Digital cameras have eliminated the need for film, but they haven’t eliminated the need for the person being photographed to look good. Unlike video, a still image of a person starkly displays all of the less than stellar attributes: the misplaced freckle, the scant left eyebrow, the pimple on the left cheek. It’s for this reason that retouching hasn’t disappeared from the planet — although my skills at using lead pencils on 4×5 negatives as taught to me by my old portraiture teacher no longer applies. As does going to an airbrush artist to have a head shot “cleaned up” or modified.
So instead we’ve Photoshop and other graphic programs that enable the digital image to be manipulated and altered. In the hands of a master technician/artist, that’s well and good. But in the hands of the average photo-shooter, not so much. That’s where Portrait Professional Studio 10 can excel. And because it’s not priced for the elite, it’s more viable for use by the average photo shooter. Not that a professional won’t find this to be advantageous as well. No sir.
What makes Portrait Professional Studio 10 stand out is that it’s designed to automate procedures without sending you to the back of the room. The basic procedure has you importing the photo of the person — male, female or child — and then following a series of concrete steps one after the other. These steps require your input, but not years of photo retouching experience — that gets left up to the program to handle. You’re there to manage and move things along, not just for the ride.
The first step is to install it — getting it online as a digital download doesn’t mean you’ll lose out on information, because Anthropics provides plenty of online help in the form of videos as well as text. You’ll need to have the installer key so as to activate the program — which is not designed to run on multiple computers. So plan on having it on the one that has the most processing “oomph” and of course a good sized hard drive. The license procedure does require your having an Internet connection, but who doesn’t now?
Following the steps will take the photo along a path that modifies it to a more desirable “look.” If you don’t do anything past that, you’ll end up with a more than acceptable image to save and use (the original is not altered, although sensible precautions always says to keep more than one copy of the original just in case).
Now once you’ve worked through the procedure and have gotten a good feel for it, you can start to add your input into how the final image can look. To do this, you’ll manipulate sliders that affect such things on the image as “imperfections,” “sharpness,” “remove pores” and more. These “Skin Controls” pop up as a default, but you shouldn’t avoid the other slider sections that let you manipulate lighting, modify the eyes, face and hair, etc. Since you’re watching a “Before/After” screen, what you do can be seen right away — and reversed as needed. To aid in this, you have brushes that can be adjusted for size and then applied to the person’s face as needed/desired. Of course you also have the expect controls over the overall image, such as being able to crop it or save any slider adjustments you have made as your own “defaults.” And when you start feeling your oats, you can “sculpt” the face a bit to improve the symmetry as you think best. Just remember to always stop just “before” you hit the edge of the cliff, so you can keep the final image looking natural.
To make it easier to understand, here’s a run through of the process using a photo provided with the software (the cursor is not visible as normally it would be so as to more easily see what is being done as the program progresses).
As Portrait Professional Studio 10 works on either a Mac or PC (Windows XP/Vista/7, OS X 10.5+), the procedure is the same, with the only exceptions being the minor ones involving the operating system (as in how to load, save an image, etc.). The Preference section is a good place to adjust how the program reacts to your monitor/computer system overall, along with providing some specifics to consider as to whether to use or not — such as seeing examples on the welcome screen and color management and picture depth (i.e., up to 48 bits per pixel/16 bits per color sample). These folks from across the “Pond” (England) do good work. Just remember that you need to consider other elements in the picture too — clothing and backgrounds as well, which might require work using another program entirely.
Bottom line: Portrait Professional Studio 10 combines what’s best about digital imaging with serious image control of a person’s face. Whether you’re a pro looking to retouch head shots/portraits, or just an average “shooter,” for $139 retail this program will make that person look as good as the feeling of them you want to cover in the photo.
- Can work with RAW files
- Icon and example-driven menu
- Program can be installed as plugin in PhotoShop/Aperture
- Single computer license
Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture.