Editing portraits is hard. As any experienced portraitist knows, high-level retouching requires an array of unwieldy brushes, masks, and other tools, not to mention long minutes (or even hours) spent in front of a desktop monitor, carefully smoothing and shaping the subject to look just right. And then, once you’ve finally finished editing one portrait from a session, you’ll need to do it all over again to the next photo, and the next, and the next…
It’s enough to give anyone – beginner or professional – a headache. But what if I told you there was a better way? An approach that can cut down your time spent editing while actually improving your results?
I’m talking about PortraitPro 23, the latest version of Anthropics’ highly respected PortraitPro series. Thanks to the program’s AI technology and clever development team, you can use PortraitPro 23 to achieve professional-quality results while spending only a few seconds on each file. You don’t have to be a retouching expert to work the software, either; PortraitPro’s comprehensive, slider-based toolset is remarkably accessible, and after hitting that “Buy” button, even folks with limited editing experience will have their first batch of photos processed and exported within minutes.
While the software might sound too good to be true, I promise: It’s real. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been putting PortraitPro 23 to the test, and I truly believe that it’s the fastest, most efficient, and most effective portrait editing program on the market in 2023. In this review, I cover everything you need to know before buying, including key features and use cases, pricing, and whether the program is worth purchasing if you already own PortraitPro 22. (Spoiler alert: It is.)
So if you’re ready to find out how Anthropics PortraitPro 23 can enhance your editing workflow, then let’s get started!
What’s new in PortraitPro 23?
PortraitPro 23 debuted late last fall, and while I was a huge fan of the previous version (you can read my review of PortraitPro 22 here), PortraitPro 23 raises the bar yet again.
Not only is PortraitPro 23 faster than its predecessor, but it also boasts several very tangible upgrades, including:
- The Stray Hair Remover tool, which lets you brush away distracting hairs in seconds.
- The Backlight Lighting Brush, which allows you to increase portrait drama and three-dimensionality by painting in a realistic backlight effect.
- An Art Effects tool so you can quickly achieve a breathtaking range of artistic looks (including Pencil Sketch, Rainbow Paint, Scratches, and Cyanotype).
- Support for Apple M1 and M2 chips so Mac users can take full advantage of the software.
If you already own (and love) PortraitPro 22, these new features are likely worth the upgrade, especially if you’re serious about producing high-level edits. The Stray Hair Remover tool and Backlight Lighting Brush are powerful features for refining your images, and the Art Effects tool is a must-have option for creative editors. Finally, Mac users will undoubtedly want to grab the latest version of PortraitPro; here, Anthropics promises a performance upgrade for M1- and M2-chip devices of up to 60%.
And if you don’t yet own any version of PortraitPro, you’re in for a treat – no matter your level of experience. As I implied above, this is a program that cuts across boundaries. It’s streamlined enough for beginners, yet it offers the speed and power required by professionals. In other words, it’s an editor that’ll appeal to portrait photographers of all stripes, as I explore over the course of this review.
Layout and ease of use
PortraitPro 23 is one of the most intuitive editing programs I’ve ever used. Even if you’ve never worked with an editing program before, you’ll be able to find your way around without issue – and if you do happen to struggle, Anthropics provides a series of interactive tutorials to help you access everything you might need.
Once you’ve downloaded your copy of the program – which you can find on the Anthropics website, either in full or (free) trial form – simply follow the installation instructions, then launch the program. You’ll see the standard home screen, which contains a full library of interactive tutorials:
I’d recommend completing the First Steps tutorial, which will show you around the program interface, though if you’re eager to dive in, you can always select the Open Single Image button in the upper right-hand corner:
(Depending on the edition you buy, you may also see a second button, Open Image Batch, which launches the batch editing dialog; I discuss this in depth below.)
Pick an image to edit, hit the Open button, then wait a few seconds while the program processes your file. The bulk of the screen will be occupied by a Before and an After version of your image, though you can set the program to show only the After version by pressing the View After Only button:
Along the top of the screen, you’ll see the main menu, as well as a minimalistic toolbar featuring four handy tools: the Touch-up tool, the Restore tool, the Stray Hair Remover tool, and the Stray Hair Restore tool.
On the right-hand side, you’ll find the Zoom controls, which let you customize how your image appears in the main editing pane.
And slightly lower down, you should see four panels: Controls, Presets, Snapshots, and History. The most important of these is the Controls panel, which is where you’ll do the bulk of your editing work. It’s in this panel that you can access PortraitPro 23’s amazing array of tools, including the Shape tools, the Skin Smoothing tools, the Makeup tools, and so much more.
Nearly all of the program’s editing options come in slider form, which makes it extremely easy to adjust – and re-adjust – your images. If you want to smooth the skin around a subject’s eyes, you push the Around Eyes slider in one direction, and if you want to decrease the smoothing effect, you push it in the other. And if you’re not sure whether an edit is right for an image, don’t worry; you can always save your edits, then come back to the file later on and make additional tweaks and refinements.
