Price When Reviewed: £134 plus VAT . free upgrade for v7 owners
Pros: Vast range of effects.
Cons: Layers and masks are clumsy and separated.
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The immediate good news about Perfect Photo Suite 7.5 is that if you already own version 7 or 7.1, then this is a free upgrade. If you don’t, then the price has just been cut to make it more affordable. The suite installs as a standalone app with a variety of tabbed modules, or as separate elements of a plug-in for Photoshop CS4 or later and Lightroom 2 to 5. It’s a handy option, based on whether you need to do a modest amount of work or are going to need all the power of Photoshop.
The standalone option has two features that aren’t needed if you are working in Photoshop itself, namely the Layers and Mask functions. On their own they are presented as separate tabs and switching between them just to add a mask to a layer is cumbersome.
The Layer function helps you combine images. It features the usual blending modes and opacity, and offers a raft of tools. These include resizing, moving and transforming, cropping and trimming, and a new red-eye removal tool. There’s also a masking brush, the masking bug and the retouch brush.
The two masking tools both add a layer mask automatically when they are used. The Masking brush uses brush strokes to reveal the underlying layer, while the Masking Bug uses gradients to do the same thing. It’s all a bit awkward though, and requiring a separate tab and work area just for layer control is clumsy and slows the workflow down.
That’s without progressing on to the Mask tab for more specialised implementation of masks onto your layers. Having these two as separate functions is particularly ponderous. It’s for this reason that Photo Suite 7.5 works better as a plug-in where you can work normally in Photoshop or Lightroom, then access the Portrait, Effects, B&W, Focus and Resize modules and processes when needed.
Perfect Portrait 2 (above) is the next port of call. This automatically detects the face in a photo and applies control points, ready for enhancement. You’ll see points for the eyes and mouth, but ones for the nose, face and head shape are all absent. On the enhancement side, there are sections for skin retouching, colour correction, and tweaking the eyes and mouth. They are all controlled by sliders, so the relative effects can be fine-tuned.
Skin retouching is quite good. You’re able to remove blemishes and shine from bright light sources, and even out colouration and soften harsh shadows. If the result is too plastic-looking, texture can be added back. Also, it isn’t just the face that can benefit from this. Other areas can be manually added to the skin selection. The functions here aren’t a patch on Portrait Professional, but they are worth having as part of the suite.
Perfect Resize (above) is one of the highlights of the Photo Suite and offers a couple of choices of interpolation algorithm. There’s either the Perfect Resize Portrait or the acclaimed Genuine Fractals version. The image can be cropped before starting and the resize can be specified by either document size, percentages or specific pixel resolution. If you need to work up an image to A4 at 300dpi its quick and easy.
Then there are options for Settings, Sharpening, Film Grain and then tiling or gallery wrap. The image type can be selected to differentiate from a lo-res JPEG and a hi-res TIFF or you can enter your own settings. Images can then be boosted in size. Having a poor quality and lo-res starting image means you’ll need to add film grain and texture. The Sharpening options cover unsharp mask, progressive or high-pass and can protect highlights and shadows to avoid unwanted artefacts appearing.
The Effects section is where you can have some fun with the images and where the new image browser on the left is replaced by live previews of the effects on offer. There’s a huge number covering everything from grunge and retro colouring to borders, film stock emulation, split-toning and a wealth of textures. The one flaw is that they are always the same, so they have to be used with some care to avoid producing images with exactly the same light leak and border. Fortunately, the effects can all be stacked and the transparency adjusted so they can be blended together to give quite different results. If you like your filter effects, or even just having lots of ways to enhance images quickly you’ll enjoy this part of the package.
As a standalone package, it’s a little uneven, with the workflow for layers and masks being particularly clumsy. If this is your focus, then it’s better to look elsewhere. The other modules though, including portrait, effects, B&W, focus and resize, are all worth having and make for a handsome collection of utilities.
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