Portrait photography is one of the biggest genres in the industry. It's also one of the most competitive types of photography. If you plan on staying ahead of the competition, then having a great workflow will drastically improve your performance.
Portrait photography benefits greatly from good editing skills. Unfortunately, editing large quantities of images can be time-consuming. Most photographers would probably prefer to be out photographing more subjects instead of being stuck behind a screen, editing dozens of images. Photographing more people makes more money, and this is why many high-end photographers hire external editors.
For most of us, however, hiring an external editor may not be financially feasible. Fortunately, as technology continues to improve, the editing process can be mitigated with the use of AI.
Estonian company Retouch4me has produced something remarkable with its suite of software. This is the same company that produced the much-loved and highly capable 3D LUT Creator. Its latest software suite is a few leaps of progress.
When it comes to retouching portraits, there's almost a requirement to use healing features in editing software. For most of us, skin isn't perfect all the time. The temporary flaws in our skin get captured by a camera, and if they aren't healed out, they become permanent features.
Issues such as sore patches, acne, reddening of the skin, and even damage to the skin should be removed in many cases. To do this, two of the most useful tools in Photoshop are the Spot Healing Brush and the Healing Brush. These two are generally enough to clear up some of the points that need healing.
The downside is that this is one of the more time-consuming parts of retouching a portrait. This is compounded by the number of portraits you need to edit. It's for this reason the Retouch4me Heal software is so incredibly useful.
The software is straightforward to use. Once it's been installed, it appears towards the bottom of the filters tab in Photoshop. The software launches almost immediately, and after a second or two, the healing preview is complete.
Along the top section of the software, you have several options. These include the ability to reduce the impact of the software using the sensitivity slider. You also can check the mask box if you'd like to create a mask. Also, clicking on the "Original" button in the top left section lets you switch back and forth between the before and after.
Once you click on the "apply" button, the software takes a matter of seconds to complete its work. It's remarkable how fast the software works and the amount of time it saves makes it worth every penny.
Of course, the results are the most important part of the equation, and the heal AI software from Retouch4me is genuinely impressive. In the before and after image below, you'll notice how the software is smart enough to clear up any issues without going overboard. This is also while using the software at its maximum setting.
Retouch4me Dodge & Burn
Dodging and burning is one of the most powerful ways to sculpt and correct skin tones. No matter how well it's done, lighting in a portrait isn't always going to be perfect, and this is where dodge and burn features are super useful.
For example, uneven spots can end up being a distraction. With dodge and burn, you can correct most issues relating to uneven skin tones. It's probably the most effective way to retouch a portrait. Unfortunately, it's generally the most time-consuming part of the retouching process.
There is such a thing as going overboard in retouching, and dodging and burning can sometimes get out of hand. However, even when used in a reserved manner, the time it takes can end up being hours upon hours. This is why the dodge and burn software from Retouch4me is, without a doubt, the most useful and impactful.
Once again, the software takes but a few seconds to launch, and once you hit apply, the effect is rendered almost immediately.
The above two images demonstrate the before and after, and as you can see, the result is pretty powerful. The light and dark tones around the forehead, chin, and nose areas are evened out without looking abrupt. Doing this manually would be time-consuming, but here, we have software that can complete the task incredibly well in a matter of seconds.
Retouch4me Portrait Volumes
As photographers, we use light to sculpt our subjects. Sometimes, the lighting isn't perfect everywhere, and this is why retouching is so useful for the work we produce. Portrait Volumes enhances keys areas in a portrait, such as the lips, eyes, and nose area. All this is to create a result that has more depth and appears more three-dimensional.
Admittedly, this isn't the most time-consuming part of a retouching workflow; however, with a large batch of portraits, the time adds up.
The software operates in a manner that's almost identical to the way the Dodge and Burn and Heal software work. And once again, the speed and quality of results are something to shout out.
As you can see in the comparison above, the software helps bring more depth to the portrait. Features like the eyes and lips pop more, which is important in a portrait. The only thing that would improve this software is if it could be expanded to also include the subject's hair. Currently, the software doesn't seem to effect great change to a subject's hair. However, this isn't a major issue by any means.
The three software pieces discussed above are the crucial pieces from Retouch4me. They contain the most useful features and offer the biggest impact on a workflow. You could quite comfortably stick with the three above and not miss a great deal. The other software, Skin Tone, Eye Brilliance, Eye Vessels, and White Teeth are nice to have. Collectively, they are great; however, individually, they don't have the greatest impact on your workflow and final result. Finally, the Clean Backdrop software is quite a bit more niche and only recommended if you shoot a lot of portraits with lighter backdrops.
Having said that, here is the final result when all of the software features are applied to a portrait.
The final image has also had the contrast and exposure increased. The colors in the image have also been graded ever so slightly.
Whenever someone discusses AI and retouching, the knee-jerk reaction is probably negative. We assume that the software is going to make everyone's skin look like plastic and smooth over any modicum of detail in a person. Retouch4me is the first software suite that has come to the market that understands how retouching is done.
Software such as Dodge and Burn and Portrait Volumes demonstrate an incredible understanding because the results are brilliant. Even at the maximum settings, the results don't seem overboard. Of course, as with most things, subtlety is key; however, with Retouch4me it's surprisingly not required.
You can comfortably breeze through a whole batch of portraits and end up with results that clients love. That's literally what happened in my case. With Retouch4me, I was able to edit 26 portraits in just over an hour, and the clients loved the results. Some of these images are in the lead image collage.
When you combine a little color grading and a few touches that you would normally apply to your portraits alongside the Retouch4me software, you have the most capable and powerful retouching workflow currently available.