Note that most of these tools actually offer submenus for further customization. While you can often generate great results by sticking with the more essential “main” sliders, if you want to make additional tweaks, you can always access these fine-grained tools by clicking on the arrow icons:
If you’re looking to speed up your editing further, you’re going to love the Presets menu. It boasts literally hundreds of presets (basically filters or recipes), all designed to improve your shots in different ways – and each requiring only a single click. You can also create presets of your own, so if you tend to apply a consistent set of edits to each image, this can be a huge timesaver.
Then there are the Snapshots and History panels, which let you save and view your images in various editing states. While you may not spend too much time in these panels, they’re great for more experimental editing. You can save a series of edits as a Snapshot, then make a host of additional adjustments. If you don’t like the results, just select the relevant Snapshot, and – voila! – your image will return to its original edited form.
At the end of the day, PortraitPro 23 offers a simple, highly accessible layout that’ll suit just about anyone, and the tools are wonderfully intuitive. If you’ve tried other editing software in the past but have always quit in frustration, then I’d encourage you to give PortraitPro 23 a shot – and if you’re a more serious photographer with years of retouching experience under your belt, then working with PortraitPro 23 will feel like a breath of fresh air.
As I emphasized above, I believe PortraitPro is the best portrait editor available in 2023, and this is in part due to its impressive integration of AI technology and editing tools.
PortraitPro is unique among software in that it adds custom edits to your files from the get-go; during image initialization, the program’s AI technology analyzes your selected photo, identifies key facial features, then applies an array of specific processes designed to improve the shot.
You might expect these edits to be superficial, but in my experience, the initial tweaks are genuinely outstanding: powerful without being overdone, subtle without under-editing the shot. It adds a bit of everything – face reshaping, skin smoothing, teeth whitening, lip saturation, and more – plus, because the program identifies the subject’s features in advance and applies edits accordingly, all changes are hyper-realistic. (Note: These initial adjustments are modified depending on the person’s gender and age, which is automatically detected by the program but can also be selected manually.)
For some photographers, PortraitPro’s initial edits will be enough to produce a shareable, displayable image – and if you need greater control and customizability, the program offers plenty of options. Delve into the Controls panel, and you’ll find dozens of tools, all designed to create refined, natural-looking adjustments.
First, there are the Shape tools, which allow you to modify your subject’s various facial features on a supremely detailed level. With the Face Shape slider, you can adjust the proportions of your subject’s forehead and jaw; with the Eyes, Eye Widening, and Eye Expanding sliders, you can tweak the width and height of your subject’s eyes; and with the Mouth Shape and Nose sliders, you can adjust the shape of your subject’s mouth and nose, respectively. It’s every retoucher’s dream, and while you do have to be careful about going overboard with face sculpting, the tools are certainly powerful.
Next, you’ll find the Skin Smoothing tools, which are perfect for – as you’d expect – smoothing your subject’s skin. What’s less expected, however, is the amount of control you get. PortraitPro 23 doesn’t just offer a slider or two; instead, the program features no fewer than 13 different sliders for skin smoothing, including options to remove pores, remove grease, remove shine, deal with thin wrinkles, remove fine shadows, and so much more. (And that’s only looking at the main sliders; you can access even more sliders by selecting various drop-down menus.)
Will you need 13+ sliders for skin smoothing? Maybe, maybe not. But you can always skip over the ones you find less helpful, and the huge number of options demonstrates Anthropics’ commitment to retouching comprehensiveness.
While I won’t go into all the remaining editing tools – that could take a whole book! – I’d like to touch on some highlights, such as:
- The Lighting & Coloring tools, which let you genuinely relight your subject by dragging your cursor around an interactive model. You also get plenty of sliders for customizing the way the light falls on your subject (which is essentially dodging and burning but made far easier with the help of sliders and artificial intelligence), as well as several brushes for literally brushing on light. (It’s in this Lighting Brush section that you’ll find the new – and impressive – Backlight Lighting Brush feature.)
- The Makeup tools, which allow you to apply makeup to your subject’s face, including lipstick, mascara, bronzer, and eyeliner. (No, I’m not kidding, and yes, it really does work!)
- The Hair tools, which let you adjust the color and tones of your subject’s hair. Also worth mentioning here is the new Stray Hair Remover tool. It’s not found in the Hair tools tab – you can access it in the main toolbar at the top of the screen – but it’s a great way to clean up the area around your subject’s head, especially if you were shooting in windy conditions or they were simply having a bad hair day.
- The Eye tools, which are perfect for whitening eyes, enhancing irises, and even adding realistic catchlights by choosing from an array of catchlight shapes and sizes.
- All the options in the Tools panel, including the Crop Tool for adjusting your compositions, the Clone Tool for removing problematic areas of your photos, and the new Art Effects tool for adding all sorts of creative effects to your shots. I’m a serious fan of the latter option – adding watercolor, illustration, and oil painting effects is a ton of fun, and the products look great, too.
Regardless of the tools you use, the results are consistently excellent – and if you do notice issues with the way the edits are applied to your files, you can always manually adjust the Skin and Hair Masks in the relevant tool panels or the facial feature map in the Before view.
(By the way, while PortraitPro 23 is a portrait-focused program, it doesn’t neglect standard editing features; you can adjust image exposure, contrast, saturation, sharpening, and more in the Picture tools tab.)
