Software Review: Perfect Photo Suite 6

January 19, 2012

By Dan Havlik

Sometimes it amazes me how long I’ve been doing this job. It also amazes me how much has changed in the world of photo gear in a relatively short span of time. I was digging through old reviews recently and discovered that my last full look at onOne’s suite of software plug-ins dates to the September 2007 issue of PDN. In those days, the package was called Plug-In Suite 3 and consisted of four apps: Genuine Fractals 5.0, PhotoFrame Pro 3.1, Mask Pro 4.1 and Intellihance Pro 4.2. The suite retailed for $399 and, in my review, I found the software package to be a pretty good deal.

The latest generation of that plug-in pack is called Perfect Photo Suite 6 and now includes seven—count ‘em—seven apps that can be used with Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop, Apple Aperture or as standalone products. Some of the plug-ins in the new suite are similar to the ones I looked at back in 2007, but most are brand new. Here’s the full slate: Perfect Effects 3, Perfect Layers 2, Perfect Portrait 1, Perfect Mask 5, Perfect Resize 7, FocalPoint 2 and PhotoFrame 4.6 Pro.

The price? Just $299 for the whole shebang, or $149 if you’re upgrading from an earlier version of the suite.

Do I think this latest package of plug-ins is as good a deal as the one I looked at in 2007? Damn straight I do, and in many ways, the new version has evolved into a far more usable and important product than Suite 3 was back in 2007. Let’s take a look at each of the “magnificent seven” in Perfect Photo Suite 6 from onOne.

Better Integration
OnOne Software has done a good job in Perfect Photo Suite 6 of integrating all seven programs into one simple menu bar that appears across the top of Lightroom and Aperture with the words “Layers,” “Mask,” “Portrait,” “Effects,” “Blur,” “Frame” and “Resize,” to delineate each program. (In case you were wondering, Blur is the FocalPoint 2 app, which gives you selective focus over your images.) Just click on one of the words and it launches that app inside the main editing program you’re using.

Perfect Photo Suite 6 does not, however, have as elegant an interface in Photoshop. Instead of a bar across the top (which might have been difficult to fit with Photoshop’s already cluttered menus on top), an onOne palette pops up on your screen with the names of six of the seven apps listed vertically in a somewhat dated looking font. The only one not included is Perfect Layers 2 since Photoshop already allows you to work in layers.

Perfect Effects 3
Perfect Effects 3 is a revamp to PhotoTools from the previous suite and it’s a feast of riches if you like to run your images through pre-set filter effects. The plug-in is similar to Nik Software’s competing Color Efex Pro 4 program but actually reminds me more of the effects you might get from an iPhone photography app such as Instagram (minus the sharing). This is not a slight. I enjoy Instagram and like that onOne has made Perfect Effects 3’s user experience fun. There’s a lot more here than what you’d find on your iPhone as well. For one thing, there are over 300 effects—many with playful names like Tijuana, Urban Sickness, Velveteen and Warm Fuzzy. There’s also much more manual control over color, tone, texture and other adjustments if you want to further customize the effects.

Whereas in the past, you could see how the effects would work on a stock thumbnail image, in Perfect Effects 3 you get live, full-screen effect previews on your own photos. This, obviously, gives you a much better idea of how they’re going to look. There are also ways to stack and blend effects, and a simpler method for creating and sharing presets. All in all this is a nice upgrade and makes the Effects plug-in more useful and more enjoyable.

Perfect Layers 2
If you like doing most of your photo editing in Lightroom or Aperture, this plug-in is extremely handy since it lets you create layered image files without having to be in Photoshop. OnOne hasn’t completely overhauled Perfect Layers in Suite 6 but it has improved it.

Most significantly, there’s a new image browser on the bottom of the screen in Perfect Layers 2 that lets you easily select the images you want to mask together (for example, if you want to change a sky or combine several exposures into one balanced image). A nice new crop tool trims all the layers in an image at once, which saves time. It also removes any pixels outside of the crop box and then sets a matching document size.

The retouch brush is also a nice touch: Just draw over the dust, hair or blemish in the shot and it’s removed and the background is blended together, much like the healing brush in Photoshop.

OnOne calls Perfect Layers the heart of Perfect Photo Suite 6 and, in some ways, that’s accurate. In Lightroom and Aperture, you can access the other plugs-ins via the menu bar on top, tweak your image and then return to Perfect Layers with the image edit assigned as its own separate layer. Pretty nifty.

Perfect Portrait 1
Perfect Portrait 1 is a welcome addition to the suite. Though it’s not quite as sophisticated as some competing portrait programs—my favorite is still Portraiture from Imagenomic—it’s pretty darn good for a first effort.

