ArcSoft Portrait+: Studio Auto-Retouching Software
The job of auto-retouching software is to retouch faces quickly, easily, and with as little human intervention as possible. Most require you to either set or confirm where the major points of the face are, like the eyes, ears, and lips. After you’ve identified those areas, the software then goes about its business of transforming little Pamela into little Princess.
The usual routine is to search and destroy any major blemishes, reduce the bags under the eyes, and then apply softening to the face that ranges from very minimal to practically creating a new face. Some, like ArcSoft’s Portrait+ (Windows only), have different levels of auto-retouch, a very handy feature. You probably want less softening on the captain of the football team than you do on the prom queen.
Having tested just about every auto-retouching software on the market, ArcSoft Portrait+ has some very nice features that will appeal to photographers who want to retouch one or several photos quickly. It actually took 1 second to process one image for me—is that fast enough for you?
Here’s how it works: open the software and you’re greeted with a very basic screen with four simple commands across the top—Select Photos, Adjust Key Points, Select Styles, Export Photos. With just one subject it immediately finds the face and then outlines the key areas of the eyes, nose, lips, and the edge of the face by itself. If your subject is facing the camera directly, it’s usually dead on and no work on your part is needed.
You then click on the Select Styles tab and are greeted by no less than 20 options that range from moderate retouching to heavy-handed makeup to changing the shape of the nose, eyes, and, if desired, the entire face. The power is yours in just a keystroke. Pick one Style or pick 20, then click on the Export Photos tab. This takes you to another screen where you choose where you want your new creations to be stored.
The Styles area is a bit inflexible, however. Click on 20 different options and you get 20 different images. Want to make both the eyes brighter and the teeth whiter? It won’t allow you to do that. As a matter of fact, I had a client image where I wanted just that particular combination so I created the two images and then combined them in Photoshop, something that to me should be unnecessary. So, note to ArcSoft: give us some combinations or the ability to combine different looks.
While Styles can solve some problems, the main reason most photographers will purchase this software is for its retouching power. For me, basic retouching means eye line reduction, blemish removal, and skin softening. Portrait+ gives you three levels of retouching power—Light, Medium, and Heavy Cleanse. Light is indeed light and gives a very natural look to the image without over-softening the skin. There’s quite a significant difference going to Medium where the softening is really cranked up, and then a very minor difference going to Heavy. You choose your taste level based upon your own taste and clientele.
This brings me back to having the ability to have an à la carte menu to pick and choose what you want. Cleanse is combined with no less than nine other choices, such as Liven Skin. But in all these combinations, it appears Cleanse-Medium is used. What if I just want to Deepen Smile with no Cleanse or Cleanse-Light?
Eight of the Styles are Makeup Styles, such as Late Night, Refresh, and Smoky Eyes. It was actually quite interesting and very impressive to watch the software change many features such as the eyes, lips, cheeks, and teeth in the blink of an eye. I think these applications are really targeted to commercial, advertising, fashion, or glamour photographers. I’d be a little hesitant to put Smoky Eyes on my portrait clients unless they asked for it, but can see certain subjects and scenarios in which this would be a great asset.
Let’s look at how Portrait+ performs with groups and batch processing. I loaded up a full-lengthfamily group of six people. It immediately picked up all six faces and picked the Key Points. The best thing is, all the faces had a check mark on them, which means I did not have to go individually check each face. I could just choose a Style, hit Export Photos, and Portrait+ would knock out the finished file. Processing time? A couple of seconds! The heads were kind of small in that image and the effect was not very noticeable, so next I took a family of four that was photographed closer. This time I selected Cleanse & Brighten Eyes. After another 1-second wait, I clicked on the convenient button located right in Portrait+ to go right to the processed images. I found the Brighten Eyes a little too heavy for my taste but the Cleanse did a nice job of basic retouching.
Now to something near and dear to my heart, batch processing.
In my studio, we sell many products to high school seniors that have multiple images, like small albums or wall products with a few images in them. They can choose to have them “lightly retouched” for a fee. That means I don’t spend time fixing every little mark or imperfection but we do spruce them up a little bit so major problems are corrected and the skin is softened. So, I loaded up four images, saw that the Key Points looked fine on the first image, hit Select Styles, chose Cleanse-Light, then Export Photos.
It turns out that you can’t just throw in a batch of photos and pick your Style and let ’er rip. You need to Adjust Key Points in each image first before it will check off the photo as the one to be processed. I also tried to use different Styles on different photos. That didn’t work. Whatever you click last is what you’ll get.
There is an advantage to the multiple files from each Style though. If you have 10 images lined up and some need Cleanse-Light, some Cleanse-Heavy, and some Brighten Eyes, just check them all off and discard the ones you don’t want later because it will process three options from each image. I did just that with nine images and it saved 27 new files to a folder in 38 seconds. Sweet!
Conclusion and Recommendations
This product works really well. If you have a portrait where the faces are aimed at the camera you probably won’t have to do any adjusting. For people with normal complexions, you may not need to go any further than a quick pass through Portrait+ and your retouching is done. For previewing images with your client or “light retouching” as stated earlier, it’s perfect. The batch processing and speed at which it gets the work done are very big pluses.
Overall, the simplicity of Portrait+ is a great asset, but since it has no options to get in there and fix a blemish or clone out a stray hair, you still need a separate product to complete your retouching needs. As I said, this is an auto-retouch setup, not a clone and heal tool. For those who need a quick way to do an initial retouch with many images, this is one of the most efficient software programs available.
ArcSoft Portrait+ is available on the following Windows platforms: XP, Vista, 7, and 8. The MSRP of the software is $249. However, a free trial version is available. For more information, visit www.arcsoft.com/portraitplus.
Steve Bedell has been a portrait photographer for over 25 years. To subscribe to EPhoto, a free e-mail newsletter with tips for photographers, contact Bedell via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Also ask about his lighting DVDs.