ArcSoft Portrait+ Review
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Opening pictures in Portrait+ is quick because they appear as thumbnails. Loading them into the main window takes more time depending on the file size. This is also used to locate the face anchors. To be fair it only takes around ten seconds but if you have just done a studio shoot with around 200 images, this builds up and can then be extremely time consuming. As we mentioned earlier, the precision of the anchors isn't brilliant but further testing seems to indicate a link between the accuracy and the sharpness of pictures. We loaded in a couple of pictures taken with a soft focus filter and got more anchors off-set than a sharp image.
ArcSoft have told us that they've used the most sophisticated face detection technology in Portrait+. We were under the impression that the software has been developed further than this and could now recognise a face practically side on. Certainly there are applications that can be “trained” to detect side faces although it's unclear to us what kind of preparation this would involve, it seems that lots of example images would have to be programmed into the code. Maybe that is non-viable to keep the price down.
Applying a filter to one of our pictures that was around 4.5Mb taken on a Canon EOS 60D. It's 3456x5184 pixels. The filter takes around 15-20 seconds to apply itself to the picture. Once you've completed that, you can export the pictures. After choosing the export file path, it took us around five seconds to process one of the pictures we tested. This is where the batch export tool is useful as that time will extend severely with a large shoot.
Once saved, we opened the image in a new window to check it. The EXIF data will be retained which is useful but we were dismayed to discover that the program compresses the images to around half the size they originally started off at. We asked ArcSoft about this and they said that it is something they're going to address in future, so possibly with an update.
The quality of the filters is pretty good. They're relatively subtle so they won't impact too much on the original quality. You can add more than one filter to an image if you wish but you can't be selective about it with multiple images. If you choose any filters, they will apply to all the pictures.
Since our initial review of Portrait+, ArcSoft have added a number of features to extend the program. Interestingly, the website only lists five changes, but after upgrading it's obvious that they've been busy. First a word about upgrading the previous version. If you already own Portrait+ then you just have to go through the same motions as when you first installed it. Use the same download button. The program will remember the security code and update your program automatically.
The initial stage of locating the face and setting the anchors is unchanged. It's still hit and miss and loading a lot of pictures in will still take a long time of repetitive work enabling the face detection on each picture. It would be lovely to see this done automatically. It could perform this task while making minor adjustments to each picture. That would be acceptable, it's just having to wait for the whole thing to start over with each picture. The face also still has to be re-detected whenever you go back to a picture you've already done.
The two biggest changes are in the Select Styles section. There's now a Before & After button at the bottom of the main preview window so you can see the effects you're adding. There's also an extensive addition to the digital filters.
As well as the preset styles from before (which haven't changed or been tweaked by the look of it) there's also a number of new custom styles that will adjust the skin, face, eyes or lips. The Skin section has two radio buttons to remove circles and remove blemishes. There are five more in-depth options available as well for Foundation (make-up), Whiten skin, Soften skin, Remove shine and Blush.
The first two – considering you have no control over how well they perform – are very good. We saw definite improvements in the affected areas. The others work well too. The Foundation and Blush options (representing make-up) have a degree of manipulation and are actually quite precise. Sure, they can look garish if done too much but that can happen in any program.
One of the other major changes happens in the export screen when the images are to be saved. In the previous version, there was an option to save as Original size, Screen size or 640 pixels. This is still the case but ArcSoft have now added an additional drop down box for image quality. There's High, Medium, Low and Custom. Custom produces a slider so you can manually amend the quality to a value between 0 and 100%. Using anything less than 100% cuts the file size drastically. Our original image is 4.89Mb. The 0% image is 216Kb, at 25% it rises to 352Kb. Not a massive amount. At 50% it's 500Kb while the 75% setting is 750Kb. It seems to be keeping a relevant pattern (750Kb for 75%, 500Kb for 50% etc). However, when we pushed it to 100%, the file size increased over the original. Likely to be because of the extra information from the filters because it's around 300Kb extra. There's still no Raw support which is what we were really hankering for.
The other features are additional shortcuts to zoom in, zoom out and fit to screen. Thankfully, you can do it with the mouse wheel which is infinitely more convenient. Custom styles can also be saved and applied to future images which is useful if you have a studio shoot over a couple of days. It will ensure consistency through the project.