Skip to main content

Portrait Professional Studio 8 review

Anthropics’ Portrait Professional enhancement software sounds promising but is there a place for another retouching utility?

Professional Standard £39.95 (£34.74 plus VAT @ 15 percent)
Professional Studio £59.95 (£52.13 plus VAT @ 15 percent)
Anthropics Technology 0870 2247990,
System Requirements
Intel Mac & OS X 10.4 or later, Windows Vista, XP, or 2000


Handling 4/5
Spec 4/5
Performance 4/5
Value for Money 5/5
Overall 4/5

With the release of version 8.0, Anthropics’ Portrait Professional image enhancement utility adds overdue support for the Mac OS, and a host of new and improved benefits over previous versions. If you’re not familiar with the software, the simple to use retouching utility analyses an image and applies correction and enhancement filters based on a number of criteria within a database of facial features.

Garnered from extensive scientific study at various respected universities in the UK, this criteria of facial features - essentially what’s attractive and what isn’t, forms the basis of the definition of human beauty. Through a four-step process, you start off by providing information about the sitter in your chosen image. The gender, the location of the eyes, mouth, nose and outlines of the face are mapped on screen and then sliders are used to enhance your portrait.

Portrait Professional has come a long way from when it required an internet connection to compare selections with their database and run algorithms housed securely on their server. From version 6 it became a standalone application and a Max version, intended for professional users, added support for 16-bit Tiff’s as well as Raw conversion for a number of file types. That now has become the Studio edition, reviewed here.

Studio has essentially the same step-by-step image enhancement features that require little or no previous retouching skill of the Standard edition but allows a choice of working colour spaces including selection of monitor ICC profiles and version 8.0 adds improved support for Raw files – but we’re not told what exactly. Presumably, they’ve added compatibility with some of the newer DSLRs.

I tried some files from the Sony A900, but it failed to decode them properly. Raw files from the EOS 1Ds Mk III were handled without issue, as were 16-bit Tiff’s from the same camera processed originally by Aperture. And that was using a MacBook Pro with just 2GB of Ram.

Although the interface looks like it has been ported from the Windows version the Mac implementation is generally very good but the two-fingered scrolling feature of the track-pad on a MacBook Pro fails to alter brush sizes – best then to use a mouse, or better still a tablet.

Be that as it may, you won’t find it necessary to hone your painting skills, as, like previous versions, Portrait Professional’s main control panel contains a plethora (around 80 or so in total) of expandable slider-based controls. This sits to the left of two before/after previews in a pane that occupies the rest of the screen. The panel can be detached and left floating – that’s handy if working from a couple of monitors but doesn’t present too much of an issue for typical Mac 16:10 ratio screens. It can be a bit tight for squarer Windows monitors, but the panel and preview panes are adjustable.

After following the initial three steps, mentioned previously, the software delivers a default enhancement from algorithms now contained within the software. From those few simple steps the result is usually surprisingly good - prominent lines and blemishes are smoothed, eyes are brightened and sharpened, noses straightened and faces slimmed. However if it’s not quite to your liking the fourth and final step allows you to fine-tune the look.

Although there’s not one effect that can’t be replicated in Photoshop, all this is achieved in no longer than five minutes, and usually less. However, it’s worth noting at this stage that the software still works well with faces that are three-quarters on but can’t be used on people in profile. Neither does it work that well if the face, or eyes particularly, are somewhat obscured by hair – it’s good, but not that good.

Portrait Professional also works with individuals in a group, but you can’t lift and stamp the key facial settings and adjustments from one similar image to another, which is a drawback. In terms of workflow then, I find it’s simpler to convert chosen Raw files in an external editor, such as Aperture or Lightroom, and export the best images as 16-bit Tiff’s into Portrait Professional.

From the default enhancement you can either tweak certain settings or apply a global (master) adjustment of facial features and effects, depending on your time constraints. A pull-down menu of 18 presets is also handy. These consist of the default male and female settings, as well effects for increasing the drama (contrast), glamour (colour), sculpting, removing wrinkles and others. It’s an easy quick-fix but if you want precise control you’ll want to head for the manual sliders.

