By Betsy Finn, M.Photog.Cr., CPP
Retouching is time consuming. There are trade-offs as you scale between customization and automation, and generally the faster and more automated a program is, the fewer options you have for customizing. While many editing applications attempt to bridge the gap and do both, it’s rare to find one that does both well. Earlier this year, I did a review of Perfect Photo Suite 8 (PPS8). Overall, I enjoyed using the interface and thought that it had potential as an add-on to Photoshop for portrait retouching purposes. After delving deeper into PPS8, I was most pleased with how the software handled retouching images. To put it simply, Perfect Photo Suite 8 may be a workflow efficiency boon, depending on how your workflow is set up.
Basic portrait retouching for PPS8 is pretty straightforward. You open PPS8, select the Portrait Module, and then get to work. PPS8 will automatically detect faces within the image, and identify each by a green box (below). Usually PPS8 does a decent job of finding faces for you, but sometimes you will have to adjust the control markers for eyes and mouth. Profile views tend to have a harder time being recognized and automatically set up. If no faces are detected, you can always click on a face to add an editing box for that individual.
The toolbar to the left of the image has six buttons (top to bottom): Face Select Tool, Face Edit Tool, Perfect Eraser, Retouch Brush, and the standard Hand and Zoom tools. Face Select displays all the identified faces in the image, while Face Edit allows you to select and work on retouching a specific face. Perfect Eraser removes larger blemishes, dust spots, and other things from your image; Retouch Brush has variable opacity so you can completely touch out skin flaws or just tone down wrinkles depending on your preference.
The retouching panel to the right of the image includes three sections; Skin Retouching, Color Correction, and Eyes & Mouth. These will be applied to the faces that you (and PPS8) have defined. When refining an individual face (above), you can select how much of the subject’s skin you want to have PPS8 edit. In the skin retouching panel, the first control is Face Size (default is medium). This control (small, medium, large) lets you choose how tightly the edits will be held within the facial mask and whether they extend into the neck or hair. You can further expand the retouching area by unselecting the checkmark that defaults to select Face Only in this section of the retouching panel. Finally, there are slider controls for Blemishes, Smoothing, Shine, Shadows, Texture, and Evenness.
Blemishes: reduces or removes the appearance of blemishes like acne
Smoothing: airbrushes the texture of the skin and removes texture
Shine: evens out and tones down the highlight areas of the face
Shadows: lightens and evens the shadow areas of the face
Texture: adds texture back to the skin
Evenness: flattens out the tonal range and reduces blotchiness or red splotches of the skin
As a female photographer, it can be hard to find camera straps that are both stylish and functional. Our choices often involve ruffles and shades of pink and purple, which just aren’t always practical. So when I was given the opportunity to review Cecilia camera straps, I was absolutely delighted. These straps are fashionable without being overwhelming. They fit a range of current styles, from boho-chic to more modern trends. The first thing I noticed when I opened the box was the pleasant smell of the leather; the second thing I noticed was the quality. The third thing? My husband, also known as my second shooter, who owns a wardrobe consisting only of black clothing, wouldn’t be embarrassed holding onto my camera with these straps attached. These straps aren’t just universally appealing, they’re also tough, and I was excited to put them through the wringer.
I was sent two straps; one brown leather with charcoal baby alpaca wool, and one black leather with the Challaypu pattern alpaca wool. Both are absolutely beautiful. The leather is clearly very high quality. It is very soft and wore easily the first time, but I believe that as it breaks in over time, it will become even more comfortable. The hardware is a sturdy metal, and complements the coloring of each strap. A variety of style options are available, with a couple of patterns, several solid colors (the sandy baby alpaca wool looks gorgeous!) and full leather versions.
One thing I really liked is that the straps came with information about the construction of the straps, as well as a bit of history about the wool and leather sources and treatment, and there’s even more information on their website. The straps are constructed with durability and strength in mind, and though I haven’t been using them that long, I truly feel they will stand up to the test of time.
Gorgeous workmanship and materials aside, I tend to abuse my straps a bit, and I needed to know that these weren’t just all looks. My first impression was that the Cecilia strap was quite comfortable. It distributes the weight of the camera nicely and doesn’t pull in any areas or become snagged on clothing. It can be worn comfortably both slung over one shoulder or around the neck, and the softness of the leather means it doesn’t irritate bare skin. The straps perfectly supported my Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a variety of lenses, without any noticeable strain. The length is perfect for me at 5'4", and it can be adjusted a bit. I asked my husband, who is about seven inches taller, and a couple of girlfriends who are a few inches shorter to try it out, and everyone was happy with the fit. The adjustable section of the strap is quite generous, so you can always change it to suit your personal preference.
Overall, I was very impressed with the Cecilia straps, and very happy to learn about this brand. The straps are beautifully made, functional, and perfect for anyone who prefers a more toned down but still stylish strap. With the high-quality materials and much of the process done by hand, these straps are $80 to $100, but I feel the price tag is justified. It’s not just a high-end price, these straps are high end. While Cecilia straps are great for anyone, I truly feel they will have a specific appeal to those who are more fashion conscious and interested in keeping up with the current trends. If shops like Anthropologie and Free People sold camera straps, I’m pretty sure they would be made by Cecilia.