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Photography Software (4)

Portrait Plus Software Review

Arcsoft's Portrait Plus Software Review

Portrait Retouching softwarePortrait Retouching software, such as Arcsoft's Portrait Plus, can be a godsend to a busy photographer. This is because no matter how good your portrait is out of camera almost all photos can benefit from some careful retouching and digital darkroom editing. Whether you are doing family portraits, senior pictures or individual and team photos for sports teams, a good portrait retouching program can speed up your workflow and enhance the products you offer to your customers, or simply help you create better portraits of your family.

There are two general approaches to digitally retouching or editing portraits.

The first is to use a comprehensive editing program such as Adobe Photoshop or Coral Paintshop Pro. These photo editing programs contain the type of controls and features that allow you professionally retouch and edit portraits to almost any style or extreme imaginable. However one of the drawbacks to this approach are that the learning curve to master these programs and techniques can be time consuming and the time it takes to fully edit a photo using this method is often time intensive and can be difficult to work into an already busy workload, especially when processing many images.

The second approach comes into play and that is to use a Portrait Retouching software program or Plug-In that will allow you to quickly and easily retouch or edit your digital portraits, Having used photo retouching software in my own photography business for several years I can vouch for its benefits in speeding up the workflow process and producing a better quality product for my customers with minimal time spent editing photos. That being the case I was pleased when ArcSoft approached me about doing a review of their high end retouching software, Portrait Plus.

Getting Started with Portrait Plus

Downloading and installing Portrait Plus could not have been an easier process. In just a few minutes and the software was installed and ready for use. While I did not require any support during installation or use of the software…the program is very well designed and intuitive…it is nice to know that help is available on the company's website. Not only do they feature a FAQ section but they also have some video tutorials for those users that are new to this type of software. Additional support, if needed, is also just an email away as one would expect from a quality software company.

Upon starting the program you have three options to choose from.

  1. "Select Photos" which is used to select one or more photos out of a folder.
  2. "Select a Folder" which is great for batch processing as it will automatically load all pictures in that folder.
  3. You can load one of five example photos provided to allow you to practice and explore the program.

Portrait Plus 1

Whether you choose to open one or multiple photos the program responds quickly and the photos are opened and faces automatically detected in a very short period of time. I was very impressed with the accuracy that the program had in identifying key points of the face that are necessary for portrait editing to be done correctly. Rarely did I find any need to fine tune adjustment points but that is easily done if needed. Even when there are multiple faces in photo the software does a good job identifying them and accurately setting the key points for each face.

The program will recognize up to 30 faces in a photograph and automatically detect 24 key facial points for each one. The automatic face recognition and setting of key points prior to editing was something I really liked because the software I had been using for portrait retouching requires you to manually set the key points for each face. I love the automatic detection built into Portrait Plus and was impressed by its speed and accuracy.

Once the file or files are opened up you are on the main screen of the program where all the editing work takes place. Along the bottom of the screen is a light box bar that shows you all your open images so you can quickly move from one to another. Immediately above that is a toolbar that shows you the faces that the program has identified in the photo you currently have selected and allows you switch from one face to another quickly. To the right of this tool bar are icons to allow you to: 1. Lock a face to prevent it being edited. 2. Adjust the key points of each face or 3. Show a before and after split screen view. Then along the right hand side of the screen you have your "Preset" and "Edit" tabs where you can either use a standard "preset" selection of edits or under the edit tab have complete control of all editing tools the program offers.

Portrait Plus 2
One of the challenges of retouching or editing portraits is to enhance the natural beauty of your subject and making them look their best without going too far which can result in a portrait that looks fake or plastic. Fortunately the editing controls on ArcSoft's Portrait Plus software give you full control and allow you adjust each type of edit for the best possible look without the end result looking over processed or edited.

While the primary way most people would use Portrait Plus is to do minor enhancements and editing to bring out the best in your subject, it has enough tools and control that it could also be useful in editing images where the photographer will be creating a hand painted look. Using digital imaging techniques, like smudging or apply a painting filter to an image, are popular methods of creating a digital portrait that almost looks hand painted. With the full range of editing possibilities in Portrait Plus one could quickly edit a portrait that would then become a good starting point for smudging or some other digital painting technique to create those types of "painted" portraits.

Editing a Photo Using Portrait Plus

My preferred method of editing photos using Portrait Plus or similar software is using a "split screen" function where I can see the original photo and the edited one side by side. This allows me to see how each edit enhances the photo and make sure that the image is not being over edited or getting a fake or plastic look to the subject. As mentioned earlier I found it easy to use a top down approach to editing with Portrait Plus so I begin my editing at the "Skin Magic" menu of edits.

Starting out with the Skin Magic edits you have the option of adjusting the skin area to make sure the program has correctly identified all the skin areas in the photo. Another thing I like about Portrait Plus is that it not only recognizes the skin on the face but also arms and other areas of skin that might be in the photo. Using the "Adjust Skin Area" button allows you to see what areas the program has identified as skin and make any necessary adjustments. Once that is done I start working my way through the list of edits beginning with Skin Smoothing and adjust each one to obtain the desired results I am looking for.

Portrait Plus 3
Once you have worked your way through all the edits you have the option of saving the finished result as a Preset which would allow you to quickly apply the same edits to a number of different images. Again this is a feature I really like and one that could speed up the workflow when working through a number of photos of the same person. Applying the same set of edits would also help ensure that all photos look similar in regards to the editing done. Once you are satisfied with the result you Export the file to whatever folder you select. When batch editing it allows you to automatically rename the photos sequentially as well.

Portrait Plus 4

Conclusion

Portrait Plus is an impressive Portrait Retouching Software program. It has all the tools you will need to edit and enhance all types of portraits. You can go from minimal editing to "wow" type glamor shots in just a few clicks. The speed and ability of the program to recognize multiple faces and correctly identify the many key points necessary for a retouching program to work well were outstanding.

There is just the right amount of balance between automated presets and complete manual control to make this portrait retouching software a great choice for either the amateur or professional photographer.

One thing about the program I saw as a negative was the inability to layer different presets and the fact that if you selected two different presets to export with the photo you would be saving two different files, one for each preset applied. However neither of this were really major issues to me as I normally do not use presets when editing, unless as mentioned above, it is one I created myself for a specific subject or photo shoot. Since I do most of my editing using the manual controls neither of these drawbacks presented any significant problem, nor did they hamper my enthusiasm for this great Portrait Retouching software program.

I also like the fact that the program is available either as a standalone version or a plug in for Photoshop. The plug in version has all the same functionality as the standalone and allows a photographer that currently uses Photoshop as his primary editing program to have all the benefits and time saving abilities of Portrait Plus available right in Photoshop.

Arcsoft Portrait Plus is a force to be reckoned with in the portrait retouching software battle. I was very satisfied with the functionality and ease of use of the program. You can download a trial version on their website.

Click Here to purchase or download a trial copy of Arcsoft Portrait Plus

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ACDSEE Pro 4

ACDSee Pro 4 Photo Management Software

acdsee pro 4ACDSee Sytems International recently released the newest version of their photo management and editing software, ACDSee Pro 4.

Like the previous versions, ACDSee 4.0 is a powerful photo management software program that allows photographers to import, organize, view, edit and backup their ever growing digital photo collections.

While powerful enough to meet the needs of the professional photographer, ACDSee Pro 4 is also user friendly enough for the newest novice.

One of the most important things for any photographer is having a good digital asset management (D.A.M.) plan so their photos are organized and backed up on a regular basis. ACDSee Pro 4 has all the tools needed for cataloging, organizing, backing up and editing your vast collection of photos in one easy to use but fast and powerful program.

Benefits of ACDSee Pro 4

Unlike some photo management software programs that require you to import your photos into a catalog before they are available to view or edit, ACDSee Pro lets you have access to all your photos right from the start. You are not limited to working with a single catalog of photos. Instead you have direct access to all your folders and photos at any time.

