This is the fifth article in a series dedicated to evaluating different software packages and the techniques for editing portraits. Follow these links to read the first four articles in this series on using Apple’s Aperture 3.2 , using Photoshop, using Imaginomic’s Portraiture 2.0 plugin, and using Lightroom 4.0. This article will discuss using OnOne’s Perfect Portrait 1.0 for editing portraits.
OnOne’s Perfect Portrait is fast becoming my favourite program for fast, flexible portrait editing. It exists as a stand alone product, or as an integrated part of onOne’s Perfect Photo Suite 6. I has also been developed to work as a plugin for Aperture, Lightroom and Photoshop.
Perfect Portrait is a layer based program, similar to the Photoshop approach to photo editing. This is a new departure for Aperture users, but adds a level of flexibility that Photoshop users have been used to for a long time. For myself, it involved a bit of self education and rethinking of my ways to get the hang of using layers, but even this old dog can learn new tricks, it seems. The way that Perfect Portraits implements layers helps a lot in that it is practically painless because the program does all of the setup and heavy lifting (ideal for us old curmudgeons).
You can operate the program in a Basic mode, which lets the program make all of the fundamental decisions for you, or Advanced mode, which gives the user more control over the application of the editing. I prefer to use the Advanced mode, just because I do not like to give up control to a piece of software.
On starting Perfect Portrait, the program immediately begins to show its smarts by applying face detection technology (OK, not really new, but it still helps out as you will see). The first image shows you where the program has detected a face in the image. If there are multiple people in the photo, the program can find several faces and creates a new layer for each one. This allows each person to be edited separately, a welcome feature to be sure. Being a computer program, though, sometimes it can make a poor guess or just cannot find a face, depending on the photograph and the position of the face in the image. In this case the user has the ability to override the program and define individual faces.
The program also makes some initial adjustments based on previously used settings. I find it best to start from scratch and I set all of the Skin Retouching sliders on the right to their zero settings.
I begin initial editing (if I haven’t done previously in Aperture) by painting out small blemishes, zits, scars, or lines using the retouch tool. It functions in the same manner as the retouch tool in most other programs and does not really require any further discussion. Suffice it to say that it works well.
The real meat of the matter is to start working on the overall facial editing. The program separates the identified face into 3 distinct masks; one for the overall face, one for the eyes and one for the mouth. These masking layers can be opened and edited individually.
The face mask can be displayed in the program as an overlay, white layer, dark layer or grey layer. I tend to use the overlay which can be seen in the next image here. This image shows the program’s initial guess as to what is a part of the face and what is not. The mask is applied only to the opened areas of the mask (those not in red).
As you can see on this image, it thinks the fur hat is part of the face and will apply the smoothing to this area. Note also that it has excluded parts of the eyes and mouth. That is because these features each have their own individual masks to which different edits will be performed than will be applied to skin. As I do not agree with the computer’s choices I decide to modify the mask in order to ensure that only the face has smoothing an blemish removal applied.
Here is my edited version of the facial mask. I have opted to leave the fur hat untouched, as well as the areas around the eyebrows, eyes, nostrils and lips. I find that if these areas are neglected and a large amount of skin smoothing is applied, the ears and nostrils end up looking unnaturally smoothed and the image looks obviously edited.
A similar exercise is performed for the eye and mouth layers.
With the masks setup, editing the image is now a simple matter of adjusting the sliders for each of the facial features. We begin with the Skin retouching by adjusting the Blemishes slider. This feature finds and reduces minor skin blemishes, but for more obvious pimples the pre-application of the retouch brush still works better (IMHO). The skin smoothing slider needs to be applied judiciously if one does not want the portrait to take on that barbie doll plastic look. It can be counter balanced with the texture slider and these two sliders adjusted in tandem can end up giving a more life like adjustment. Shadows and shiny skin can also be addressed somewhat by their slider settings, but I tend to not use them often.
The Facial features area addresses the eyes and mouth, with individual sliders for eye clarity and whitening for the eyes and teeth whitening and lip vibrance for the mouth.
The program comes with several presets for application to different types of portraits, such as men, women, children and groups. I find that these can generally put an image into the ballpark, but I end up adjusting the sliders to my tastes.
The Skin Tune feature is a global function and is applied to the entire image or to just the masks, depending on the desired effect and number of faces in the image.
When finished the final image is exported back into Aperture or Lightroom for further editing as desired. The image is stored as a photoshop .psd file and retains all of the layer information. Should you wish to adjust the image further, it can be reloaded into Perfect Portraits for additional adjustment.
OnOne has several tutorials available on their website that teach how to effectively use the program to its maximum advantage. Once the basics are mastered, portrait editing can become very fast and effective.
If you are interested in test driving or purchasing Perfect Portrait or any other onOne software a discount coupon worth 10% off the purchase of any of their products is available to you when you sign up for my newsletter here.