a stylus).
However, Portrait Volumes basically does all the editing for you; almost nothing is required from the user, yet it still delivers great results, making it a much more practical solution.
One nice feature of the Retouch4me plugins is that they can be stacked on top of each other. You’re not limited to using just one plugin on any given photo, which means you can apply each plugin when it is needed. For example, the image displayed above turned out great with Portrait Volumes, but my subject’s eyes still needed a bit of enhancement. It took only a few seconds to load the edited image into the Eye Brilliance plugin, and the result looked amazing, especially considering the editing speed:
Retouch4me Eye Vessels
Retouch4me offers a plugin that specifically addresses one key problem for some portrait photographers: the small red veins in the whites of the eyes. While this isn’t a major issue for me and most of the portrait shooters I work with, if you are someone who spends lots of time cleaning up the eyes of your subjects, then this plugin is definitely worth checking out. It significantly reduces the red blood vessels that can distract from an otherwise perfect portrait, and it does so in a fraction of the time it takes to do the edit by hand in Photoshop or Lightroom.
I was consistently impressed with the results I got from the Retouch4me Eye Vessels plugin; it’s an incredibly useful tool for photographers who consistently deal with this type of editing.
I appreciate the plugin’s subtlety in addition to the sheer speed and ease of use. Notice how the edit doesn’t eliminate all of the red vessels, which is a good thing, as that would result in artificial, hollow eyes. Instead, the plugin uses artificial intelligence to carefully remove the most noticeable red marks while leaving some of the smallest ones intact. (And it gets the job done in a manner of seconds as opposed to the much longer time it would take to do it by hand!)
Retouch4me plugins: Drawbacks
The Retouch4me plugins work remarkably well, but there are some important caveats to be aware of.
For one, when I installed the plugins on my iMac, I encountered a security warning notifying me that Apple could not verify the legitimacy of the software. I also learned of similar reports from Windows users. While these hurdles can be manually overridden, I am always hesitant to install software on my computer that requires me to bypass my computer’s security settings.
I contacted a representative from Retouch4me, who assured me that the plugins were safe and currently being used by tens of thousands of photographers from around the world. We discussed some of the technical reasons for the security warning and I was satisfied with their answers, so I went ahead with the installation. I opened the Security & Privacy preference pane on my Mac and use the “Open Anyway” button to approve the installation, then I repeated this process for each individual Retouch4me plugin:
I don’t use a Windows computer, but I understand there is a similar process that can be used for installing these plugins on traditional PC hardware. I don’t know if this will continue to be an issue, but I do hope that the developers will acquire the necessary security certificates from Apple and/or Microsoft soon, which would greatly streamline the installation process.
After I finished the installation, I performed a malware scan using CleanMyMac from MacPaw. Everything passed with flying colors, and though this extra step might not have been necessary, it did give me a little added peace of mind.
In addition to this installation hiccup, I encountered a few odd Retouch4me quirks during normal use. None were dealbreakers, but they did detract a bit from the overall experience. The plugins crashed on me a few times, and the user interface was just a bit laggy – even on my 3.6 GHz 10-Core Intel i9 iMac. Occasional sluggishness could be due to the artificial intelligence used by the software, which performs highly complex computations in order to get great results.
Finally, there are no presets offered by any of the plugins, which could be an issue for some, but the default edits generally worked fine. Users who consistently prefer to set the sliders to specific values might find the lack of presets a bit irritating, but it wasn’t a major problem for me.
Retouch4me plugins review: final words
The Retouch4me plugins can transform your images with minimal effort, and most portrait photographers will find a lot to love about them. I appreciated the targeted approach of these plugins: each one serves a singular purpose and it does that one thing very well.
Instead of buying a suite of tools that may or may not serve your needs, Retouch4me lets you purchase individual plugins that do exactly what you require. There are even some plugins that I didn’t review, such as White Teeth and Fabric, but based on the results I’ve seen so far, I would be happy to use these on a daily basis. If you don’t mind some installation issues and a few interface quirks, the Retouch4me plugins will be a great addition to your post-processing workflow!
Retouch4me official site: HERE!
Retouch4me is a paid partner of dPS.