It’s not often a piece of software makes me go Wow. Maybe I’m just too jaded from all the years in the industry, but it’s all starting to look same old same old to me. We see the same ideas wrapped in blue bling and higher hardware requirements, and not much else. Outside the wonderful world of Linux and Open Source (which always has a Wow place in my heart), there just doesn’t seem to be a lot of Wow going on.
Which is what makes Portrait Professional so darned special. It’s got that immediate Wow factor, in spades.
What is does is simple. It makes ugly people beautiful.
Ok, maybe that’s a bit too optimistic. I’ll try again. It enhances portraits to turn your average, ordinary man or woman on the street into the kind of shots a fashion magazine would be proud to publish. It removes blemishes, smooths skin tones, whitens eyes and teeth and remoulds the face into the kind of proportions we’d all like to be, but aren’t.
It’s worth noting that what it does isn’t special as this had been the domain of Photoshop forever. Since before the dawn of the pixel, folks have manipulated images in this way. That’s not new at all.
What is new is the how. Portrait Professional is fast, and it’s automatic. It’s also very configurable so once you’ve mapped the location of the eyes, nose, lips and face shape (a matter of 2 minutes’ work) it’s possible to make the kind of adjustments previously only possible in Sims 2 or Second Life. You can add a tan, sharpen the features, widen the eyes and make 1,001 minute adjustments – not that you need to though. The automatic improvements pretty much do all the hard work for you.
It’s very, very impressive indeed.
It’s not perfect though, as the makers have seen fit to require a ‘net connection for the software to work and put a part of the program server-side. The reason for this is to prevent piracy (there’s that word again), and while it’s understandable to an extent, it’s crippleware by another name. The majority of the messages on their forums are from people complaining that they don’t want to be tethered (and distrusted) in this way – and this from photo professionals who want to take this Wow application on the field and show their customers what it can do. These are the very people Portrait Professional should be appealing to, not alienating.
That said, the trade-off for this server-side reliance is price. The base version (reads and writes .jpgs and .tifs) is just £20. That is seriously low cost for something that will save hours of Photoshop work over and over again. The Max version (reads RAW files) is only £40, and should improve the workflow even further.
It’s a very, very small price to pay indeed.
There’s a good argument for them to release a stand-alone version as well, ideally as a Photoshop plugin, for around £300. That would suit the professional users far better, and remove the need for a persistent ‘net connection. In the forums folks have suggested that this version could ping their server once every 30 days or so when a connection is available to check for updates and verify the registration. If they feel that piracy is an issue, I guess that’s as good a bad solution as any. Heck, it’ll be cracked anyway, but at least they can say they tried.
Outside the crippleware debate, it’s an amazing program which does what it says on the tin very well indeed.
In other words……….