Arcsoft's Portrait Plus Software Review
Portrait 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.
- "Select Photos" which is used to select one or more photos out of a folder.
- "Select a Folder" which is great for batch processing as it will automatically load all pictures in that folder.
- You can load one of five example photos provided to allow you to practice and explore the program.
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.
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.
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 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.