Beautune: Mac OS X 10.6 or later; Windows XP/Vista/7/8
Portrait Professional 11: Mac OS X 10.5 or later; Windows XP/Vista/7/8
Mac OS X 10.9 (Mavericks); 21.5” iMac equipped with a 3.1 GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 16 GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M 512 MB.
Operating Modes/File Types Supported:
Both apps support a wide range of file types.
Beautune works with RAW files out of the box.
To use Portrait Professional 11 (Portrait Pro 11, for short) with RAW files, you need the Studio or Studio 64 (64-bit) edition.
I found that opening files with Beautune could be quite quirky. The easiest way is to drag-and-drop a file onto the Beautune workspace. The program failed to recognize files located on folders other than the Pictures folder on my internal drive. Portrait Pro 11 did not exhibit such quirks.
Beautune is strictly standalone, working outside and independent of any other image editor or RAW converter.
The basic Portrait Pro 11 is standalone. Portrait Pro 11 Studio (tested edition) and Studio 64 (64-bit) edition, however, work both as standalone and, more importantly, as a plug-in (Adobe Photoshop/Photoshop Elements, Adobe Lightroom, Apple Aperture) – and this is largely how I use it, primarily from within Lightroom 5. When using the app as a plug-in, first work your magic in your image editor or RAW converter; then summon Portrait Pro from within these programs the way you would normally work with a plug-in (in Lightroom, select “Edit In” under Photo in the main Menu, or via mouse-click selection on the thumbnail). Like most plug-ins, the file is first converted to TIFF or JPEG (as you wish) prior to export, and the retouching is then applied to this new file upon export back to the host application.
How It Works:
Each one of these apps is designed to make retouching faces easier. However, how they go about it is like night and day. But if you think that each is a magic genie that, once uncorked, does all the work for you, think again. That’s not exactly how it works.
Portrait Pro 11 does have the advantage in that the process is largely automated, but you still have to exercise discretion. Moreover, you can finesse the image with various tools. Beautune is entirely manual – that’s good and bad; good, if you have a good eye for this sort of thing; bad, because it’s more labor-intensive and time-consuming. To do justice with either program, you really need a makeup artist’s eye and hand. And a Wacom graphics tablet will prove particularly handy with either, for more precise retouching. However, my Wacom Intuos 3 had limited support in either application.
Fully manual facial retouching that targets three areas (via settings specific to each): face, eyes, mouth. Most settings give you control over brush size and intensity. However, brushes do not automatically detect the target areas, so it’s easy to stray with the brush onto unintended parts of the face. The use of some settings would benefit from a makeup artist’s touch and a fully supported Wacom graphics tablet.
Face settings encompass Foundation; Smooth (softening of pores, fine lines, and such) and Wrinkle Remover (a stronger healing brush); Blemish Fix (essentially a healing tool to remove blemishes and other flaws to match the surrounding skin – it’s a one-click process – you don’t paint with it, simply click on the spot); and Blush Boost. Reshape nudges pixels, and it’s very easy to overdo it. Set the intensity to a low value to avoid disastrous errors. In fact, you’d do well to set intensity to a moderate or low level for any brush – this way you have more control and can layer the effect on, instead of attempting to do it in one fell swoop. Weight Loss is a misnomer. It simply squishes the entire frame from the sides in order to create a leaner figure. So it doesn’t simply make a person look slimmer. It has the same effect on the surroundings as well. So, I’d avoid this one, unless your subject is entirely isolated or set against a neutral backdrop.
The Eyes settings feature a Red-Eye Remover that indiscriminately removes color, so use it carefully. Enlarge Eyes lets you open the eyes by nudging surrounding pixels – a one-click operation that also works to pump up muscles (with repeated clicks). Eye Pop is a brush that gives the whites of the eyes a brighter appearance (interestingly, it also darkens already dark areas, such as the iris). You can also adjust eye tint, mascara, eyeliner, eye shadow, and use an eyebrow pencil, with various colors/shades for each (except mascara, which is governed only by brush size and intensity).
For the Mouth you have two options: lip tint and teeth whitening. Again, these touch-ups have to be applied carefully. Interestingly, you can use the teeth-whitening brush to add a hair-light effect to the hair, or to strengthen an otherwise weak hair light.
