Arcsoft's Portrait+ offers quick and easy portrait retouching and enhancement.
Portrait photography is one of the most complex forms to master as you are trying to represent someone in their best despite any flaws that may be present. Traditionally, editing portraits is a tedious process and not an easy task for a beginner photographer to take on.
Here is where Arcsoft and their Portrait+ software swoops in to try and save the day. Advertised as the “first auto portrait retoucher”, Portrait+ stand-alone version sells for $179.99 and $79.99 for the Photoshop plugin with both versions supporting both Mac and Windows OS.
These prices are pretty steep in comparison to most photo editing suites given its specialized purpose, so I decided to put the standalone version to the test and see if it lives up to the price tag. Keep in mind, this is an unbiased review based solely off my hands-on use with the software without any outside influences affecting the my opinions expressed in this article.
The Portrait+ interface is overly simplified to cater to users of all skill levels. When you open the software, you are welcomed to the following screen which only allows you to select a photo to edit or you can choose to test out a sample photo:
After selecting a valid portrait, you'll be brought to a screen where you can perform basic editing tasks with a single click of a button using the predefined presets. For someone who has never used a photo editing software, this type of simplicity is top notch, and the outcome when using this presets can be pretty astonishing when matched with a solid original photo.
If you are well versed in the photo editing world, you'll likely want to utilize more advanced editing options and these can be toggled by switching from ‘Preset' to ‘Edit' on the right sidebar menu. Once enabled, you'll get a much more detailed menu of editing options with the ability to tweak each adjustment criteria to your liking.
Arcsoft designed Portrait+ to be a very simple to use editing suit and to accomplish this they developed a unique facial detection algorithm which defines key facial features and skin areas automatically. The software supports up to 20 faces in a single photo with each face being able to be edited separately. The accuracy of this functionality is impressive although you may need to do some adjusting depending on your subject.
The downside of this feature is that it does require Internet so if your Internet signal is very poor or nonexistent, you'll lose virtually all of the editing functionality. This is a particularly large issue for some users who are looking to edit on location or in remote locations where Wi-Fi is not available.
Additionally, the face scanning may fail if the photo doesn't fit within its guidelines such as portraits taken at weird angles or feature a disruptive element such as a mask or sunglasses.
Once the facial scanning is complete, you can either choose to use one of the ten supplied presets or switch to the advanced editing menu where there is a variety of adjustment options.
Here is the list of predefined presets available within Portrait+. Keep in mind, these are all 1-click options which do all of the manually editing tasks for you.
The section titled ‘Skin Magic' deals with skin area adjustment, smoothing (to get rid of wrinkles, acne and defects) and skin tone manipulation.
The ‘Enhancements' menu focuses with smaller details including the removal of eye circles, a more in-depth blemish removal tool, and individual options for adjusting your subject's eyes, smile, cheeks, nose, and face shape.
Lastly, the ‘Makeup' section is dedicated to adjustments for model shoots including the ability to apply makeup in post such as blush, lipstick and eye shadow in post.
Besides these options, there is not really any distinguishable editing features although this is acceptable since the software is designed specifically for portraits. However, I would have like to have seen basic color adjustment options as well as a cropping tool added convenience.
I decided the best way to show off its function is to give you an example workflow using the software in a real-life situation. I managed to find an portrait I had taken of a friend a few years back on my old Canon T3i that seemed perfect for use with this type of software.
Second Edits (Enhancements Tab)
Final Edits (Makeup Tab)
While the original portrait came out great, this photo took it to a whole new level after over a few simple clicks. I had to edit the facial mapping a bit to get aspects like the teeth whiting and makeup to be applied correctly, but this can be done via drag-n-drop data points.
Depending on the outcome you are looking for, you can either make the result look slightly altered (which I attempted in the above portrait) or you can make it look extremely altered by changing eye color, reshaping facial features, or overdoing the airbrush tool.
Luckily, this software is not a resource hog and allows you to run it on many different machines of varying specifications without issue. This is great for those who are on a budget and may rely on an entry-level computer that doesn't have the power to run more graphic intensive processes.
I think Arcsoft's Portrait+ does portrait editing and enhancement very well although I would rather see the price-point be in the $99-$124.99 range in order to better compete in the marketplace and offer more value on the dollar.
Arcsoft's Portrait+ software is an easy to use software that can take your portraits from good to great in just a few clicks. It is light on resources and offers an excellent user interface, but its steep price tag and reliance on an active Internet connection are far from ideal. I'd think Portrait+ is an excellent option for a budding photographer who seeks simplicity and can stomach the high cost. However, those who are budget conscious and willing to learn more advanced techniques, I'd recommend picking up Adobe's Photoshop Elements 12 and reading some of the great free tutorials that are available online.
Special thanks to Arcsoft for supplying a demo license to make this review possible.