Software Review: PortraitPro v12

by Stan Sholik

Many of the improvements in version 12 of PortraitPro over previous versions involve speeding up the retouching process.

August 18, 2014

With each new version release, Anthropics Technology seems to find a way to add more features to its already-excellent PortraitPro retouching software, as well as improve existing features. Version 12 is no exception.

The stand-alone version, PortraitPro 12, offers all of the sophisticated face, skin and hair touch-up features but doesn’t support RAW files, nor integrate with Adobe or Apple imaging programs.
PortraitPro Studio 12 is the mid-range edition that supports RAW files. It also integrates with Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom and Photoshop Elements, as well as Apple Aperture.

For photographers wanting maximum automation with minimum effort, there is PortraitPro Studio Max which includes all of the RAW file support and software integration of the Studio version. This edition also adds the ability to batch process hundreds of separate photos without human intervention, but with full creative control.

The program’s major new feature is found in the Skin Lighting Controls panel, which is completely redesigned in version 12. A new interactive graphic and reconfigured sliders allow you to relight your portrait after the fact for a more natural or dramatic look.

While clicking and dragging around the circle icon in the new interactive graphic, you have control over the direction of a virtual light source. Leaving the circle in its default position (centered over the graphic) retains your lighting. Moving the circle around the graphic is like moving a floodlight around your subject.

The preview image shows the change in lighting direction as you drag the circle around the graphic. Positioning the virtual light source from the same direction as your main light adds contrast and drama. Positioning the virtual light source opposite the main light adds fill.

Adjusting the new sliders enhances the effect. Only the Contrast slider is retained in version 12 from version 11. While there is a Cheekbones panel in both, the sliders are enhanced in the new version.

The new Modeling slider adds drama by subtly darkening shadows while the Fix Lighting slider has the opposite effect of adding fill light to shadows, similar to the Relight slider in earlier versions. The Left and Right Shadow sliders now give you control over the shadow depth of each side of the face, and the Left and Right Kick sliders give you control over the highlights.

Two new sliders, Smokey Eyes and Pout, finish out the new Skin Lighting Controls panel. The Smokey Eyes slider applies a subtle dark eye shadow above the eyes. The Pout slider enhances the lower lip with a subtle shadow beneath. As with the sliders in the Face Sculpting panel, you may love the effect with some subjects and hate it with others. Fortunately, PortraitPro has always made it easy to turn adjustments on and off.

While the new face re-lighting is no substitute for a “properly” lit portrait, it does give you the opportunity to present your client with a different look, and potentially another sale. And for those available-light grab shots or on-camera flash event portraits, the new face-relighting feature can turn a flatly lit photo into something more worthy of a professional photographer.

There are two important things to be aware of with the new Skin Lighting Controls. First, it is vital that the face outline be accurately positioned. PortraitPro 12 does a generally excellent job of doing this automatically, but pay particular attention if you plan on adjusting the lighting. Otherwise you will find yourself changing the lighting inside or outside the areas you intend. Fortunately, you can readjust the outline in the Before image while you work, if you have the Before/After split screen active.

I encountered another problem after having run tests of the lighting on a few TIFFs and JPEGs and opening a RAW file in the Studio Max edition: the RAW file opened as expected, but the only sliders in the lighting controls were Contrast, Left Kick and Right Kick. I thought this might be because the subject was a child rather than an adult, but by opening additional images, I discovered that if you open a RAW file, your lighting options are reduced to those three sliders. Hopefully we have something to look forward to in a later version.

Another advertised feature is the software’s ability to recognize a subject’s gender and age. This was not active by default when I loaded the program—I needed to open the Settings panel and click the “Automatically Find Gender/Age” checkbox to activate it. Unfortunately, I found it only seemed to work correctly part of the time.

Because PortraitPro loads a preset on the image based on this choice, it’s a good idea to check that the choice of age and gender is correct. The program makes this easy by overlaying the information on the before image in the Before/After split screen. When group photos were loaded for adjustment, I generally had to go to each person and set the gender and age individually. And I found that subjects wearing sunglasses had to be dealt with manually.

Many of the improvements in version 12 over previous versions involve speeding up the retouching process. Many of the speed increases are entirely behind the scenes—Anthropics, for example, claims a 4x speed increase overall from version 11. I can’t verify this, but version 12 certainly feels more responsive than version 11—even the face re-lighting is nearly instantaneous on both an older iMac and a fast Windows 7 desktop computer.

Others are more obvious. The latest skin-enhancing brush detects edges automatically, speeding its use and requiring less need for the brush-off brush. And for portrait photographers with a high volume of images to retouch, the Studio Max edition can automatically process the entire shoot once you select the images and set the output folder.

There are also fully functional 30-day trial versions on the site, but you cannot save the images you retouch. For new users, the MSRPs are as follows (listed online as of July 2014): PortraitPro, $49.95; PortraitPro Studio, $79.95; and PortraitPro Studio Max, $149.95. Upgrade pricing is available on the website.

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