Advanced options cover cropping; adding Detail (Clarity in Lightroom/Adobe Camera Raw) – a brush that basically punches up local contrast along edges/borders (I used this to give the eyes greater intensity); a blurring brush (“Defocus” – great for pulling attention away from distracting backgrounds or unwanted features – as long as they’re not in areas of the face that we expect to see in focus); and a Clone tool (not a brush – click on a spot to clone and a set a target area). Next we have Effects – which affect the color of the image uniformly or convert to a monochrome/black-and-white. The effects are only labeled by number, but you can adjust intensity for each. The final option is Frames, also only identified by numbers, with a fairly cheesy selection and no options for any of them.
Important caveats/Beautune. As you may have inferred, the tools here are not specific to the areas identified as targets. They can just as easily be applied indiscriminately to adjacent areas if the brush strays. So, for instance, when whitening teeth, that process may also affect the area immediately adjoining the teeth, namely, the lips or gums.
Features/Portrait Professional 11:
Largely automated facial retouching that gives you total control over practically every facial feature, via presets and numerous parameters controlled by sliders. It’s a clever and robust package that really delivers. It might be intimidating at first, but taken one step at a time, it can be readily mastered.
You begin by selecting the face type: male, female, boy, girl. The program then maps out the face – targeting the shape and position of the eyebrows, eyes, nose, lips, chin, and overall contours of the face. Presets (sets of actions that simply require one click to activate) take over after that, targeting the entire face or just parts of it, and/or you can choose to identify different facial areas on your own, adjusting parameters via sliders. To deactivate a set of parameters, click on the Green button to make it disappear, or click to make it re-appear and make those settings active (this is a good approach when using presets – so you can see what works and what doesn’t, and to visualize the effect these – or adjusted – settings have). There are numerous presets out of the box – geared toward men and women (from natural to glamorous, at varying age levels), as well as others that target specific facial features, but you also can create your own presets.
While you can address certain imperfections with a Touch Up Brush, much of what happens is controlled via those sliders, so it’s important to verify and update the affected areas using brushes that aid in creating a mask that identifies the target areas. All that really means is painting over the area using specific brushes available under the different settings. You can identify the masked area easily enough - it’s a translucent color overlay that disappears when you exit brush mode.
You can undock the control panel to give you more room to work, by moving it elsewhere. Initially, it’s easier to leave it where it is. Also, you can work full-screen, which expands the workspace to some degree.
I can’t say enough nice things about this application. I only wish there was a cloning tool so that I wouldn't have to resort to Photoshop for this functionality. But I love the way Portrait Professional seems to instinctively target different parts of the face and that you have control over this aspect of the program.
I would need considerable space to outline and discuss the various settings. Suffice to say broadly, these are the key targeted adjustments: face sculpting; skin smoothing; eyes; mouth and nose; skin coloring; skin lighting; and hair. The Picture Controls put exposure, contrast, white balance, tone, and vibrance at your disposal. It really is a complex array of settings, which is why the presets are awfully handy for the uninitiated. With time, you should learn to finesse these settings – or make the effort sooner rather than later if you plan to be a portrait artist.
Important caveats/Portrait Pro 11. If you’re wearing a hat, it might get mistaken for hair. When reshaping the contours of the face, that will affect areas surrounding the face, so this is best done against a backdrop free of straight lines or recognizable shapes (with the subject against a plain wall or seamless paper, for example). And very, very important, if you are opening a file in the standalone app, make sure it’s a copy of the original. Whether used as standalone or plug-in, if you decide not to go through with the changes but select the Return from Plugin option under File, the program will overwrite the original image file with the changes you made, in the process of exiting. If you select Save after opting to Quit PortraitProfessional under the main Menu, the file will be overwritten – so be sure it’s a copy (easy to forget if you put it aside for awhile). To exit without using the changes, select “Don’t Save” after opting to Quit PortraitProfessional from the main Menu. One more thing: when left to its own devices – that is, working with presets unchecked - the program may introduce unwanted artifacts. So monitor the results closely. I’ve only noticed this so far with selected high-contrast images.
Why opt for the 64-bit version of Portrait Pro 11? If you need the plug-in and you work with RAW files, get the Studio edition. The 64-bit version of the application (provided your computer employs 64-bit processing) is more efficient. You won’t see a difference in the quality of the work you do, but in the speed in which you accomplish it. Before buying the 64-bit edition, verify that it’s compatible with your computer and operating system.
