8.05.2011

Portrait Professional. A user report. From the frigid wastelands of my studio cave...


 You've probably guessed that it's extremely rare for me to talk about software on this blog.  It's not because I don't use software in my photography business but I always considered myself a "purist",  unsullied by the "phony" effects of HDR software or any of the other canned effects that I see all over the web.  Yep.  I always considered myself a basic PhotoShop warrior with the credo that, "if it couldn't be done in PhotoShop you really shouldn't be doing it....

But lately I've wavered.  My friend at atmtx keeps doing HDR stuff that I actually like.  You can see it here:  the guy that does good, mostly subtle HDR.  We had lunch yesterday and I'm kinda blown away that he doesn't even use PhotoShop but does his magic with a combination of Apple's Aperture and Photomatix.

So, I was sitting in front of my computer one day, contemplating a virtual stack of portraits that I needed to retouch/enhance and dreading the time consuming method I'd come to after years of just hacking away with clone tools and various adaptations of layers and gaussian blur when I came across an ad for a piece of software called, Portrait Professional.  And it was aimed at exactly what I was working on.  I mean exactly what I was working on.  I downloaded a trial and twenty minutes later I was back to download the full deal, credit card sizzling hot in my hand.

In a nutshell the program offers you all the stuff a seasoned professional retoucher would bring to a basic portrait retouching job, organized in a straightforward way, with tons of individual controls.  I used the basic tools for the job at hand and estimate that I did the project in less  than a third of the time I would have done it in with my previous, antiquated workflow, and more importantly, I did a much, much better job than I would have previously done.  I just had to kill and bury that 20th century purist who had always (subconsciously??) held portrait retoucing in low regard.  He's gone now.  It's a new century and I'm all about making portraits that my clients love.  If I want to do "Art" I'll do in on my own time and on my own dime.  This is a tool for taking a conventional business headshot or ad shot and cleaning up skin tone, remapping some features and generally flattering the hell out of your sitter without tipping your hand too badly.  Now, don't get me wrong.  You can go all extreme and dangerous with the program and turn out Barbie Doll skin and wacky space alien features but you can also use the power of the program with a bit of restraint.

Once you open the program and select an image you'll see a "before" and a "working" image side by side on your monitor.  The program leads you thru the process of "marking" the outside point of each eyes, zooms you in to fine tune your selection of eye and eye brow and then sends you along to do the same kind of quick marking of lips and nose and the general area and shape of the face.  I assume the program uses this information to figure out what is skin and what everything else is.  You also select whether you are working a male or female face and even whether or not you are working on a child's face.  Once you've done all this (two minutes?) you push the space bar and the program does its automated retouching and then opens a brilliantly conceived and laid out interface that allows you to go into dozens of parameters and change settings to your heart's desire.  Finally, when you've done everything you want and you've watched the changes, you push the spacebar again and the program finishes out your creation and saves it.

I'm cheap, I bought the basic program.  It'll work with Jpegs or Tiffs and it works as a stand alone program.  If I need to clone something or mess with a background the image has to go into PS.  But you can buy more complete versions that allow you to use it as a PS plug-in and even in 64 bit.  I didn't realize how much I would enjoy working with the program and how much easier it's making my professional life or I would have gone straight to the best/coolest implementation.  I hope they allow me to upgrade.

I'm a curmudgeon at times but once you beat me over the head with the time savings of something and the fact that the program keeps me organized and better able to turn out a great enhanced/retouched image that is perhaps better than my patience and skill previously permitted, I'll jump every time!

Check it out and see what you think.  If you go to their site there's a free trial:  http://www.portraitprofessional.com/?gclid=CKmjkqyRuaoCFQ0S2godKgfGMw  The company is Anthropics Technology.  And now I'm curious about what else they may have to make my life easier.

Final Note:  It's not particularly fair or revealing to use Jana (above images) as a before and after because she has such beautiful features and photographs so well.  I thought about using someone plain until I realize that I make it a habit of never photographing anyone who isn't gorgeous......


23 comments:

mike wilson said...

Thanks for the review, Kirk!

I've seen LOTS of their ads in magazines but I'll be honet… I've always thought their examples of before and after looked pretty cheesy, and overly airbrushed. I never read a review of anyone who had actually used it.

I'll have to download it and give it a whirl.

kirk tuck said...

Mike, I think the adverts do beat you over the head with obvious stuff but the reality is that you have total control of the cheesiness factor. You'll see when you do the demo.

Bill Millios said...

"I make it a habit of never photographing anyone who isn't gorgeous......"

Self portraits excluded? :)

Dave Elfering Photography said...

I'm totally jealous... you got the software *and* got to photograph Jana (God surely does good work).

Anyways... took a look and totally bought the studio 64 version. $120 is cheap in comparison to my time.

Dave Jenkins said...

I've been using PP for a long time -- got in with version 4, I think. I ask my female corporate subjects "How much would you like me to take off? Ten years? Twenty? They love it.

On the other hand, Jana needs about as little help from PP as anyone I've ever seen. :-)

Photo_13_02 said...

You have just cost me some money, I have bought a copy of Portrait Professional.

Anonymous said...

I’m a longtime and devout photographic hobbyist , and find your blog so very interesting and refreshing when compare to other blogs. Thank you Kirk.

