PortraitPro smooths over the viewing session

CLICKING on key mapping points of a face, then adjusting some simple overlaid Bezier curves using movable anchors, it takes only a minute to load a typical headshot portrait into Portrait Professional.

Update: coverage of the new Mac and PC dual platform improved Portrait Professional 8 is on line now.

This program, originally communicating with Anthropics’ web server which handled the image processing, has gone through various upgrades since it appeared two years ago and the latest ‘ultimate’ version – Portrait Professional Max v6.5 – dispenses with the need for an internet connection.

It is, however, a Windows PC only app either way and this limits its appeal to mainstream professionals. PC use may dominate mass-portraiture and events photography, and there are always a few dedicated Windows experts at the top end, but once you get beyond mugshots and into £1k plus portraiture the Mac has a big slice of the userbase.

Using one of Anthropics Ltd’s sample images, face shape and expression changes are clear but the subject remains recognisably ‘themselves’. Click the screenshot for a full sized version.

Bambi Cantrell gave some simple advice at her seminars for the Master Photographers Association earlier this year. “Never let the client see an unretouched photo!” – and also, never let them even know it is retouched. She used mainstream production tools (Photoshop’s Healing Brush, Clone Stamp and Liquify Filter) to do quick facelifts and body sculpting.

Portrait Professional was originally just for headshots but you can now tackle a group shot face by face, or select a face from a three-quarter or full length, or treat a double portrait. It proves effective even where the face is just a small part of the image.

For owners of the original download, which was a very low-cost program at £39.95, an upgrade to v5 costs £24.95 and the final step to raw-compatible, 16-bit compatible PP Max 6.5 another £9.95, making the total cost £74.95. I paid for our download and updates using Paypal. The system worked well, delivering the unlock key codes and installers at each step without a hitch.

A direct purchase from www.portraitprofessional.com costs only £49.95 for the PP Max v6.5 latest version, so it pays to be a new user!

This headshot of musician Andrew Scott Viglione was intended to concentrate on his unusual styling and makeup, but was very unkind to skin texture in the process. Portrait Professional v6.5 removed blemishes without destroying normal skin details, preserved his drawn-on eyebrows, and gave a very smooth RAW conversion in the process. Click the screenshoot for a full size version.

The Max version

An Adobe Camera Raw export, unprocessed (click to enlarge)

A Portrait Professional raw conversion plus processing (click to enlarge)

I was sceptical about the RAW file claim, as no specific camera types were mentioned. I loaded a Sony Alpha 700 file – not the latest, but a minority raw format from late 2007. This program is not likely to lag in adding new models! Despite having few raw conversion controls, PP Max 6.5 adjusted the tones perfectly and performed all its smoothing, resculpting, brightening and enhancing on the 12 megapixel raw file just as if it was a small JPEG. You can see this conversion in the example above.

For some reason, PP exit-crashed when trying to view directories to select files on my Windows XP machine. Dragging the same files on to the desktop shortcut icon worked perfectly. It’s probably my machine, not PP.

When the time came to export the file, the option was either for a 16-bit TIFF or a JPEG. I chose the big file option and on examination, I got a full resolution TIFF of quite excellent quality free from artefacts and neither too soft nor oversharpened. The skin texture of my chosen subject, a male musician with radical tastes in personal styling, started pretty rough under directional lighting. The end result was amazingly well perfected yet every single pore still showed – just in a much kinder way. The shadow fill and relighting options also worked as well as Photoshop raw conversion adjustments. It has additional brush-type blemish removal tools and fine tuning for skin areas to be processed.

If you have taken a set of portraits, PP Max allows settings to be saved and applied rapidly to more pictures which are similar. Though the workflow is not as automated as the retouching process, I can see the potential for very high quality output from raw files and it’s fair to say that Portrait Professional Max 6.5 is a program far removed from the ‘web app’ we first looked at in 2006.

It is offered as a trial version, and the full product can be downloaded with a 10% discount to Master Photo Digital magazine or dPhotoexpert website readers by entering the code mpa609 when buying on-line.

All that is missing, for me, is the ability to run this program on a Mac (see later article – Mac version now available).

– David Kilpatrick

8 thoughts on “PortraitPro smooths over the viewing session

  1. “For some reason, PP exit-crashed when trying to view directories to select files on my Windows XP machine. Dragging the same files on to the desktop shortcut icon worked perfectly. It’s probably my machine, not PP.”

    Nope, it’s the program. There is a little piece in the manual that says it’s because they try to use the “Open Dialog” in preview mode. They ‘say’ removing a codec will fix the problem, except that I don’t have the codec installed, but like you said it works fine if you drag-and-drop the file.

    Aside from this minor flaw the program is nothing less than amazing. To have the power to do what it does in under 5 min is astonishing! I use RAW from my Sony A700 almost exclusively. Very much a tool that should be in every photographers tool kit:)

  2. Hi David – non of the links to the larger files would open for me – using Firefox or IE (PC) Just got the same error saying “….cannot be displayed because it contains errors”.

    However, I did like the idea of the article in web form, thanks.

    Paul RG

  3. Thanks for that info! I do not know my PC well enough to chase codecs – on the Mac it’s easy, they look like jigsaw pieces…

    David

  4. I’ve just bought it. To date, I’ve only had a bit of a play with it and it seems very good.

    However….

    If I was to make one criticism about it is that PP (correct me if I am wrong here) is a stand-alone programme. I would prefer it to work as a Photoshop Plug-in, ideally in a way that Nik Color Efex Pro works within PS – i.e when you open the application, it automatically applies the effect to a duplicate layer. Doing it this way means there is no need to export the file to PS and then converting the TIFF or JPEG file to a PSD file.

  5. Hi there,

    I’m the chief scientist of Anthropics Technology, the company that produces Portrait Professional. Just to give more detail on the crashing problem: When the open dialog comes up in file browsing mode, any number of icon viewers you have installed on your computer can be run to show icons in the open dialog. Any of these other pieces of software can cause a crash. We initially discovered this with Nero Vision Express, but have subsequently found the same problem with other software too. We have a couple of workarounds on our website here: http://www.portraitprofessional.com/support/?page=kb_view&id=31

    Tony

  6. Pingback: Portrait Professsional 8 - now for Mac | dPhotoexpert

  7. I have a problem with version 12. I downloaded a trial, and was impressed by the automatic face recognition, and that it drew the outlines perfectly, and it was excellent on the first image, which was a husband and wife. i went to retouch the husband, and halfway through, the programme crashed. It does it every time, without fail. I am running windows 7, and can’t imagine what is wrong. I tried contacting them via email, but when I enter the email address on the support ticket, it tells me it is not a genuine email, which is ridiculous. I know of no other way to contact them, as they have no phone number. This is tough on anyone who needs to contact them, and is infuriating. I have version 9 on my older computer, and that works fine, but I don’t know how to contact them. I tried downloading 12 on my XP machine, which is the older one, but it crashes when trying to install it. Has anyone got a contact phone number, or can help me understand what to do?

    • Can’t help with Windows, but works OK on Mac. XP is really very old – 10 years old – and 7 has a reputation for crashes. I do have a direct contact at Athropics (56 Wood Lane, London W12 7SB) but it’s my press contact and I can not really give out those details. Version 12.5 is the current release.