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Software Review: Portrait Professional Studio Max 12

7/11/2014

Give your portraits a facelift.

System Requirements:
Mac: Intel Mac OS X (10.6 or later)
Microsoft Windows: 8/7/Vista/XP
Tested Platform/Hardware:
Mac OS X 10.9 (Mavericks); 21.5” iMac equipped with a 3.1 GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 16 GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M 512 MB.
File Types Supported:
PortraitPro Standard edition supports JPEGs, TIFFs, and PNGs with 8 bits per color sample (24 bits per pixel); PortraitPro Studio and PortraitPro Studio Max also support TIFF and PNG with 16 bits per color sample (48 bits per pixel). (I worked with RAW files.)
RAW File Support(Studio and Studio Max editions only):
Adobe (.dng), Canon (.crw; .cr2), Fuji (.raf), Kodak (.tif; .kdc; .dcr), Minolta (.mrw), Nikon (.nef), Olympus (.orf), Pentax (.ptx; .pef), Sony (.arw; .srf; .sr2), Sigma (.x3f), Epson (.erf), Mamiya (.mef; .mos), Panasonic (.raw), Phase One (.tif), Imacon (.fff)
Where can I get more info?
www.portraitprofessional.com
Who publishes it?
Anthropics Technology
A16 Block A
56 Wood Lane
London
W12 7SB
United Kingdom
UK: +44 117 230 7792
How much is it?
PortraitPro Studio Max edition: $159.95 on Amazon.com; direct from portraitprofessional.com: $149.95 (limited time discounted price).
PortraitPro Studio edition: $79.95 ($89.95 on Amazon).
PortraitPro Standard edition: $49.95 ($59.95 on Amazon).
Free trial available: Yes
Evaluation:
As I noted in my earlier review of PortraitPro 11, this software is designed to largely automate facial retouching. It provides intimate control over practically every facial feature, via presets and numerous parameters controlled by sliders, with pop-up wizards to guide you along the way. And the new PortraitPro 12 takes portrait retouching to a remarkably new level.
This is a clever and robust software that really delivers—but made even better now with “Skin Lighting Controls.” This new feature seemingly takes you back in time, so you can modify your lighting during a photo shoot without actually being there. Okay, not exactly re-lighting and it won’t fill in all the shadows that your lighting missed. But it does much to help shape and sculpt the face. In a sense, it feels like sleight of hand and the results, when not overdone, may indeed take your breath away. Aside from this, there are other enhancements, but none jumped out at me as much as the skin lighting tools did.
All in all, this is a very user-friendly package that will pleasantly surprise you with its results. While it is largely automated, you’d do well to carefully assess the image and the Control Points that define facial features, and tweak them as needed. (Tip: view the magnified image and focus on how Control Point adjustments affect the image.) That notwithstanding, the process really is easy and flows smoothly from start to finish.
Granted, you should start with a fully processed RAW file (working from JPEGs puts you at an immediate disadvantage with any photograph). Beginning in Lightroom 5 for RAW processing, I employed the PortraitPro plug-in that’s included with Studio Max (as well as the Studio Edition—for Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop, and Apple Aperture). After analyzing facial features, PortraitPro applies a Preset, which you can override and modify (or create your own Presets). Couldn’t be simpler.
Okay, granted, you have to keep a close eye on what’s being done. You especially want to avoid artifice and artifacting, which some Presets and sliders are prone to create. I did, for example, detect some artifacting in the iris when certain eye adjustments were made, so I corrected for it by pulling back on the requisite sliders. Same with lighting controls. Taken too far, they become sorely evident, so use restraint. (Tip: here, too, view the magnified image to assess the changes.)
If certain areas need a personal touch, use the Touch Up Brush. Depending on the mode, this acts much like the Healing tool in Lightroom or Photoshop, in its most basic form—but don’t use it full-strength for retouching, as that may overdo it. Elsewhere the Touch Up Brush lets you further refine the mask that defines how the face will be retouched and sculpted.
Conclusions:
While I may still find myself resorting to Photoshop for cloning (to fill out the eyebrows and lips) and possibly add a few other subtle touches, my work was largely done the moment I opened the file in PortraitPro—in a fraction of the time it would have taken otherwise.
Still, there are a few improvements I’d like implemented. For one, more Control Points, or, better yet, the option to add my own Control Points. Some areas need to be better defined and existing Control Points don’t go far enough. Also, I’d like a fill-lighting slider. The Picture Controls are awkward to use, since they fail to show corresponding values and a histogram is absent, which is especially needed for Tone Curve adjustment (it’s not merely a single slider setting).
What’s more, I’d be careful when using the Batch processing feature in Studio Max. First, when working with RAW files, the program converts them for use, which means that further adjustments will be made to this converted file, not the original RAW file—and that translates to less than optimal image editing. Second, and equally important, you still have to go into each image and edit it individually in PortraitPro. I selected three images: one with a baby girl, a second with a toddler (boy) and baby sister, and a third with the entire family of five: mom, dad, sister, and two brothers. PortraitPro correctly identified the little girl in photos 1 and 2, but mis-ID’d the boy as a girl (and his hair was close-cropped!). In the group shot, the program correctly identified only the mother, which meant I would manually have to outline facial features for the rest. It’s not that big a deal, but when you’re talking about batch processing to simplify and speed things up, I don’t think we’re talking about the same thing here. So, in the end, it seems more prudent to tackle portrait retouching on an as needed basis. Begin with a fully adjusted RAW file, and go from there.
That notwithstanding, the results are without doubt a quantum leap better than if I’d painstakingly addressed each individual facial feature on my own. As to which version to buy, I’d recommend the Studio edition, at a very inviting $79.95 ($89.95 on Amazon). If you just shoot JPEGs, then save $30 and go for the basic PortraitPro 12. For the most part, the feature set is identical for all editions, including support for 64-bit processing.
(For more information on the product’s features, please refer to the earlier archived blog entry.)
Does It Reach pixelPERFEXION? (100 pixels is best):
PortraitPro Studio Max 12: 95 pixels, for comprehensive feature set and ease of use (it gets easier the more you use it); the new Skin Lighting Controls are something else entirely and worth the price of admission alone.

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