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For Photographers :: ArcSoft Portrait+ Review

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.

8-bit-conversion

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.

PlugIn

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.

FaceMapping

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!

CorySettings

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).

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 10.49.57 AM

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!

ArcSoft Portrait+ Photography Retouching Program

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