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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Professional Portraits

Recently I have been tinkering with an interesting piece of software for image manipulation. Portrait Professional performs a number of beauty treatments on faces, including blemish removal, skin tone correction eye and teeth whitening and it does this by comparing your photo with anthropomorphic information stored on a central server.

The package is very easy to use, needing no artistic skill. The process involves loading an image, specifying the gender, then defining a series of marker points that identify the position and dimension of eyes, nose, mouth, chin and cheeks. The package then connects over the internet to exchange information with a server and then presents the user with a modified image that can be adjusted by tweaking a variety of slider controls.

With practice it is possible to do a decent beauty pass on a headshot in about 5 minutes:-

  • 2 minutes to identify all the marker points
  • 1 minute, or less, to do the internet handshake thing
  • 2 minutes playing around with the controls to get the best result.
This is a definite speed improvement on doing all the retouching manually and the major selling point of the software.

The makers seem to indicate that the software works best on portraits where the model is looking directly at the camera, but I found it to work acceptably on shots where the models head is at an angle, but both eyes are still visible. I also found it worked equally well on models of different ethnicities.

The package does have some limitations. Although it works with compositions other than straight head shots, the face is the only thing it manipulates, so you may need to complete your beauty pass on other exposed areas of skin with other post production tools. It's a supplement and not an alternative to other photo manipulation tools. Also, positioning of the marker points proves

to be critical - get them a little off and weird artefacts start happening.

The developers indicate the client/server nature of the application is to protect their intellectual property, but the requirement to have a internet connection means the package is no use to me if I don't have my broadband. Its an annoyance, but depending on your computer setup - probably a minor one.

If used sparingly on the right kind of image, its a pretty neat tool and at the current price of £15, an inexpensive one.