Portrait Professional

Like Dorian Gray in reverse, technology is making it easier to keep ourselves looking young and beautiful in photographs no matter how many wrinkles and gray hairs we get. With Portrait Professional 9, by Anthropics, amateurs and professional photographers can not only touch up blemishes and wrinkles but make a wide variety of changes, including thinning the face, plumping up the lips, lifting the eyebrows and widening the eyes.

All you need to do is upload an image and mark five spots on the image: the outside corners of the eyes, the tip of the nose, and the corners of the mouth. Then adjust the points on the image to correspond with the features of that particular face, and click. In a few seconds, you've got a brand new face. If there's more than one person in an image, Portrait Professional 9 lets you change each subject individually.

Portrait Professional 9 assumes that the pre-sculpted face it creates is just the starting point and once it's made its changes, a dialog box prompts, "Now You Enhance Your Photo." Then you're free to make your own changes using sliders at the right side of the screen, where you can increase or decrease each effect. This gives the user a great balance of control over the final look and a low learning curve so that anyone can use the program right away.

I used the software as a hobbyist would, to enhance the faces of friends and family--in short, people I know. And once Portrait Professional had done its thing, I wanted to undo all of the face sculpting changes it made. Would my husband be more handsome with the longer and thinner nose the software gave him? Maybe, but I like his actual nose. And that's the problem with changing the structure of a face, whether it's in the name of beauty or not. There's a fine line between making someone look better and making someone look different. That said, the sculpting tools were fun and useful when used sparingly to make subtle changes to, say, the lips or eyebrows.

Portrait Professional did a good job of smoothing out wrinkles, filling in dark circles, and evening complexion of subjects' skin. It added shine to the skin, whiteness to the teeth, and vibrance to the hair, which are all welcome and subtle enough changes to please anyone. It often created an overly airbrushed look, but it's so easy to use the sliders at the side to increase or decrease each enhancement and find the right balance that it didn't matter. A couple of times, it didn't erase some blemishes, so I used the touch-up brush to finish the job.

For amateur photographers and photo enthusiasts, Portrait Professional 9 is an incredibly easy and, quite frankly, fun tool that does a good job of enhancing people's beauty. One caveat: It didn't handle children's faces well in our tests, because its algorithms seem to favor thinning the cheekbones and nose to create a more chiseled look that is considered beautiful in adults but, of course, just looks odd on children.

The standard standalone version of Portrait Professional 9 costs $70, and a business version, Photo Professional Studio ($100), handles RAW files and 16-bit-per-sample color and is available as a plug-in for Adobe Photoshop.

--Lisa Cekan

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