Skip to main content

Going all studio

Science and beauty can be uncomfortable bedfellows. Like anyone with the vaguest ideas of scientific terminology I wince at the 'science bits' in most beauty product advertising on the TV. 'New improved CrackFilla with DNA piped light technology.' What? However there is one place that science and beauty come together effortlessly and that's in software.

We all know that magazines have airbrushed pictures since... well since they've had photographs in them. And of late that touching up to make photographs look their best has all been done in software. Most of us don't have the Photoshop expertise to do this effectively manually, but I have been genuinely hugely impressed by some software that I have been sent to try out called Portrait Professional. It's described as 'intelligent retouching software' and it's remarkable.

Here on the right is the picture of me I tend to use as an author photo at the moment.

Andon the left is a touched up version. The differences are subtle but still surprisingly effective. My skin tone has been improved, the wrinkles in my forehead have been reduced, my teeth are a little whiter. Even the shape of the face has been subtly changed.

I have to admit it's an improvement. Of course there are limits to what can be done with this particular example. It's a head cropped from quite a large area of photo rather than a proper head and shoulders portrait, so it doesn't have as much detail to play with as a seriously taken photo.

And that, to be honest, this highlights the only hesitation I have in saying that everyone should get  copy of this software. In looking through our family photos to try to find a picture to demonstrate on, I found it really difficult to find a single full face portrait. It's not the kind of picture we tend to take.

I thought I'd have better luck with my daughters' collections of photographs because they are always taking pictures of their friends... but again they are very rarely anything like a studio portrait, and not  necessarily ideal for this software. But there were a few, enough to be able to do this before and after. So here's the original:

And here's my improved version:

Note I have done no manual touching up - all the changes from removing the freckles to changing the eye colour were done with sliders. Some of the changes are a bit clumsy - but bear in mind this was done in less than 5 minutes. Well, I was impressed.

I expected this to be the kind of software that had professional pricing, but it's actually surprisingly reasonable (just under £30 at the time of writing) - and you can try before you buy. If you ever take photographs of people it really is worth considering. Take a look at the website.

And yes, I will be using the improved photo from now on...


Popular posts from this blog

Is 5x3 the same as 3x5?

The Internet has gone mildly bonkers over a child in America who was marked down in a test because when asked to work out 5x3 by repeated addition he/she used 5+5+5 instead of 3+3+3+3+3. Those who support the teacher say that 5x3 means 'five lots of 3' where the complainants say that 'times' is commutative (reversible) so the distinction is meaningless as 5x3 and 3x5 are indistinguishable. It's certainly true that not all mathematical operations are commutative. I think we are all comfortable that 5-3 is not the same as 3-5.  However. This not true of multiplication (of numbers). And so if there is to be any distinction, it has to be in the use of English to interpret the 'x' sign. Unfortunately, even here there is no logical way of coming up with a definitive answer. I suspect most primary school teachers would expands 'times' as 'lots of' as mentioned above. So we get 5 x 3 as '5 lots of 3'. Unfortunately that only wor

Why I hate opera

If I'm honest, the title of this post is an exaggeration to make a point. I don't really hate opera. There are a couple of operas - notably Monteverdi's Incoranazione di Poppea and Purcell's Dido & Aeneas - that I quite like. But what I do find truly sickening is the reverence with which opera is treated, as if it were some particularly great art form. Nowhere was this more obvious than in ITV's recent gut-wrenchingly awful series Pop Star to Opera Star , where the likes of Alan Tichmarsh treated the real opera singers as if they were fragile pieces on Antiques Roadshow, and the music as if it were a gift of the gods. In my opinion - and I know not everyone agrees - opera is: Mediocre music Melodramatic plots Amateurishly hammy acting A forced and unpleasant singing style Ridiculously over-supported by public funds I won't even bother to go into any detail on the plots and the acting - this is just self-evident. But the other aspects need some ex

Mirror, mirror

A little while ago I had the pleasure of giving a talk at the Royal Institution in London - arguably the greatest location for science communication in the UK. At one point in the talk, I put this photograph on the screen, which for some reason caused some amusement in the audience. But the photo was illustrating a serious point: the odd nature of mirror reflections. I remember back at school being puzzled by a challenge from one of our teachers - why does a mirror swap left and right, but not top and bottom? Clearly there's nothing special about the mirror itself in that direction - if there were, rotating the mirror would change the image. The most immediately obvious 'special' thing about the horizontal direction is that the observer has two eyes oriented in that direction - but it's not as if things change if you close one eye. In reality, the distinction is much more interesting - we fool ourselves into thinking that the image behind the mirror is what's on ou