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I get a ton of emails from wedding companies asking me to blog about their product, shoot with their wedding dresses, feature their rings, etc. And I usually say no because it’s hard enough to keep up with blogging my OWN work, but when ArcSoft emailed me to review their product Portrait+, I couldn’t resist. It’s one of those programs I’ve been hearing about for years, and my post production retouching time can be a very time consuming process. With a background in commercial photography as well, I know the insane amount of hours that fashion and beauty retouchers can spend, and was hoping there was an easier way than doing every single step by hand. Typically, I do the following when editing portraits: remove blemishes, soften skin, remove under-eye circles, lighten eye whites, lighten teeth, and remove fly away hairs (if possible). So if there’s something out there that can make my life easier when it comes up this multi-step process, then why not check it out? So alas, my dear photographer friends and photo enthusiasts, here’s my person ArcSoft Portait+ review!
The first thing to note is that there are 2 versions of this program. One version is a Photshop plug-in, and the other version is a stand-alone program. The stand-alone program will allow you to batch process a whole folder with the same settings or tweak individually each photo in a folder, which is best for something like processing a whole wedding folder. I would highly recommend using an uncompressed format when you export after your initial color correction in Lightroom, as you will definitely lose quality exporting your images twice (first from Lightroom, then from Portrait+). Since I do 85% of my editing in Lightroom, I am examining the Photoshop plug-in (since Photoshop is so seamlessly integrated with the Adobe product line), as it allows you to keep the images in an uncompressed format the whole time (RAW to PSD). You can read more about the comparisons between the 2 versions here.
So how do you make it work? What is handy about the Photoshop plug-in version is that you can simply “right click > Edit in Photoshop” on any image in Lightroom to seamlessly open an image directly from your Lightroom catalog directly into Photoshop. The first issue that becomes apparent really fast is that 16-bit images will CRASH Photoshop CC 2014 in the plug-in version (I have the monthly subscription program that is constantly being updated, which I’m sure causes unexpected bugs), or cause crazy image distortion. No bueno! So to fix this issue, you have to FIRST convert the image to 8-bit before applying the filter. That step is very annoying and the only way to work around it is to use the stand-alone program, which does apparently support 16-bit. However, I don’t want to run the program on my RAWs or exported images via the stand-along program right now, so this is the best way to deal with that issue until it is resolved.
Go to “Image > Mode > 8-bit” to convert from 16-bit ot 8-bit, then go to “Filter > ArcSoft > Portrait+” to apply the plug in.
You will notice this bride has beautiful make-up and skin already, but the side lighting from the natural window light causes any skin issues to become more noticeable for the camera. What I do love about ArcSoft off the bat is that EVERYTHING is customizable with a slider. What it does is map the human face via dots and lines, which it then used to base all it’s adjustments on. The catch here is that it has trouble when using any portraits in profile, or when the person isn’t looking directly into the camera. For a lot of fashion photos, and candid portraits, this can be a bummer. So you also have to accept the fact that the program may not be able to work with photos without clearly identifiable eyes, nose & mouth.
The plug-in will then take you to the basic interface, where it will default to the “Presets” tab. The built-in presets are a great place to start if you are using the program for the first time. My retouching tastes lean towards tasteful and natural looking skin. There’s nothing worse than a model or bride’s skin looking so plastic-y that you can TELL. Try clicking on all the options to see what they do (slight smooth & medium smooth are good places to start). Once you’ve got a handle on what the options do, try going to the edit panel for more advanced options. Once you have found basic options you like, and would want to use time and time again, click on the “Save as Presets” button at the bottom so that combination of options will now appear on your Presets panel. Very handy! You can check out my general pre-set preferences below, but remember to cater your settings to your taste and your branding!
Once you have your settings the way you like then, press OK in the lower right hand corner. You can then save the .psd which automatically stacks a layer back into your Lightroom catalog. This also ensures that your photos stay in an uncompressed format (.psd) until your final export, which retains as much image quality as possible.
I grabbed this image from the ArcSfot website just to show you that the software can also identify multiple faces, and you can choose to apply or not apply the enhancements to specific faces in a group. So at the end of the day, if you are willing to put up with the one little hiccup (converting to 8-bit), I think this software is highly worth the investment! Even if you don’t use this as part of your regular workflow, I would highly recommend it for larger portrait or canvas orders (think 11×14″ and bigger, where pixels are big and bold).
SOOOOO, if you like what you see and are interested in getting a copy for yourself, the kind folks at ArcSoft have provided me with a coupon code for 45% off Portrait+. Use Portrait45 at checkout. ENJOY!
Nancy was in town from Jackson Hole, Wyoming for some wedding planning and we decided to take advantage of it and shoot her bridal portraits! Accompanied by her sister and her mother, we hit several east Austin spots in her dress and boots. Nancy had told me that she was up for anything and wanted her photos to show her personality – not be stuffy and fussy! We had a blast and I am so excited about how cool they turned out! Hopefully you’ll get a preview of her awesome wedding photos soon as well!
Gen & CJ’s wedding at Vintage Villas was absolutely gorgeous! It was a smaller intimate affair with all their best friends & family in attendance. After a beautiful outdoor ceremony with blue skies and some tears, the party moved indoors. And this is one family who definitely knows how to party! The dance floor was packed for most of the evening and Gen’s mom wins the award for “Mom with the Best Dance Moves.” Now I see where Gen gets all her fun and spunk!
After the bouquet and garter toss, the DJ really took everyone by surprise. He said that his hometown tradition was this : the guy who caught the garter has to put it back on the leg of the girl who caught the bouquet. Geoffrey, the bass player and member of 80’s new wave cover band the Spazzmatics with CJ (did I mention he was the drummer and his band is AWESOME?!), certainly wasn’t shy about putting on a show… Ha!
The couple left on his super-cool-3-wheeled-red-hot-love-vehicle that had been be-dazzled and decorated with a teddy bear! :)
Last spring I shot Jeanette’s sister’s wedding on a gorgeous Tennessee mountaintop, and this spring brought Jeanette’s turn to tie the knot! She and her fiance Chad decided to stick closer to their home and tie the knot in Oklhaoma City! I was excited about my first visit and was happy to head north and leave a rainy Austin behind! But alas, it was raining in Oklahoma when we arrived for the rehearsal dinner as well. With tents being set-up, and a bride determined to not be stressed out, we proceeded with optimism & determination. Like the old saying, we were doing our best to make lemonade! What, we have to do formals in the rain? Well grab some prop umbrellas and let’s get funky then! I was lucky enough to have the fabulous Meegan Weaver from Wichita Falls, TX drive up to assist, and she was truly unbeleivable! And she also took one of my favorite images of the tuxedo-clad chihuahua being walked through the rain… :)
by Meegan Weaver
by Meegan Weaver
Kat Castillo, hair stylist extraordinaire at Salon Muse, and Todd, drummer for the band The Diagonals are such a perfect couple! They are recently engaged and eloping to Spain in September – WOWWOWOW! But while we were shooting photos for Kat’s soon-to-be-premeired new website, we couldn’t resist getting these two in front of the camera for a few engagement shots. I especially wanted to show these off so couples can see the exponentially awesome possibilities of doing studio sessions for their engagement portraits as well! That’s what I love about photography… the options and ideas truly are endless. Anyway, I absolutely adore how these turned out… bright, fun, and full of love! I think I’m going to call this background “Yowza Yellow” from now on. :)
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