Women, especially ones of a certain, age always ask me to Photoshop out all wrinkles, blemishes, and make their image appear as perfection. As a hobbyist, can decline the wish, and limit editing to simply clearing up their skin a little and eliminating transitory blemishes. I find nothing offensive about wrinkles: such things do not detract from my appreciation of the beauty of a woman. Moreover, the level of editing advanced in the adverts for Portrait Professional seem to be such a raving lie that I would never use such a product, or even think of doing the same with some other editing software. Pros hired to satisfy the needs of their clients have to earn their keep, but as a hobbyist, I have no illusional requirements to satisfy, and I am grateful this is so. It must be the “inner photojournalist” in me, as the level of editing possible with Portrait Professional is too much like the Iranians faking the number of missiles being launched in photos of their test launch. The level of lying thru photography reaches even higher level in magazine photography. Check out the portfolio section at www.iwanex.com to see what goes on. Are people with wrinkles and blemishes inferior or to be pitied? The world of Portrait Professional would lead you to think so.

Regards,

Omar
Omar of the East

Anonymous said...

Correction: Its the porfolio section at www.iwanexstudio.com.

Omar of the East

kirk tuck said...

Anonymous, the control is in the hands of the artist. I agree that too many go too far.

Bill, Like I said, I only photograph beautiful people... :-)

atmtx said...

Kirk, Wow, Portrait Professional looks great and it's even on sale! I'll have to give it a try.

Thank you again for mentioning my work. It means quite a bit to me. I usually only use Apple's Aperture for most of my post processing. With my HDRs I use Photomatix and Aperture as you mentioned by I also use Pixelmator to do layer blending. I believe the layer blending of the HDRed image with the originals is what separates a merely OK or badly processed HDR with a good one. I can also use Photoshop to layer blend but Pixelmator costs only $30.

kirk tuck said...

atmtx, Thanks. I'll look into Pixelmator. Will it run on my iPhone? :-)

Anonymous said...

I attended a Senior workshop at Imaging USA. One of the photographers presenting had a great portfolio and said she lives in West Virginia and charges about $1400 for a senior portrait session. She said one thing to notice is the consistency of the "looks" she's able to get. She gets these looks from using portrait professional. I immediately put PP on my list of things to get.
The Next day I took a mini workshop from another senior portrait photographer, who said he charges an exorbitant amount for his sessions. Upon looking at his portfolio, I immediately noticed his subjects looked very similar to the subjects of the West Virginia photographer, I saw the day before. I took PP off my list.

If it gets too easy, everyone will do it and everything will look the same.

Jim said...

I have Portrait Professional and yes, as Kirk observes, you can push things too far jsut as you can with Photoshop but it does give you the control to decide how much is enough. The initial adjustment that comes up automatically is just a starting point, like a preset in Lightroom. You are free to play with all the controls and there are lots. With a bit of discretion it's a great tool.

kirk tuck said...

Anonymous, The lighting, posing, rapport, expression are the important parts of a portrait project. PP just aids you with cleaning stuff up. I get what you are saying but for consumer portraits there is an expectation that retouching will be at a certain level. This is a tool to help with that, not a style template.

Dave Elfering Photography said...

Ok... been tinkering for about 24 hours. Still happy with the purchase. The effects can be customized to avoid cheese factor and it has been a time saver.

kirk tuck said...

Just wait till you get really fast at it. Make a day of portrait shooting a real profit center. Charging by the person and charging for the retouch.

Anonymous said...

Bought is about a year ago for a single portrait shoot, and the time savings alone paid for it. And yes, you can control the processing. I generally use the adjustments at about 1/10th power, some off completely.

Max Young said...

Been using PP for about 2 years. I have the plug-in for CS5 and it's just about all I use these days.

Used with restraint it's a top piece of software and yes, a time saver.

Mike R. said...

Very interesting, and nicely (subtly) done!

I opened both images (before/after) in browser tabs so I could quickly switch back and forth. The program has moved her entire face higher! It didn't change face proportions, and her shoulders don't move, but her face does. What's up with that?

Ulfric M Douglas said...

Well observed Mike R ... quote ; " The program has moved her entire face higher! It didn't change face proportions, and her shoulders don't move, but her face does. What's up with that?"

Looking at it myself I see vertical elongation of her neck and chin, making everything a bit more elegant.

Was that PoPr or was it done beefore/after using another editor?

Gordon said...

'until I realize that I make it a habit of never photographing anyone who isn't gorgeous......'

Ah! that's why I never saw those portraits!

Paulo Rodrigues said...

I've been using it for a while myself. I ended up getting a copy that integrates with Lightroom so it can be part of my workflow.

I like that fact that you can paint things back in if you so wish as I like things to look fairly natural. I hate the plastic skin trend the has been going around lately

donbga said...

I'm coming to this article very late compared to the original post date but I read Kirk's blog, looked at his examples and purchased the product a few hours later. What a bargain for $60. Yeah the results can get over AMPed but that is easily correctable.

I've used the product for about 2 hours and have gotten reasonable results. That is I've been able to create retouched files that don't make my subjects look like wax mannequins. Thanks Kirk for pointing the way.