A Portrait Option
The camera never lies or so we are led to believe – or does it? Perhaps we ought to focus (no pun intended) on the photographic evidence produced by the device rather than the camera itself. What with make-up experts and the numerous software tools readily available, what you see is not necessarily the scene or person as originally captured. Nowadays it is a fairly regular occurrence for blemishes and items to be airbrushed out of pictorial existence to leave behind a perfect image of the subject matter. One such software tool that is available for this type of visual manipulation (I was about to say chicanery but that is a bit strong) is Portrait Professional from Anthropics.
Now up to version 10, Portrait Professional is available in Standard, Studio and Studio 64-bit versions. This review is based on the Studio version of the product. With this version you get support for the RAW image format and the software can also act as a plug-in for Adobe Photoshop. As the product’s title indicates, this software has been designed for working with portraits rather than landscapes or other types of scenery. The program is able to work with full face, three-quarter and profile views of the subject.
Portrait Professional works by targeting specific areas of the face. It will need a certain amount of information before it is able to proceed and work its magic on the subject. First of all you will need to inform the software whether it is dealing with the image of a child, woman or man. There is also an option to indicate whether the image shows a profile or not. You will then be requested to tag specific facial points with a mouse click. Starting with eyes, you will need to pinpoint the outside of the left and right eye before indicating the tip of the nose and conclude with the left and right edges of the mouth.
The software then creates appropriate masks, each with its own anchor points, over these areas. You will need to fine tune these masks by adjusting the anchor points. The more accurate you are with these adjustments, the better the results will be. Pressing the spacebar will allow you to progress between the masks while a back arrow option lets you move back through the stages. A dummy photo, alongside the subject photo, will show how the facial masks should be positioned.
Once you are satisfied, a full skin blemish procedure will take place. This generally takes less than a minute. You will then be given access to a series of facial enhancement slider controls to transform various facial features as you are presented with a Before and After view of the subject. There is an option to switch to a single image view if you prefer. A panel on the right side of the screen provides the majority of the options available to you. The only exceptions being touch-up and restore brushes located at the top of the screen. You can adjust the size and strength of these tools.
The available slider bar controls have been categorised as Face sculpture, Skin control, Eye, Mouth & Nose, Hair, Lighting and the overall Picture. When working with these sliders, it is best to have just one category opened at a time to avoid any confusion and reducing the need for scrolling. Letting your mouse cursor hover over a particular slider option will reveal a pop-up window explaining what the feature does and show a Before and After view.
For close contact work there is an option to select a particular area and then zoom in for a closer look. This will affect the magnification level of both the Before and After views. You can then zoom back when the job is completed. Any of these slider bar adjustment to the various facial features will immediately be reflected in the After image.
While there was an occasion when the skin tone of my subject suddenly changed as if suffering from a bad case of sunburn without warning, I was generally impressed with the ease-of-use and functionality of Portrait Professional. Even the sunburn incident proved useful. I was able to check out the brush feature to paint over the affected area without worrying about straying into other sections as the brush ignore any areas that were not skin.
You need to remember that any of the adjustments you make will be more subtle than dramatic. Yes you can change the eye colour and add tones to a person’s hair plus add an Audrey Hepburn look to your subject’s neck but alterations such as a Pinocchio nose or adding horns is not on this product’s menu. Of course any alterations made to the various portraits will not make the slightest different to how the subject will look in the flesh.
Currently both the Standard and Studio versions of this product are on special offer. The Standard version is on offer at £29.95 (reduced from £64.95) while the Studio version, as reviewed here, costs £49.95 (reduced from £109.95). The software is available for both Windows and Mac. System requirements call for 1GHz processor, 1GB of RAM running Windows XP and later or an Intel Mac OSX 10.5 and later.
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