Portrait Professional 12 Impresses

I have been using Portrait Pro for several years now. If you have not seen this product, its primary goal is to reduce almost every aspect of portrait retouching to the operation of a set of sliders. In this way, the core functions of editing portrait images in a professional studio becomes as simple and as efficient as possible. Of course, this is a rather tall order; and some of the earlier versions of Portrait Pro did not quite deliver on the promise. It is possible to push any retouching software past the limits of plausibility; and Portrait Pro certainly provides the power to turn any normal human being into an artificial mannequin. For me, the question has been, can it do anything else? The answer, until this latest version, has been a rather qualified yes.

Although the differences between v11 and v12 are incremental, to my way of looking at the situation, some threshold of utility seems to have been crossed. In this business, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words; so let’s deal with a picture.

I’ve chosen the following image from a senior photo shoot late last summer.

Initial image

Initial image

This image is unretouched, and without any of the usual corrections for white balance, levels, etc. Let’s do that in Lightroom first and see where we stand:

Some global corrections applied

Some global corrections applied

The Portrait Pro app will run stand-alone or as a plugin within Photoshop. I’m going to run it as a plugin, so my next move is to take the image from LR5 over to PS CC with those edits applied. In PS, the first thing I’m going to do is improve the sharpness just a touch using the camera shake reduction tool. The image was captured with a manual focus f/1.4 85mm lens at f/3.5, and unfortunately, it’s a touch soft. Here is the image before shake reduction:

Before shake reduction

Before shake reduction

And here it is after:

After shake reduction

After shake reduction

Often, the difference is more obvious than in the present case. Still, I think it’s worth doing.

Let’s take a closer look at the capture at this point. As you can see, our subject had her back to the sun, which is above her right shoulder. To provide some fill for her face, the image was shot with an SB800 speedlight held high and to her left. This flash has provided some loop lighting to her face, and catch lights to her eyes. Unfortunately, her left eye is a bit “lazy”, and it lacks the same intensity of catch light as her right eye has. Also, she has a fairly prominent scar over her right eye and the signs of some bouts of acne on her forehead. An artifact of the highlight recovery in Lightroom has been that her teeth have acquired a grayish tinge that is not there in reality. This came about because of the application of highlight recovery to eliminate blown out pixels in the sky behind our subject. I could go back into LR and pull back that slider and eliminate this artifact, or, I can proceed to see what Portrait Pro can do with it. For the sake of this demonstration, I’m going to press forward.

In the first versions of Portrait Pro, the beginning step would be to place a set of facial characteristic markers on the face that you were going to work on. In this version, Portrait Pro performs this function for you, giving you the option to improve on its work if you wish.

PortraitPro, initial view

PortraitPro, initial view

The image on the left is the unretouched version, with the facial markers displayed clearly, as placed automatically by the program itself. Those markers appear when you put the cursor over that half of the image. They disappear if you move the cursor to the right side, which displays the enhanced image that the program has generated so far, also automatically. If you were happy with this result, which takes just a few seconds to produce, you could quit out of the program and get the result back in PS. In this case, I’m going to make some modifications.

First, from the presets on the right side, I’m going to select “Female Young Glamorous” and the following result is immediate:

Female Young Glamorous

Female Young Glamorous

Next, I open up the facial sculpting controls and I widen the “right” eye somewhat. Oddly enough, the right in this instance refers to the eye to the user’s right, not the subject’s right eye. This corrects for our subject’s slightly “lazy” left eye.

Opening the lazy eye

Opening the lazy eye

Next, in the skin lighting controls, I drag the impact point for the lighting so that it is more consistent with the actual alignment of the flash. By default, the impact point is centered on the subject’s forehead; so I have dragged it upwards and to my right.

Moving the lighting point

Moving the lighting point

At this point, I go ahead and increase the shadow on her left, the kick on the right, and add some “smokey eyes” effect.

Enhance lighting

Enhance lighting

The next set of retouch effects have to do with the eyes. In the next screen shot, I show the sliders for whitening just the right eye, increasing its curve, increasing the brightness of the eyes, sharpening the eyes and the eyebrows, and selectively lightning the right iris.

Selectively brightening the subject's left eye

Selectively brightening the subject’s left eye

The next trick is to increase the intensity of the iris of the right eye slightly to get it to balance that of the left.

Increase color intensity of right iris

Increase color intensity of right iris

Without any significant catch light, the right eye still looks rather “flat”. The next step is to add a catch light. From the long list on the right, I’ll select a small beauty dish.

Add a beauty dish catch light

Add a beauty dish catch light

So far so good, but the added reflections are in the wrong locations. No problem. We simply open up the “Nudge Reflections” panel and move them to the upper right part of the two eyes. Also, we go ahead and remove the reflection that existed in both pupils leaving only the single added beauty dish reflection.

Nudge the catch lights

Nudge the catch lights

It’s true that the left eye remains brighter than the right. We’ll have to fix this back in PS once we’re done. For now, it’s on to the teeth. By spinning open the options for the mouth, we whiten and clean the teeth and also add a little gloss to the lips.

Whitening the teeth and adding lip gloss

Whitening the teeth and adding lip gloss

Now, prepare for a little amazement. Here, beside one another are the before and after images. Use the arrow in the floating window to rock back and forth between them:

Before Portrait Pro

Before Portrait Pro

After Portrait Pro

After Portrait Pro

Admittedly I have done two additional things to the “After” image. I toned down the catch light in the left (from our point of view) eye. I also did a minor retouch with the healing brush to a remnant of the scar above her left eye. That’s all the PS work.

To observe that the difference is astounding is, perhaps, understatement. What is more amazing is that it took about 5 minutes of work in Portrait Pro to achieve this result. If you look extremely carefully at the before and after, you’ll be hard pressed to identify any single change that could not be attributed to improved lighting, makeup, or photographic skill (for example, better focus). Well, not quite maybe. It did adjust that eye and I did retouch the scar on our senior’s forehead.

That’s it; that’s all. Give it a whirl yourself.

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