By Betsy Finn, M.Photog.Cr., CPP
Like many other photographers, I use Adobe software products for the core of my photo editing workflow, but I recently found a nice addition that will complement what I already use. I was looking for a portrait retouching solution that would integrate with Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, and I decided to look into Perfect Photo Suite 8 from onOne Software. This application suite does much more than just help you retouch portraits. It’s a whole workflow solution that integrates with standard editing programs, or functions as a standalone product.
There is a profusion of information that I could share about Perfect Photo Suite 8, but for the purposes of this review I’ll give you an overview of its main features. Look for an article on retouching using Perfect Portrait 8 to follow. Perfect Photo Suite has a number of different modules, each of which focuses on a specific function. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First you have to install Perfect Photo Suite 8 and the appropriate plugins for your other software.
During the installation process, Perfect Photo Suite 8 automatically detected the compatible programs on my computer and installed plugins for each of them.
Perfect Photo Suite 8 offers eight different modules within the interface: Browse, Layers, Enhance, Portrait, Effects, B&W, Mask, and Resize. I’ll walk you through my first impressions of each module.
Browse—New to version 8, Browse allows you to locate images easily from your computer or Internet cloud sources such as Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud Photo Stream, and Sky Drive. You can view thumbnails or an individual image, search files, view metadata, and add or create “favorite” folders to access your files quickly.
Layers—When you open an image to edit, you can choose to edit a copy, edit the original, or add edits as a layer. Within this module, you can composite images, swap heads, and create layouts (using backgrounds, borders, edges).
Enhance—The basic editing module allows you to make most enhancements needed for a typical image. You can crop; adjust color, tone, and detail; spot-heal; or use content-aware fill to remove objects. There are also enhancement presets you can apply to your images, such as High Contrast and Magic Landscape. I’ll mention that there’s a red-eye removal function, but I hope that would never be necessary for most professional photographers. I tried out the Perfect Brush, which samples the color from the center of your brush and adjusts the edges accordingly. It’s helpful for working around complicated edges.
Portrait—The Portrait module had the most draw for me, as it can be used to automate facial retouching. Features include the ability to improve skin texture and color; enhance eyes, teeth, and lips; and remove blemishes. You can choose to apply effects to the entire body or just to the face. In the first screenshot below, you’ll see how you can adjust eye and mouth control points. For portraits featuring more than one subject, you can work on multiple faces individually within a single image. One other nice feature for skin color correction is the ability to select your subject’s ethnicity in a dropdown menu, which helps the software make appropriate automatic adjustments to the skin tone.
Effects—The Effects module allows you to apply filters and presets to change the look of your image with effects such as cross processing, HDR, photo filters, and more. You can create your own customizations to the effects, layer multiple filters on top of each other, and use masking tools to apply the effects where you want and nowhere else. Or, if you’d prefer, just use the effects as an overall adjustment to your image.
B&W—From the B&W Module, you can apply presets or adjust the tone, color response, and other variables to create a very customized look. Tools you can use include dodge/burn, adjusting shadow/mid-tones/highlights, vignettes, and edge/border effects. As with the other modules, you can also choose to simply apply a preset to the entire image rather than doing detailed adjustments.
Mask—The screenshot I’ve chosen for this module shows a manual brush mask being painted over the sky. You can be very broad and general in creating masks, or make a very detailed mask if desired. If you want to use the module’s masking technology, you can make a rough mask, as I’ve done here, then use the software to fine tune around hair, trees, or other complicated edges. There’s also an option to mask areas based on color range.
Resize—When it’s time to get your images ready for print, you can either save your edited files from any module of Perfect Photo Suite 8, or you can use the Resize Module to get your images print ready. This module uses Genuine Fractals technology to create better enlargements (the company claims you can “enlarge images up to 1000% without sacrificing quality“). There are a number of resizing presets available, based on output media type, lab print size, and the like. You can also create your own presets.
Within any of these modules you’ll have access to a navigator menu that looks something like this one below. Here I’ve stacked a number of filters to change the image and created a mask for each of those layers as well.
Running Perfect Photo Suite 8 from another imaging application is pretty simple. For example, from Photoshop you can access the batch processing feature or a specific module of the program (File > Automate). There are a few limitations with this option if you want to do extensive editing in Perfect Photo Suite 8. When editing an image opened from Photoshop, I was unable to switch modules, which I found inconvenient. Additionally, when you have an image open in Perfect Photo Suite 8, Photoshop is locked up with a dialog box until you complete your edits (or cancel them) and return to Photoshop from within the module you’ve selected to edit your file.
If you’re familiar with previous versions of Perfect Photo Suite 8, here are the “new additions” to version 8. A more thorough description of each is available on the Perfect Photo Suite 8 website (http://www.ononesoftware.com/products/suite8/whats-new/): Perfect Enhance, Perfect Eraser, More Filters, FocalPoint in Effects, Customizable Presets, Extras Manager, File Browser, Perfect Batch, Multiple File Handling, Improved Masking Bug.
Overall, Perfect Photo Suite 8 has a lot of potential, and I can see many varied uses and applications for it. I appreciate the widespread integration with other image editing software, and like the fact that most of the tools behave similarly to what I’m used to in Photoshop and Lightroom. For myself, I don’t see this as being a replacement to current Lightroom and Photoshop workflow, though it has potential in those areas. There’s just something complicated about redesigning the wheel. That being said, for those who don’t have access to all the Adobe products, or who are just starting out in the editing arena, this may be an affordable solution. I see Perfect Photo Suite 8 more as an enhancement to the Adobe suite of products rather than a replacement.
What didn’t I like? Well, there are a lot of features to take in. In order to really get full use of all of them, you will need to spend some time learning how they work, just as with any software, so the startup investment in time may be a deal-breaker for many. My main caveats, though, concern the hardware restrictions imposed by the software. I don’t like being limited to using a single module when editing from an outside application, and I was disappointed when I couldn’t install the program on my laptop because it will only work on 64-bit computers. Also, from time to time I use a Windows Remote Desktop Connection to edit files or do studio work. Unfortunately, when working remotely, Perfect Photo Suite 8 would not let me edit files because I didn’t have a GL Driver installed.
Betsy Finn, M.Photog.Cr.,CPP is a portrait artist located in Michigan. Her studio website is bphotoart.com.
Perfect Photo Suite 8 can be installed on either Windows (7 or 8) or Mac OS (X 10.7, 10.8, 10.9). There are three versions of the suite available:
Premium Edition, $179.95
For Adobe Lightroom + Apple Aperture, $129.95
Standard Edition, $79.95
The Premium Edition works as a standalone program and has optional integration with: Photoshop (CS5, CS6, CC, Elements 10-12), Lightroom (4, 5), and Apple Aperture (3.4+). The Standard Edition does not integrate with any other software. If you own a prior version, there are upgrade options available. For more information, or to download a 30 day free trial, visit http://www.ononesoftware.com/products/suite8/.