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PortraitPro 12 Review

Ben Andrews reviews the latest version of PortraitPro v12 - the advanced portrait retouching software.

|  Portrait Professional 12 in Other Software
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Ease of Use

Portrait Professional Screenshot2

No matter how good your lighting, how beautiful your model and how flawless their make-up job, there’ll always be a blemish here or an unsightly shadow there which could do with touching up. Photoshop may seem the obvious solution, but Portrait Professional 12’s advanced facial feature recognition and comprehensive retouching options go way beyond what Photoshop alone can achieve and generate superior results with much less effort.

PortraitPro 12 Features

Before we find out what’s new in version 12, let’s take a moment to check out the basics. By using advanced facial feature recognition, Portrait Pro automatically analyses an image, detects the facial outline, mouth, nose, eyes and eyebrows to target various processing enhancements at each area. Skin blemishes are magically removed, wrinkles softened, eye’s brightened and even hair colour can be changed.

The automated detection works if your subject is positioned at an angle or fully profile, plus it’ll detect multiple faces in a photo and allow you to alter each face independently. If the software’s default enhancement preset doesn’t work to your liking, various gender-specific alternatives can be applied, depending on which parts of the face you’d like to alter and the age range of your subject.

Go beyond the presets and virtually any facial feature can be manually manipulated using sliders, from pupil size and sharpness to skin pore smoothing, nose size and shape to mouth expression. Touch-up and restore brushes also let you interact directly with an image to apply or remove enhancements from specific areas.

Version 12 offers increased facial feature detection accuracy, plus improved face sculpting, skin smoothing and feature enhancement. Go for the Studio Max version and you’ll now be able to batch process multiple images, while all versions gain a Face Re-lighting mode which allows you to alter the direction of lighting and selectively apply shadows and highlights to literally show off your subject in their best light.

System Requirements

  • 1GHz processor
  • 2GB of RAM (4GB for handling 8+ megapixel images)
  • 1024 x 600 display
  • Windows 8, Windows 7*, Vista, or XP
  • Intel Mac with OSX 10.6 or later

*Windows 7 without service pack 1 has known problems

PortraitPro 12 Ease of Use

Portrait Professional Screenshot1

When you open an image in Portrait Pro, the software automatically locates a face or faces within it and displays outlines around the face, mouth, nose, eyes and eyebrows. You then specify whether the face is male, female, girl or boy and the program automatically applies the relevant gender/age preset enhancements according to the facial characteristics of your image.

The initial accuracy of the feature recognition is very good, but you’re free to fine tune the outlines in a similar way to adjusting the points on a pen tool line in Photoshop. This ensures features such as skin smoothing or teeth whitening are applied to exactly the right areas.

Different presets vary the amount of enhancement or lighting modification, or you can delve into the Portrait Improving Sliders to fine tune individual facial features. These are grouped into categories, with sections like Face Sculpting allowing you to manipulate the shape of the face as a whole, as well as alter specific areas. Other categories control things like skin smoothing, lighting and hair. If you’d rather a specific feature was left completely untouched, just slide its slider to zero or click the green button alongside the category header to disable all related enhancements.

Using automated face detection and a simple, slider-based approach means there’s rarely any need to manually define facial features and the software works without layers or layer masks. A touch-up brush does allow targeted tweaks to eliminate prominent imperfections, and you’re also able to define other areas of skin beyond the face for enhancement should they not be automatically detected.

Most of the sliders are labelled in non-technical terms so it’s easy to work out what effect they’ll have. However, with so many categories and sub categories of adjustment available, it’s wise to adjust one section at a time and keep a close eye on what’s changing to avoid taking the touch-up too far. That said, Portrait Pro’s emphasis on subtle enhancement means it’s more likely you’ll end up with an unflattering rather than unsightly image if things do go wrong.

PortraitPro 12 Performance

Portrait Professional Screenshot3

Portrait Pro was able to automatically enhance this image impressively well, but the default processing is deliberately conservative. By tweaking the Skin Smoothing sliders, facial imperfections were further reduced and extra softening applied to the smile lines. The eye controls allowed the eyes to be widened and irises brightened, while the lips have been darkened and teeth whitened. Bear in mind this is all achieved without any manual defining of each facial feature – the sliders automatically target the relevant area of the image, and do so very accurately.