Portrait Professional 11 Studio (or Studio 64) Edition would be my first choice as a professional seeking to make his clients happy. It gives you all the essential tools, except a way to change hair styles or add facial hair. I would like to see the Touch Up Brush finessed with even more control. And, while cloning tools are absent, Photoshop users will not be bothered by this omission. The program is full-bodied. More importantly, it delivers. And if you’re wondering, will it work on faces shot at an angle or in profile, the answer is a qualified yes. It gets a little tricky when any face is not staring straight into the camera, but it’s doable. If not overdone, Portrait Pro 11 will invigorate a portrait.
Beautune is quite different, albeit with the same aim of making portraits look better. On the one hand, it is practical and effective; on the other, the process is more laborious. There are features that I like - namely those that, when properly applied – let me coax parts of the image that need coaxing just enough to make a difference. In fact, I can see Beautune used as an adjunct to Portrait Pro, if only because Beautune’s uncomplicated interface lends itself better to applying certain touch-ups. If they took this app to the next level – as a plug-in, I would recommend it more highly. Essentially, Beautune does what it sets out to do, in a largely uncomplicated fashion. Despite some reservations, I do like this app. In fact, I appreciate having more intimate control over the retouching, without being dictated to by automatic actions.
Will they do the job? Definitely. While it is largely automatic, Portrait Pro 11 presents a somewhat intimidating interface initially. At the outset, you need to make some decisions, but, beyond that, let the program work its magic or lend a hand, as you see fit – or as far as your stylist’s eye and hand will allow. Beautune has more of an inviting interface, but is more labor-intensive. Either way, it takes a trained eye/hand to do justice to the faces you’re retouching. And we should add that, while the face is the focus of each application, you can extend retouching to other parts of the body (or the background), although not necessarily with the same intensity. In either case, you would do well to consult with your clients first before attempting extensive retouching. And it wouldn’t hurt to have a makeup artist at your side, or even at the controls.
What you have to be careful about with either application is reshaping a person so that he/she becomes someone else entirely. Think twice before removing moles that may be beauty marks or birthmarks, or reshaping the contours of a face. Sure, you may make someone prettier in the process, but you may also be creating a whole new persona, and is that what you and especially your portrait client really want? It’s very easy to get carried away with either application. Remember, discretion is the key. If someone has to ask, Who is this, you know you’ve overstepped your hand.
First, lighting. Much of this work can be alleviated with proper lighting. If you use harsh lighting, you accentuate wrinkles and facial blemishes. Use soft lighting (bounce lighting off nearby surfaces, umbrella lighting, softbox) and fill lighting (and/or a bounce card or collapsible reflector) and you not only reduce the appearance of facial flaws – without any magic elixir, but also lessen wrinkles and disturbing creases in clothing.
Second, for a more ethereal or romantic effect, take it to the next level. Soften lines and blemishes with a soft-focus or diffusion filter over the lens, a prime soft-focus lens, a Lensbaby soft-focus lens system, a soft-focus plug-in effect (for example, Nik Color Efex Pro), or even by reducing Clarity (or Structure, or its variants – depending on your application). If you’re only worried about blemishes and moles, you can simply use healing or cloning tools available in any imaging application.
Where can I get more info?
Portrait Pro 11: http://www.portraitprofessional.com
Portrait Professional: Anthropics Technology (Elkhart, IN)
How much is it?
Beautune/Mac edition: direct: $29.99; Mac App Store: $14.99 (limited-time offer)
Beautune/Windows edition: (select 32-bit or 64-bit) direct: $29.99
Portrait Professional 11 (Mac or Windows): Amazon: $49.95 ; direct: $39.95 (limited-time offer) (upgrades available to Studio & 64-bit editions)
Portrait Professional Studio 11 (Mac or Windows): Amazon: $69.95; direct: via upgrade
Portrait Professional Studio 64 v.11 (64-bit edition: Mac or Windows): Amazon: $129.95; direct: via upgrade
Trial Version Available?
Yes, for both Beautune and Portrait Professional 11, via the respective website.
Does It Reach pixelPERFEXION? (100 pixels is best):
Beautune: 75 pixels, for general usability and fun factor; lost points due to failure to target specific areas with the available tools and lack of full graphics tablet support.
Portrait Professional 11: 90 pixels, for comprehensive feature set and ease of use (when using presets – more complex when you address individual features on your own); lost points owing to the complexity of the program (those personalized touches I just alluded to), but at the same time this is also what makes it such a vital tool for the portrait photographer. Also, points lost for lack of full graphics tablet support.