Not so long ago, the airbrush in Photoshop might have been considered to be the ultimate tool for touching up portrait photographs. Not any longer! Portrait Professional is an image editing program that not only smooths out the wrinkles but also tans the skin, whitens the teeth and adds a sparkle to the eyes. In short, it can take years off your life in a matter of moments.
Here (on a Mac) you see an original photograph on the left and the digitally enhanced version on the right. I began by selecting a set of automatic enhancements – then I changed a few additional parameters in the panels on the right to change the skin tone, whiten the teeth and brighten the eyes.
In recent years, photographic enhancement has sometimes become a controversial subject. Every once in a while a story about some cover or advertising model who has been digitally improved hits the newspaper headlines. People worry that perfect-looking people set standards of appearance that are impossible for people in the real world to achieve. On the other hand, who among us would want our pictures to appear in print or on the web complete with high-definition spots and wrinkles when a little bit of pre-processing could make us look just that little bit better?
Portrait Professional can, in fact, give your photographs a digital makeover which, in real life, would take the combined skills of a plastic surgeon, fitness instructor and makeup artist. It can remove the shine from a greasy skin, make a pasty face look lightly tanned, smooth out the pimples, plump up the lips and slim down puffy cheeks. And you don’t even need to be an expert digital artist to accomplish this. You just load up a photo, let the software automatically determine the position of eyes, nose, mouth and chin, then use one of the male or female presets to process the image to look its most flattering for a person within a specific age range.
If the software fails to identify the correct elements of a face – for example, if it doesn’t quite find the exact outlines of the eyes – you can make fine adjustments using the mouse. You can also make adjustments to a broad range of parameters by moving sets of sliders in a categorised panel. These let you do things such as brighten the iris, change the eye colour, widen the eyes, moisten the lips and enhance the cheekbones. There is also a simple touch-up brush built in, to allow you to smooth over specific areas if the automatic enhancements need a bit of manual help. If you want to see some example, go to the online Gallery which shows some beautiful post-processed pictures along with the less-than-perfect originals. The differences are sometimes so dramatic that the comparison is almost cruel. They also demonstrate that there is a very fine line between subtly enhancing a portrait photograph and creating a fictional alternative to the real person.
And here am I in the Portrait Professional Studio plugin with Photoshop on Windows. On the left, the software identifies the main elements of my face. On the right, I’ve been processed to iron out the wrinkles and take a few years off my age. Ah, if only I could do that in real life!
Portrait Professional is available as a standalone application for Windows or Mac. The Studio edition can also be used direct from Photoshop. If you want to give your photos the cover model look of perfection, this is a great way of doing so. It just goes to show that while the camera may not lie, the image processing software certainly does!