These are split into two main groups and the first are subdivided again into face-sculpting adjustments and removing skin imperfections. You can use the sculpting tools to straighten a nose or elongate a face, enlarge eyes or change the shape of the forehead. You need some experience with retouching here and of the sitter or sitters.

I found that it’s easy to make adjustments with people you don’t know, but with those you do, even slight adjustments make for an unconvincing result. The lesson here is subtlety.

Most prominent skin imperfections can be lessened easily enough but the utility leaves some texture for reality’s sake. This may result in stubborn spots or blemishes having to be removed by the touch-up brush. Again no real skill is required, in operation it’s not unlike Photoshop’s Spot-healing brush.

The remaining controls, the second group, concentrate on facial features in depth. You can change the iris colour, whiten eyes and teeth, darken the lips, sharpen the mouth and so on. There’s another group of controls for adding shine and lightening and reddening hair. But a subset for tidying has no options for removing stray hair or for retouching grey-roots from coloured hair, two surprisingly common requests.

Despite the few drawbacks, the lack of applying adjustments to other images from a group, the limited hair-retouching options and patchy Raw camera support in the Studio version, Portrait Professional has much to commend it. Given the extraordinarily low price (of either edition), the shallow learning curve and the staggeringly good results, it really doesn’t make sense not to give it a go.

Jan, before and after

This review of mine first featured in Professional Photographer magazine, January 2009.

Please note Portrait Professional is now at version 9.  For more information, please follow the link.


Popular posts from this blog

Hasselblad H4D-60 review

UPDATE 18 May, 2012: Hasseblad is set to reduce the price on the H4D cameras by as much as $11,000 / 6,200 Euros on the H4D-60, bringing the price to 23,900 euros ($30,995 / £21,995). Please see here for more details.

The last couple of decades have been turbulent for medium format camera manufacturers, but now after several well-known names have withdrawn, the market looks healthy. Two new unexpected entrants, Leica and Pentax have added to the dynamic at opposing ends of the pricing scale, forcing the two established system players to compete fiercely in their traditional rarefied role as well as the entry-level.

Partnering with both Leaf and Mamiya, Phase One has developed a trio of entry-level Mamiya DM models starting at under $14k/ £9k while continuing to offer a wide range of Phase One and Leaf backs, up to 80-megapixels. Through various offers and incentives these backs, are most likely to be partnered with the 645DF body but they are in fact compatible with a wide range of …

Fujifilm IS Pro UV-IR DSLR review

Fuji’s IS Pro is the up-date to maker’s earlier S3 UV-IR camera, and like that particular camera, the IS Pro adopts a modified image sensor that’s not shielded from UV or IR light. Consequently, with various filtration methods, the IS Pro is designed for Ultraviolet (UVA), visible and near Infrared photography.

Although there is a healthy demand for DSLRs with IR capability especially, and there are number of independent vendors (mainly in the US, but the UK also) that offer IR dedicated and full-spectrum conversion of current Nikon and Canon bodies, it’s anticipated the IS Pro will appeal largely to the scientific and forensic communities. With the departure of the S3 UV-IR, Fuji’s IS Pro continues to be the only dedicated full-spectrum interchangeable lens based DSLR that has professional-level support from a camera maker. As well as official product support and 12-month warranty, for government agencies and the like, the OEM status of the IS Pro will be particularly reassuring an…

Mitsubishi CP-D70DW dye-sublimation printer review

Roll-fed dye-sublimation transfer printers are often used in photo-kiosks but with their fast operation and touch dry photos, they’re also the printer of choice for event photographers.

Mitsubishi Electric CP-D70DW


£1214 (£999 ex VAT) $1,399.95
Mitsubishi Electric;
Mac OS X 10.5 or Windows XP later
Print quality, job times, low media costs, durability, build, noise levels
Noise levels, paper handling niggles, colour profile on request

Buy at Adorama Camera (US) at $1,279.95, plus mail-in rebate available. Buy at Amazon US (sold by Adorama).

Buy the Dual deck CP-D70DW at Adorama now at $1,939.95, plus mail-in rebate (was $2,950).


Unlike the process of dithering liquid ink in an inkjet, dye-sublimation printers produce authentic continuous tone images with an analogous look like that of a conventional lab-produced print. They achieve this using thin c…