Portrait Professional handles Sony A700 raw files

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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.

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. PLEASE NOTE – JULY 24TH UPDATE – VERSION 8 NOW OUT FOR MAC AND PC – SEE OUR REPORT ON DPHOTOEXPERT.

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 Sony Alpha 700 RAW conversion in the process. Click the screenshot for a full size version.

The Max version

An Adobe Camera Raw export from the Alpha 700 .ARW, unprocessed (click to enlarge)

A Portrait Professional raw conversion direct from .ARW, 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 – it worked. 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 (where this report was originally published) or Photoclubalpha website readers by entering the code mpa609 when buying on-line.

Portrait Professional has been updated to version 8 since this report was first published. It is now Mac compatible and a very well implemented Mac program into the bargain! For a short review, visit dPhotoexpert.com.

– David Kilpatrick


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