Portrait Professional 9 review
The fastest and most effective way to turn a routine portrait into a thing of beauty.
Review Date: 9 Oct 2009
Price when reviewed: (£30.39 ex VAT); Studio version £49.95 (£43.43 ex VAT)
Reviewed By: Steve Caplin
Portrait Professional is a one-stop application for enhancing studio portraits.
It combines tremendous power and versatility with unprecedented ease of use, allowing even the least technically minded photographer to produce stunning, impressive results in a few minutes rather than hours.
The first step is to choose whether the face is male or female. The application then guides you through the process of marking the left corner of the left eye, the right corner of the right eye, the tip of the nose and the corners of the mouth. The image then zooms into the left eye, where you mark the centre and size of the iris, and refine the shape of the eye and eyebrow. This procedure is repeated for the right eye. You then mark the outline of the mouth - with different settings depending on whether the mouth is open or closed. Finally, mark the edges of the face and the position of the hairline.
This procedure typically takes less than a minute. When completed, Portrait Professional applies its magic to the entire face: removing wrinkles, concealing pores, and brightening and sharpening eyes. It also modifies the shape of the face to bring it closer to accepted standards of beauty - lengthening the neck, reshaping the jaw line, enlarging the eyes slightly, and so on. The entire process takes just a couple of seconds, and the result is an immediate and noticeable improvement on the original image.
The real strength of Portrait Professional lies in its ability to customise the finished image. You can decide just how much reshaping you want to apply to every facet of the image, choosing the combination of reshaping that enhances the portrait without losing sight of the original. Since the original and enhanced image are shown side by side, it's easy to compare the two to ensure you don't go too far.
You can fine-tune the results endlessly. Separate groups of sliders control the whiteness of the eyes, the colour of the iris, the size of the pupil; there are controls to set the shape of the mouth, the colour, saturation and sharpness of the lips, the strength of shadow beneath the nose, and so on.
It automatically selects the hair, with a brush that lets you refine the selection if needed. You can then set the glossiness, colour, brightness and smoothness of the hair and fill in dark shadows.
A set of presets allows you to set global parameters - black and white, dramatic lighting, glamour and so on. There are also preset buttons for common tasks such as changing eye colour, reddening lips and darkening hair. You can also save your own presets in this panel, allowing you to apply exactly the same alterations to other photographs of the same model, for example.
What's truly extraordinary about Portrait Professional is its ease of use. A typical portrait takes less than five minutes to enhance, and the results are better than a skilled Photoshop user could achieve in an hour. Tasks such as enhancing complexion and removing defects are accomplished automatically; a touch-up brush lets you paint over additional unwanted areas such as nose studs or scars. This behaves like Photoshop's Healing Tool, sampling local texture and seamlessly patching the painted area.
The developer, Anthropics Technology, grew out of the research and development wing of the National Film and Television School, and the application shows a depth of finesse and professionalism that goes far beyond most standard commercial applications. The program automatically detects the angle of view, showing a sample model front on, in a three quarters view or even in profile to match the image you're working on. With eight upgrades in just a couple of years, Portrait Professional continues to improve: the latest version adds multiprocessor support, enhanced skin improving technology and a new touch-up brush, as well as a Photoshop plug-in that calls the main application (although there are currently some minor functionality issues here, which should be fixed by the time this review is published). The Premier version, Portrait Professional Studio, adds support for Camera Raw and 16-bit colour images.
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