ACDSee Pro 4 folder viewRather than limit you to a particular workflow ACDSee really allows you to manage your workflow the way you want to. If you want to catalog your photos and work with specific catalogs you can. Prefer to see all your photos and choose a specific folder to work from…no problem…ACDSee can handle that as well.

Unlike some photo management software, ACDSee puts you in control of how you work rather than forcing you into their preferred method.

ACDSee Pro 4.0 features state of the art image editing algorithms. Their patented “Lighting and Contrast Enhancement” and “Single Exposure HDR” allow photographers to fix underexposed images, increase the contrast and saturation of dull, flat photos, correct uneven and backlit photos and selectively brighten dark areas while darkening light areas (automatic dodging and burning). effectively creating an HDR image from a single photo.

Key Features of ACDSee Pro 4

  • The advantage of having a single photo management software program that gives you the tools needed to import, process, edit and manage your photos.
  • An easy to use digital workflow software system built around four tabs…Manage, View, Process and Online. This allows you customize your complete digital workflow into the most efficient system for you.
  • ACDSee Pro 4 allows you to import your photos directly from your camera or memory card and quickly assign categories, keywords, IPTC data, etc. During the import process you can easily rename the files, create backup copies and file in metadata information such as location, copyright, etc.
  • It has flexible and powerful search tools allow you to find photos by date, event, location and other image metadata or properties.
  • The ability to import and process RAW images from a large variety of cameras. All editing in ACDPro 4.0 is done non-destructively. That means your original file remains unchanged and you can go back to the file and re-edit it again later. You can edit RAW images in full size with amazing speed.
  • Built in editing tools allow you to add watermarks, text, or special effects to your photo. It also has cloning and healing tools as well as red eye removal and other editing features. If additional editing is needed you can quickly open the photo in an external editor such as Adobe Photoshop or Coral PaintShop Pro.
  • Create single picture HDR images using ACDSee’s patented single exposure HDR algorithms. This allows you to bring out the full dynamic range of the photo and provides a realistic high dynamic range image from a single photo.
  • Easily boost the saturation of a color or increase or decrease the brightness of a color without affecting skin tones using the color sliders.
  • A fully customizable workspace. Change the color scheme, define workspace presets, setup keyboard shortcuts and customize toolbars to help you setup your digital workflow software to work the way you want it to.
  • Display your images online. You can easily publish your photos on the ACDSee online website or use one of the built in uploaders to load your photos to popular photo websties such as Flickr, Smugmug, Zenfolio or your own FTP account.
  • Compare up to four images side by side and easily tag the one best one.
  • Edit photos in real time directly from the original file. No need to import photos to a special folder or database to be worked on.
  • Fast and easy batch editing of multiple photos.

ACDSee Pro4 Workflow
Work faster with ACDSee Pro Photo Manager 4

What’s New in Version ACDSee 4

  • Enhanced metadata features allow you to edit important metadata information for a single photo or a group of photos by simply selecting the photos and opening the metadata pane. You can even customize the metadata fields that are displayed in that pane to allow you to quickly see and edit the fields that are important to you. You can also save metadata presets so that you can quickly apply the information to multiple images.
  • Quickly see the location of the photo using GPS information from GPS enabled cameras or assign location information to existing files. This is handy if you want to see or display your photos on Google Maps, etc.
  • Enhanced RAW processing. New non-destructive RAW processing technology allows you to quickly process RAW files.
  • Lens correction tools. New in ACDSee Pro 4 are tools that allow you to quickly correct lens vignetting and chromatic aberration and defringing.
  • Automatic uploading of photos. ACDSee Pro 4 allows you to designate specific folders to be automatically uploaded to your ACDSee Online storage space. This makes it quick and easy to share your photos with friends and family. Simply add the photos to one of the designated folders and ACDSee will automatically upload them for display online.

ACDSee Pro 4 Screenshot with MapSee the location of your photo on a map using GPS information from the camera.