Portrait Professional Screenshot4

This image provided a dramatic transformation as the software was able to reduce the shine on the model’s skin, giving a smoother, softer complexion. Blemishes on the forehead and cheeks have also been smoothed and the skin given a much warmer tone. The new lighting controls in version 12 have allowed shadows to be applied to both sides of the face to increase contrast and depth, as well as giving the illusion of raised cheekbones. Finally, the lips have been plumped up, reddened and a pout shadow added below.

Portrait Professional Screenshot5

Whilst this portrait shot was already very well lit and the model’s complexion virtually flawless, Portrait Pro allowed us to add more impact. Its skin lighting controls have upped the facial contrast to create depth and extra cheekbone definition. Note how the eyes have been widened and the mouth plumped, plus we’ve applied a lip moistening effect and extra colour saturation. Obviously the hair colour has changed too, although for a convincing transformation we did need to manually select some areas for the colour change to fully take effect. Subtle hair colour enhancements like this work best, as radical changes from blonde to dark brunette or vice versa rarely look convincing.

Portrait Professional Screenshot6

Once again, skin has been smoothed and shininess reduced, but to avoid an overly-airbrushed appearance, Portrait Pro allows over a dozen skin texture effects to be added, ranging from smooth styles to suite a feminine face, to rougher, more masculine textures. The extent of blemish removal can also be specified so larger imperfections can be reduced whilst maintaining smaller, less intrusive flaws to maintain character. Here we’ve also plumped up the lips, widened the eyes and made the hair browner, just for the fun of it, and because it only takes seconds.

Anthropics Portrait Professional 12 Sample Photos

Value For Money

The Standard edition of Portrait Pro costs £59.90/$99.90 and includes all touch-up features, but does not have colour space control or the new batch processing ability and it can only be used as a standalone program. Go for the £99.90/$159.90 Studio version and you’ll gain the colour space support and it can be used as a plug-in for Photoshop, Lightroom or Aperture. The ultimate, Studio Max edition adds full batch processing, but will set you back £199.90/$299.90.

The Standard edition gives by far the most bang for your buck if you’re happy to use it as a standalone program, though the extra features in the Studio edition can be worth the extra outlay if you like to maintain a workflow within your main photo editing software. We’d only recommend the Studio Max option if you’ll be processing large quantities of portrait shots on a regular basis. Currently all three versions can be had for half price, making the Standard edition exceptional value at just £29.95/$49.95, the Studio version £49.95 and the Studio Max version £99.95.

PortraitPro 12 Verdict

It’s clear to see from our examples just how much Portrait Pro can improve a portrait shot. But if anything impresses more than the end results, it’s the ease at which even a complete novice in the field can achieve them. The automated facial feature recognition and effect targeting are outstanding, as is the thought that’s gone in to making each enhancement work in harmony your subject without transforming them into a cartoony caricature.

It’s hard to find many faults, but we encountered times when a tool similar to Photoshop’s Liquify brush would have been handy for making specific outline adjustments beyond the standard sculpting sliders or moving the appropriate point on the mark-up outline. Extreme changes in hair colour can also look unconvincing.

If all you want to do is remove a couple of pesky pimples or smooth the odd patch of skin, then any normal photo editing software with clone or blur tools would do the job. However to make family, friends, or professional models really look their best, Portrait Pro works wonders and is worth every penny.

PortraitPro 12 Pros

Ease of use
Extent of editing options
Support for profile shots and multiple faces
Effective lighting control

PortraitPro 12 Cons

Hair colour changes not always effective
Ethical concerns over promoting enhanced beauty



PortraitPro 12 works wonders to make people look their best and is worth every penny.



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josa 8 25 Czech Republic
27 Aug 2014 5:25PM
"Rebecca before" looks just fine and natural, most models need just a little touches here and there. The software is just killing it!
parallax 11 204 United Kingdom
27 Aug 2014 11:09PM
The software is very impressive but it's all too easy to make someone look plastic. The above examples look too processed to my eye
joshwa Plus
10 923 1 United Kingdom
29 Aug 2014 11:42AM
In regard to the comments, it's entirely up to you how much you adjust the appearance of the model. I've used the trial software and made subtle changes to the first image above, and it's very quick and easy to improve the portrait photo, without going overboard, and much quicker than if I'd used Photoshop. See below:

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