Cool Additions to Already Great Software; Interactive Tutorials Jump-Start Newbies

Review by Jessica Maldonado

Every year I get excited when asked to review PortraitPro, so naturally I’m enjoying my test run of PortraitPro 19 Studio Max. I’ll cover the important updates in this review, but for a more complete overview of the awesome capabilities of this software, refer to my reviews of earlier versions (PortraitPro 18, Portrait­Pro 17, and PortraitPro 15) and Sean McCormack’s comprehensive look at using version 18 as a Lightroom plug-in in Issue 49 of Lightroom Magazine

There are three versions of PortraitPro 19: Standard, Studio, and Studio Max (reviewed here). I jumped into the standalone application, and almost skipped the “Getting Started” and “Learn More” sections on the homescreen, but I’m glad I didn’t. After each short descriptive video is the opportunity to click through new interactive tutorials for the main features. They’re short and sweet, and even experienced users of PortraitPro can benefit from the few minutes it takes to review them, if only to see what a likely “sweet spot” for a particular slider might be. 

The superstar of PortraitPro has always been its advanced AI-powered facial recognition, and Anthropics has managed to improve upon it yet again. Users can fine-tune the outlines by moving control points, though that’s rarely necessary. The Skin Smoothing was great in previous builds, but preserves more detail now. It employs ClearSkin 5 technology, which appears akin to the somewhat laborious process of frequency separation, except in this case, it’s instantaneous and easily adjusted. It “intelligently maps the contours and features of the face and retouches skin accordingly.” Pretty Sweet. 

The versatile Face Sculpt section features a new Lens Correction slider to adjust for distortions in a more pleasing and accurate way than in earlier versions. This section has long included sliders to adjust eyes, eyebrows, and mouth shapes for refining your subjects’ expressions, but toggling down the new Expressions slider reveals sliders labeled Smile, Frown, Surprise, Interest, and Thoughtful, helping users more easily create these appearances. Use judiciously or you risk creating a “Joker” face. 

Masking works well all around—thanks again to machine learning—for skin areas, background removal, and particularly the hair mask, which is so crucial to the improved hair-coloring options. Changing hair color dramatically still looks “fakey-fakey” but, as with all retouching, restraint can produce good results. I still wish the hair-tidying feature dealt with flyaway hairs rather than just smoothing (but, hey, maybe next version). 

Virtually every feature in PortraitPro 19 has noticeable improvement to function, speed, or both. The upgrade price, however, is very close to the full purchase price. So, if you own version 18, definitely take advantage of the free trial to be certain the updates are worth the cost for you. 

PortraitPro 19 Studio Max continues to be an affordable time- and cost-saving tool for busy photographers and designers looking to provide their clients with image editing ranging from subtle to extreme. Can’t wait for version 20! ■