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t discuss two features that will dramatically speed up your editing: Presets and the Image Batch dialog.
As I discussed in the previous section, PortraitPro offers dozens of built-in presets, which you can use to transform your photos with a single click:
These are great if you’re aiming to achieve a specific look, they’re great if you’re a beginner and you’re not yet totally comfortable adjusting the sliders, and they’re also a lot of fun if you just have a few minutes to experiment. You can apply Global presets that rely on the entire suite of PortraitPro features, or you can select tool-specific presets that correspond to the tools in the Controls panel:
As for the Image Batch dialog, it’s an option you can access only if you’ve purchased the most expensive edition of the software – PortraitPro Studio Max 23 – but for the professional wedding or portrait shooter who needs to power through dozens or hundreds of photos at once, it’s an absolute game changer.
You see, the Image Batch dialog allows you to select a group of images (e.g., a set of 25 select portraits from an engagement session), hit the OK button, then watch as each and every image receives PortraitPro’s standard AI editing treatment. You can apply presets to the photos (with an option to use certain presets depending on the subject’s gender and age, if you like), and you can also click from image to image and make additional adjustments using the standard editing tools.
If you’re a professional portrait or an event shooter, this feature alone will save you dozens of hours in front of the computer each month. And if you’re a more casual photographer, it’s still worth a try, especially if you have a consistent workflow you use for each shot.
Speed and Performance
PortraitPro 23 is easy to use and incredibly effective – but can it perform well, despite its power?
I used the program on an older desktop PC, yet editing operations were lightning-fast. I noticed almost zero lag, and I was able to observe editing effects instantly, even when I was painting with brushes.
The only time you’ll need to wait is when first loading up an image (or a batch of images); it does take the AI technology a few seconds to analyze the file(s), map out facial features, and apply initial edits – but once that’s done, everything is seamless.
Of course, performance will depend on your device, so it’s certainly worth checking out the system requirements before purchasing:
- A 2 GHz processor
- A 1280×800 display
- 8 GB RAM (with 16 GB or more RAM recommended)
- Windows 10 or Windows 11; macOS 10.13 or later
But as long as you have a decent PC that meets the requirements above, I wouldn’t anticipate any issues.
Anthropics offers three editions of PortraitPro 23, and you can buy each of them for a one-off price.
The most basic edition is PortraitPro 23, which normally costs $119.90 but is currently available for $59.95. This option comes with all the features discussed above, with the exception of the Image Batch dialog. However, it lacks the ability to process RAW files.
Next is PortraitPro Studio 23, which normally costs $179.90 but is currently available for $89.95. This option includes everything offered in the standard PortraitPro 23 package, but it can process RAW files, plus it can be integrated with Photoshop as a Smart Filter; that way, you can combine the ease of PortraitPro with the power of Photoshop for stellar results.
Finally, you can normally grab the most comprehensive edition, PortraitPro Studio Max 23, for $359 – but the current sale puts it at $179.95. This edition includes everything in the more basic options but also offers the Image Batch dialog so you can process dozens (or hundreds) of photos at once.
The PortraitPro and PortraitPro Studio options are well-priced under normal conditions; given the current 50%-off sale, they’re absolute bargains. Note that, unless you only work with JPEGs – or you already use a RAW processor – you’ll really need to spring for PortraitPro Studio over the basic PortraitPro package.
As for PortraitPro Studio Max 23: Yes, the price is on the expensive side compared to other programs, but the discounted price is quite reasonable, especially given the power of the batch-editing feature.
Note that you can currently get another 15% off your purchase by entering the code AN75 at checkout – and if you’re upgrading from a previous version of PortraitPro, you get an additional 25% off.
Who should buy Anthropics PortraitPro 23?
PortraitPro 23 is one of those rare programs that every portrait shooter should try. It’s easy to use, it offers great performance, and the editing features are spectacular. It’s also currently on sale, and by entering the special AN75 discount code, you can grab any edition of the software for an unbeatable price.
That said, I’d argue that the program is best suited to a few specific groups:
- Beginners and enthusiasts who are looking to delve into portrait retouching but are intimidated by the difficulty of competitor programs
- Casual portrait shooters who want to make their files look great without spending hours in front of the computer
- Serious wedding and portrait shooters who want to speed up their retouching workflow while also enhancing their results
If you’re in one of the first two groups, I’d recommend grabbing PortraitPro Studio 23 (though folks keen on batch editing should consider PortraitPro Studio Max 23 instead). If you’re a professional, however, the Image Batch feature is likely essential, so make sure you purchase the Studio Max 23 edition.
One final note: I think the program is great, but you don’t have to take my word for it. Anthropics offers a free trial of the program that you can use to test out the various features, and you can download it here.
So grab your copy of PortraitPro 23 and take it for a spin. Watch as it improves your images and cuts down on your time spent editing!
All new editions and upgrades are currently on SALE at 50% OFF or better – and remember to use the code AN75 at the checkout for an ADDITIONAL 15% OFF.
Anthropics is a paid partner of dPS.