Working with ACDSee Pro 4

No matter how many photos you have it is important to have them organized and to have a regular back up plan. ACDSee Pro helps you do just that.

Unlike some photo management software that require you to import photos to edit them, ACDSee Pro 4.0 gives you instant access to every photo on your computer. This allows you to quickly and easy browse or edit any photo without limiting you to working on just one catalog.

Rather than force you into a specific workflow method, ACDSee Pro 4.0 allows you to manage your photo collection the way you want. It can handle both catalog and browser based workflows which means you can work and organize your photos your way.

ACDSee Pro 4 Screenshot Manage TabThe view tab allows you to quickly review your photos in full screen mode.
After importing your photos you can quickly manage them and tag your favorites. Using ACDSee Pro you can tag, rate, or assign categories to single or multiple photos. This information is stored in the ACDSee database and allows you to quickly find your favorite photos.

Powerful batch editing tools help you quickly make changes to multiple files at once. From correcting exposure, adding metadata information, renaming a group of files or even adding a watermark, ACDPro has the tools and speed needed to get your photos processed and ready to show as quickly as possible.

ACDSee Pro 4 Lighting edit viewThe Lighting Panel allows you to adjust the luminance on a zone by zone setting.
ACDSee Pro has a robust set of built in editing tools plus the ability to quickly open a photo in your favorite external editor like Adobe Photoshop.

Using the lightning control you can adjust different luminance zones of the photo and quickly bring out the detail in shadow areas. When processing RAW images you can obtain HDR type results from a single image. Even on JPEG photos using the auto selection on the Lighting panel will often create an HDR type of image.

This feature alone makes the program invaluable to me as it can make such a change in the appearance of an image and sometimes can rescue an improperly exposed image.

ACDSee Pro 4 advanced color edit viewThe Advanced Color Mode allows you to adjust saturation and brightness by individual color.
Another of my favorite editing tools is the ability to boost saturation on a color by color basis as well adjust the brightness of a color or range of colors. This feature is very useful when your sky is a little washed as you can quickly boost the blue saturation resulting in a more please sky. Because you are working on a color by color basis you have more control and can dramatically improve a photo with a few quick adjustments.

Of course like other editing done in ACDSee Pro these adjustments are non-destructive which means you can easily revert back to the original image or make further adjustments later on.

ACDSee Pro 4 geometry edit viewThe Geometry Controls allow you to quickly straighten horizons and adjust perspective.
A third editing feature I love is the non-destructive geometric edits that you can do. ACDSee allows you to quickly straighten the horizon, adjust perspective and crop a photo.

You can quickly zoom in and out on all editing modes and see your finished results in real time to quickly adjust multiple photos making them the best they can possibly be.

My Experience with ACDSee Pro

Several years ago when I started doing more sports photography, I quickly learned that I needed to find a top-notch digital workflow program that would help me speed up the processing of the thousands of pictures I would take during a baseball, basketball or wrestling tournament.

The photo management software program I was looking for would have to be one that would help me organize, edit and catalog a large number of pictures as fast as possible. That need started me on a quest where I researched, evaluated and used multiple photography management software programs both commercial and free over a several month period.

After evaluating every program I could find from Picasa to Lightroom, I finally settled on and began using ACDSee Pro. I chose ACDSee Pro over all the other software I tried because I found it very easy to use, yet extremely powerful.

With Lightroom being the defacto standard that many if not most professional photographers used when running Windows, it was tough to choose between going with Lightroom or ACDSee Pro. But in the end ACDSee Pro won me over for two reasons:

  • it was much more user-friendly. Never in my years of using ACDSee Pro have I felt the need to buy a “Missing Manual” or take a class to learn to master its features and unleash its power. Lightroom on the other hand seems much less user friendly and like Adobe Photoshop supports a whole cottage industry selling training manuals and videos on how to use it. While Lightroom is a top-notch program I needed something equally as powerful with a much shorter learning curve.
  • I preferred ACDSee’s “windows explorer” browsing structure over Lightroom. In Lightroom you have to import photos into a catalog in order to see or edit them. This approach in how they handle files is one of the biggest differences between Lightroom and ACDSee Pro. To begin working on photos in Lightroom you have to import them to the catalog you want before they are available to organize and edit. On the other hand with ACDSee Pro you can organize, rate and edit any photo on your computer without having to catalog it or import it into the program. ACDSee has powerful cataloging abilities but it also has the more typical “windows explorer” file structure view that lets you quickly access photos in any folder on your hard drives as well as creating a new folder, copying and moving photos, etc. all from within the program.

