In a foolish moment this evening I bought a copy of this Portrait Pro 12 software (at the price of CAN$45). I wanted to see what it could do. I have played with it for just under an hour, testing its defaults on a half-dozen pictures. I think it will take some doing on my part to learn which settings in the defaults I do and do not like. I certainly do not like *some*thing about the settings!
My first impression is that it does what it does in a pretty smart way -- discovering faces, or taking instructions from the user about where the parts of the face are. But it assumes some things about beauty that I myself cannot assume. In particular, women's pictures all seem to move towards a very weird form, like the visual correlate of "Autotune" in music. I have found that when I do not know the women, I have a sense sometimes that there may be an improvement. But, when I *do* know them, I get a very creepy feeling that they've been turned into something they are not, and would not want to be.
One of the pictures I tried out was this very close-up shot of two nuns I met at a little fountain in Sienna in Italy. They were simply being tourists, trying to see everything they could in the few days between their prime purpose of coming to Italy (the canonisation of the popes a few days before) and their return trip home to South America. They were very pleased to chat in their little bit of English and my even smaller bit of Portuguese, and they were happy for me to take their picture. We were all leaned over the well, and they had beautifully silly and friendly looks on their faces. Sadly, one was so close that she wasn't in focus, and as she was moving her face seemed a little bent. Nonetheless, I like the picture.
I put it through the PortraitPro 12 default settings. It recognised that there was a face on the right, but I had to manually bring it through the points of the face on the left. You can see what it did with each of the faces. The left face is, I think, somewhat improved because some of the rictus of laughing is missing. It reduced the motion effect. It invented open eyes, too. But the right face is distorted towards, I think, a popular-culture-consuming teenager's wishful aspect. She has lost skin texture. She looks much younger in the processed picture, something I think she would be offended by.
Just the same, since I do not really know these two women, I think the overall effect could pass for an improvement. But I would feel more comfortable doing these things by my own control of the settings.
By the way, another test I made was of applying it to a landscape showing some snowy mountains and two similarly shaped lakes. I used the two lakes as eyes, a hill as a nose, and so on. The default settings of PP12 actually projected skin colour around these things, making a ghostly face on the landscape. Pretty weird.
I expect that, if I continue to use this software, I will learn how to tone down some of these offensive effects. Or I hope I will. Or . . . maybe I won't use it much. (My sense that I can stand the changes sometimes when I don't know the people, but not at all when I do know them rings danger bells.)