Fantastic Tool for Quick, Quality Retouching

Professional retouching in Photoshop requires years of experience and hours of meticulous work, but with life moving a thousand miles per hour, it's rare we have the luxury to devote that time to every image. Coming to our aid is PortraitPro 12 Studio, which improves upon an already rich collection of features and adds a couple of great new ones.

PortraitPro instantly detects faces in each image opened. Results are quick and usually very good, but any adjustments are an easy process. The Standard results are good, so you could potentially have a retouched image ready to go in just one minute. My only issue is that it automatically adds Face Sculpt—Standard settings should not include sculpting. Any scrupulous retoucher begins with the face as is, only correcting for perceived flaws when necessary. The good news is there's a comprehensive list of presets, and versions of each without sculpt, plus one-click removal in the presets. The Natural presets are great starting points, but the Glamorous presets are a bit heavy-handed; however, everything is easily fine-tuned with the sliders.

The Face Sculpt Controls are really pretty cool and they have their place in some portrait retouches. It's easy to widen eyes or align uneven eyes here; I was even able to tone down an overly gummy smile with the mouth controls. Some clients are really insecure about the size of their forehead or how chubby their face appears in photos. These tools make quick work of adjusting a heavy face, long nose, or other feature that can suddenly stand out in a photo. Restraint and small movements will give pleasing results; pushing things too far can look outlandish.

The Skin Smoothing Controls give you complete control, even separate sliders for the left and right under eye areas. With 14 different Skin Texture Types, smoothed areas still look like skin and are not just blurred or noisy, as with other retouching software. For blemishes the Skin Smoothing Controls can't fix, there's the Touch Up Brush (like the Healing Brush in Photoshop) for targeted zapping of spots. These sliders provide results in one or two minutes that could take an hour or more in Photoshop, and are worlds better than any method I know of for fixing skin in Lightroom.

Other sections include Eye Controls and Mouth & Nose Controls, which give you sliders for the left and right eye, and the top and bottom lip. You can brighten, sharpen, whiten, and adjust eye and lip color here. The Skin Coloring Controls seem improved from the previous version, allowing you to quickly adjust the tint, temperature, and exposure, even add blush or a tan. Picture Controls allow for overall exposure adjustments and the like.

New to this version is a Skin Lighting Controls section, as well as lighting presets including Rembrandt and Light from Above. Here, you can move the light source, adjust shadows, even add Left Kick or Right Kick. Going too crazy in this section can create blurriness outside the face area, but it's nothing that can't be resolved by backing off on the adjustments. Also new to version 12 is Facebook connectivity so you can share before and after images with clients on Facebook with just a couple of clicks. Handy-dandy.

The only section that doesn't impress me is the Hair Controls. Low settings here can improve the shine or vibrancy of the hair, but adding more than a touch of smoothness is reminiscent of Oil Paint in Photoshop and is too unnatural. Steer clear of Hair Recolor, save perhaps applying a tiny amount to improve the hair's hue. It is exciting to see the selection of real hair colors in this section, but they look artificial when applied. Changing hair color is still difficult to do believably, even with Photoshop, so I can't wait until this section is on par with the others because it has the potential to be really nifty.

PortraitPro 12 Studio is powerful retouching software at a very reasonable price. It can be used alone or as a plug-in for Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture, or Photoshop Elements. Plus, it's so much fun to use that it makes me wish I had a folder of portraits needing retouching right now. It takes what can be a tedious, repetitive task, and gives good results quickly, so you can move on to other things. I challenge you to download the free trial and give PortraitPro 12 a test run. I bet you'll go back for the full version!

Company: Anthropics Technology Ltd.
Price: $39.95
Rating: 4.5
Hot: Myriad features make retouching fast and enjoyable
Not: Hair Controls not natural looking yet