After several years of using ACDSee as my digital asset management (D.A.M.) program I recently upgraded to ACDSee Pro 4 and cannot be more satisfied. In fact this latest version of ACDSee Pro moves this from simply being a program I use and highly recommended to being a “must have” program that really exceeded my already high expectations.

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Free Digital Photography Software

Free Digital Photography Software

There are a lot of free digital photography software titles available online to help photographers edit and organize our photos. From simple web based photo editors to complex standalone editing software packages there are plenty of choices and some great software available to digital photographers at no cost.

On this page you will find a brief overview on several desktop based free digital photography software applications. The software listed on this page is installed on your computer as opposed to web-based programs that run over the internet.

If you are interested in learning more about free digital photography software check back often as I will be adding additional software to this page as I become aware of it. Also to come will be more in-depth reviews and tutorials covering some of these software titles.

Desktop Based Editors and Organizers

The free digital photography software listed below are standalone packages that you must download and install on your local computer. Many of these are very powerful photo editing and organizing software that have features and capabilities that rival many commercial software packages.

GimpGIMP--stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program and is considered one of the most powerful free image editing programs currently available.

Sometimes referred to as the "free Photoshop" GIMP is a very powerful image editing software program that offers many advanced photo editing and retouching tools. GIMP's powerful image adjustment and editing tools are even more enhanced by the large number of available plug-ins and scripts that automate complex processes and produce some very nice special effects.

If you are looking for a full-featured, very powerful, free digital photography software program GIMP might be just what you need. It includes many advanced editing tools such as channels, layers and masks but also has a steeper learning curve as do similarly powerful editors.

Described as a "powerful piece of software suitable for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring" it can be used as "a simple paint program, an expert quality photo-retouching program or an online batch-processing system." Depending upon your needs GIMP might be the free answer you are looking for in a digital image editor.

FastStoneFastStone--FastStone is primarily and image viewing and organizing software that has some built in editing features. It allows you to resize, crop, remove red-eye and make basic adjustments such as color, brightness and contrast.

While not a full featured editor it does do many things and is a worth while consideration. Besides simple editing features it also allows you to produce slide shows (with 150+ transitional effects and music), make contact sheets and image strips. In addition FastStone has the ability to batch convert and rename images as well as tag images for easy group processing.

It is a very good program worthy of being downloaded to see it it fits your needs. One feature I particularly like is its ability to do screen captures.

Described by its developers as a "fast, stable, user-friendly image browser, converter and editor" FastStone is another example of the great free digital photography software titles available online.


PaintNetPaint.net--is a free image and photo editing software that many find to be intuitive and easy to use. It has several advanced options such as layers and curves and also features an unlimited undo function. Paint.net also supports the use of plugins and is supported by user forums where one can find tutorials, etc. Paint.net begin as a simple drawing program intended to be a free replacement for Microsoft Paint but it has developed over the years into a fairly robust image editing program.

This free image editing software would be a good option for someone who is looking for a simple and effective editing program. While it lacks some important tools such as Dodge and Burn. All in all this is a pretty good program and one well worth you trying out.


PicasaPicasa--is Google's free photo organizing and editing program. It is a very full featured photo organization and editing package that comes with 1 GB of online photo hosting service from Google.

Picasa's strong point is its robust set of organizational tools but it also has basic editing functions built in such as: cropping, red-eye removal, exposure adjustments, etc. It features an auto-fix function to automatically adjust your image as well as several different special effects that can be applied to an image.

