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PortraitProfessional Max 5 - fantastic face enhancement software reviewed Review

PortraitProfessional Max 5 - fantastic face enhancement software reviewed Review - More face-editing frolics for Duncan Evans as he rates the latest program designed to make enhancing portraits a matter of moving sliders.

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Max 5 in Other Software

first step
The first step is to add key points to
the image.

Last month we had FaceFilter 2 in for review, that promised to make enhancing faces a quick and simple job. Unfortunately it was plagued by a poor user interface and variable results. Variable from laughable to mediocre that is. Up next is PortraitProfessional Max 5 which offers exactly the same kind of thing. It's designed to make your portraits better, but in a quick and easy fashion, that requires moving sliders, not using brushes.

As will be seen, there's a little more depth to PPM5 as it uses more face mapping data to intelligently enhance and correct features. Once installed the software need to be activated over the internet which leads to an opening screen containing help links, or the Start button. Either click on this or use File from the drop down menu then browse for an image to use. The first point that needs to be made is that the software only works on one face at a time but once tweaked another face in the photo can be edited as well before exporting the image. The second point is that the software actually analyses the face structure so it needs to have fairly hi-res images to work with.

Once a picture is loaded, you have to select whether it's a male of female face, which then leads on to the process of adding the face features mask. Now, the interface here is not subtle, but at least its clear and you can zoom in quickly to the image to place the points on eyes, mouth and nose. Interestingly it's only the corners on either side, not the ones in the middle that have to be set as the software will add those automatically. A press of the spacebar take you on from one element to the next, and while an image can be rotated, any major image adjustments are outside the remit of this program. Once the contact points have been added, PPM assesses the picture and creates the definitions for the nose, eyes, eyebrows, lips, head and jawline. These are created automatically, but are usually slightly off so need to be adjusted. Fortunately it doesn't take a great deal of effort to do so. However, the image needs to be hi-res and of good quality so the program can pick up the features, otherwise, lo-res and noisy pics, shot in low light conditions or with a high ISO rating won't work well.

define the nose
Here the defining point for the nose is added before the facial masks for each feature are fine-tuned.

Having got past that stage this is where the fun and automated games begin. Pressing the spacebar connects the program to the program's server where the information is sent. The server sends face data back based on the mapping. If you don't have an internet connection then this isn't the program for you, but it has to be said that this is unnecessary as all the data could be have been included with a packaged DVD. However, as most of PPMs sales are over the internet, with a resulting digital download, it does keep the download filesize to a reasonable 7.84Mb.

Automated faces
Based on your specification of male or female face the program will then apply an automated combination of feature enhancements. This could be exactly what you are you are looking for so no more needs to be done. However, initially, there is the temptation to just see what can be done to the persons portrait. There are presets for complexion, dramatic effect, glamour with some sculpting and glamour with more sculpting, remove spots only, sepia, black and white and subtle effects only, so those could be tried as an alternative. What's clever is the way the face shape can be tweaked to subtly enhance it, and this really can make a dramatic difference.

the control options
All the control options, with sub-menu settings, that can be applied.

The options available in the slider palette include face sculpting, skin, eyes, mouth, lighting and picture. There are also separate options for removing red-eye and spots, with a strength factor of one to 10. Each section can be changed by simply moving the corresponding slider as this then affects all the aspects of that section. Or, underneath each heading, is a box titled More controls. Clicking this shows the sub-categories that the overall slider is changing. For example. On Face Sculpt there are sections on head, jaw, nose and then eyes and mouth shape, with the latter two having further sub-categories, right down to changing the eyebrow shape of a specific eye. One of the most impressive things is the ability to change the head and jaw shape, so wide faces can be made narrower and long heads more rounded and vice versa. These two elements are tied together so that if one is applied to 100% change, and the other is left at 0%, where they meet just under the ear, the face shape will suddenly change and look unnatural.

The most immediate and obvious change to a portrait is courtesy of the Skin set of controls. These cover imperfections, thin wrinkles, fine shadows, removing pores, changing the colour balance, the amount of surface shine and the colour temperature. You can also give someone a suntan to varying degrees. Now, for me, this is the critical part of the program, because poor complexions and spots are the one thing that take no little time in Photoshop to sort out, so having an automated program do it for you is a real and palpable time saver. Unlike FaceFilter2 with its fairly unrealistic efforts, the results here can be dramatic. The automatic spot removal is excellent, and can really knock those pimples out without any effort on your part. Some of the effects here are more subtle than others, but the major one is pore removal, which makes the skin smoother. It, and the spot removal option, are also good for taking out freckles. This is all good when tackling female subjects, for blokes it can make them look either very young or a little unnatural. The trick is to use the imperfections and spot removal filters, but to knock back skin smoothing and lighting. The head sculpting still works well though.

applying the effects
Applying skin-smoothing and face sculpting has a subtle, but dramatic, effect.

What should be appreciated is that the program works best at when making subtle improvements. It isn't going to fix wonky teeth or make grim-lookers into Brad and Angelina. It can brighten eyes and teeth though.

The Lighting and Picture sections should be approached with caution as they usually comes up with the best options automatically and playing with the Contrast or Exposure sliders can wreak havoc.

Once all the tweaking has been done, the picture can be saved as a PPM project, or exported as a picture file. If it hasn't worked out well then you can go back to adjust the facial points, load another image, or go to edit another face within the same picture.

The initial impression is one of jaw-dropping amazement. The automated processing can come up with a great result right out of the tin so to speak. All you have to do is then save the image and go on to the next one. What's very impressive is the way that surface skin imperfections can be removed while retaining surface texture, colour and shading. The fine lines and wrinkles are a bonus. The other impressive element is the ability to sculpt the face from head to jawline and this can make a huge difference to the impact of the photo. The lips and eyebrow tweaking is more subtle, but the eye enhancements are very effect, particularly if the subject was squinting in bright light, or their eyes were in shadow.

The Max version of the software will cost you almost double the standard version, but it allows editing of RAW files and 16-bit images, so if you are in the more pro end of image editing, it does offer that extra flexibility. Certainly for anyone who takes photos for a living, whether they are portraits or weddings, the automated and slider-driven controls make enhancing portraits very simple and easy and can really give results that impress. The program can cope with multiple faces within a picture, but the image quality needs to be good and the pictures shot at 6Mp for the program to work effectively with them.

original image
Here's the original image before we set about making Beccy look half-human.

finished result
The finished result with skin smoothing and glossing, plus a tweak to the head shape.

original image
The original image is slightly out of focus and our Matt has had a bad morning.

The trick with blokes is to fix flaws and enhance without losing too much skin texture.


Plus points:
Adding face mask is easy
Impressive results automatically
Multiple faces in one photo
Head sculpting is clever and effective
Pimple removal excellent

Minus points:
Low quality or resolution doesn't work well
Need to check other skin areas


Price: Standard version - £24.95, Max version - £44.95
Supplier: Anthropics Technology
Website: http://www.portraitprofessional.com/


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