Perfect Portrait 1 contains many of the basic tools for retouching portraits including a Retouch Brush for removing blemishes, and ways to enhance eyes, lips and teeth. Though there’s lots of manual control to make targeted adjustments on faces, Perfect Portrait 1’s automated enhancements are impressive and big time-savers. When you open a portrait up in the app, the software’s face recognition engine analyzes the shot and places each face on its own layer. This lets you apply specific edits to the skin, mouth and eyes for each person in a photo.

The Skin Retouching tools in Perfect Portrait are excellent, with sliders for adjusting skin smoothness, reducing blemishes, decreasing (or increasing) shine, and texture adjustment. OnOne also brought in PhotoTune, its SkinTune tool from an older app, to help easily remove color casts from a variety of skintones based on the subject’s skin color and ethnicity.

Automatic Feature Detection zeroes in on eyes, mouth and teeth so you can start enhancing them immediately. Meanwhile, the Facial Features panel with sliders lets you boost specific features such as whitening or increasing clarity of eyes, increasing whiteness of teeth or adding vibrance to lips.

Perfect Mask 5
While reviewing version 3 of the suite back in 2007, I was least taken with onOne’s masking plug-in, then called Mask Pro 4.1, because it seemed overcomplicated and a little clunky. Things are worlds different with the latest iteration, Perfect Mask 5. It makes replacing backgrounds, even around intricately coiled hair, a relatively quick and seamless process.

Perfect Mask 5 automates much of the masking basics and starts to work right when you import an image via the app’s Automatic Background Removal feature. The Keep and Drop tools then help you make a fast custom-mask edit while the Refine tool lets you circle around tight areas such as hair or a bride’s veil and remove them with a click. The Magic Brush then cleans up the borders so the cut-out looks smooth.

If you want to further refine the edges of a subject, the Flexible Pen tool combines both the magnetic and straight line pen functions to help you create delicate masks around wrinkles in clothing or the borders of arms and shoulders.

In the past, masking out the background of a portrait was one of the most irritatingly time-consuming edits to do, but with plug-ins like Perfect Mask 5—and the many others out there—it’s much easier and more effective.

Three Older Plug-Ins
Perfect Photo Suite 6 also includes three older onOne plug-ins: Perfect Resize 7, FocalPoint 2 and PhotoFrame 4.6 Pro, which are basically unchanged from the last version (5.5) of the suite. The plug-ins are still useful though and FocalPoint 2 remains one of my favorite programs for adding simulated backing blur (aka bokeh) and tweaking depth of field to create an image that looks like it was shot with a high-end lens with a wide aperture. In fact, FocalPoint 2 even has simulated lens presets if, for instance, you want the look of a Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 lens or Nikon Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8 but can’t actually afford them. (No, the effect is not like actually shooting with a quality prime lens but it’s surprisingly close.)

Perfect Resize 7, which is the direct descendent of legendary image resizing software Genuine Fractals, is not as important now as it may have been in the past since most cameras these days have more resolution than you probably need. But if you find yourself needing to blow up an image for a billboard ad campaign or you just want to make that cool shot you captured with a smartphone larger so you can print it, this is the app to go with.

The least essential plug-in in the suite, at least to my workflow, is PhotoFrame 4.6 Pro, which adds a simulated frame around a photo or helps you put together a full-page album layout. If this is your bag, there are thousands of possibilities with PhotoFrame including simulated film edges, borders, textures and other design elements. Wedding and senior portrait photographers will probably love it.

The Bottom Line
So you got all that? Yes, there’s a lot of stuff loaded in Perfect Photo Suite 6 and there isn’t a plug-in clunker in the bunch. All in all, it’s a great deal. But you’ll need a pretty fast computer with ample hard drive space to run it. I first tried it on my older MacBook laptop warhorse—gotta replace that soon—and it slowed to a crawl. OnOne recommends you have at least 4GB of RAM on your computer but recommends 8GB+ and I’d definitely agree with that. You also need 4GB of disk space to fit the suite and a fast processor to run it. It’s worth it though. Perfect Photo Suite 6 is not just a great batch of plug-ins, the new integrated menu bar in Lightroom and Aperture makes it a powerful and seamless software system for enhancing and improving your photos.

Pros: Seven great photo plug-ins contained in one integrated suite; four of the seven plug-ins are essentially new programs; plug-ins also work as standalone programs.

Cons: You’ll need a fast computer to get the best performance from the suite; integration is not as nice or seamless in Photoshop.

Price: $299 for new users, $149 for upgrades;

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