Picasa’s edits are ‘non-destructive” meaning that they are added to the photo while the original photo is left unchanged. This allows you to easily revert back to the original photo if you later desire to.

While Picasa’s editing features work well, it is the programs organizational features that really shine. Picasa automatically searches your computer for photos and then organizes them by date as well as in folders. It allows you to batch process photos as well as backing up your photos to a DVD/CD or external hard drive. Picasa also allows you to create “albums” to organize your photos in and has a very cool feature that organizes photos based on the people that are in them by using facial recognition technology. Besides organizing and editing your photos Picasa also has several options for displaying your photos including being able to create movies with a one button upload to YouTube.

Picasa also allows you to create collages and posters as well as online web galleries. The latest edition even includes built in integration with Picnik a great online photo editor. This features allows you to now use Picnik to edit your photos right in Picasa. Another important addition is the ability to do batch uploading of photos from Picasa to Picasa Web Albums and manage many of the features of your online web albums right from Picasa.

windows live photo galleryWindows Live Photo Gallery--This is Microsoft's free image viewer and editor. It allows you to import files from your camera or scanner, organize them in folders and easily rename or resize them. It also has basic editing tools such as exposure, cropping and a quick auto fix button that not only adjusts the exposure and color but also straightens the photo horizontally.

One of my favorite features of Windows Live Photo Gallery is how quick and easy you can straighten the horizon in a photo. Keeping your horizons level is important for the best quality image yet it can be easy to end up with photos where the horizon is at an angle. This free digital photography software makes a it easy to straighten those horizons and do basic adjustments to your photos.

Windows Live Photo Gallery also has a feature that automatically finds photos with people in them. This allows you to easily add a name to the person and then quickly search for all photos with that person in them.

Other nice features include the ability to upload multiple photos to sites like Flickr, Zenfolio, YouTube, Facebook and Smugmug. You can also upload photos to a Windows Live Online Photo Gallery or burn them to a CD or DVD for backup. This is another free digital photography software program that is worth trying out.

As you can see there are many different free digital photography software applications that are available to photographers. My recommendation is that you try them out and see which one best fits your needs.

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Free Digital Photo Software

Free Digital Photo Software

There are a lot of free digital photo software titles available online to help photographers edit and organize our photos. From simple web based photo editors to complex standalone editing software there are plenty of choices and some great software available to digital photographers at no cost.

Some digital photo software is totally free or is shareware while others offer a reduced version for free which can usually be ungraded for a very reasonable fee to a premium version that adds extra functions or tools.

On this page you will find a brief overview on several of the different Web-page based free digital photo software applications. These are considered to be web-based because they operate over the internet rather than requiring you to download and install the software.

If you are interested in free digital photo software check back often as I will be adding additional software as I become aware of it. Also to come will be more in-depth reviews and tutorials covering some of these software titles.

Web-page Based Editors

The free digital photo software covered on this page are web-based. You can use them from almost any browser without downloading or installing a program.

While web-based editors are generally simpler to use some of these have some very good editing features and would be all that many photographers need.

FotoFlexerFotoFlexer--Is another powerful free digital photo software editor. No registration is required so you can quickly be uploading and editing your photos in a very short time.

Like some other online editors FotoFlexer allows you to upload photos either directly from your computer or you can import photos from online storage places such as Flicker, Picasa web albums, Photobucket, Facebook, Myspace, etc.

FotoFlexer loads quickly and has a fairly robust array of tools. Some of the advanced tools that are only available on other editors under their premium paid plan, such the curves tool, are free on FotoFlexer. With no registration required and no cost to use I recommend that you give it a try and see what you can do.

Do you know of any free photography related software programs not listed here?...Or would you like to comment on or review your favorite free photography software program?

If so we would love for you to share with us your thoughts about these or other free digital photography software applications that you use.

Please feel free to submit your favorite free photography related software title or let us know what you like or dislike about those reviewed on this page.

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