I know very few photographers who enjoy retouching portraits. I know even fewer who find the process to be anything other than labor intensive. While it doesn’t exactly make retouching images more fun, the Totally Rad! Pro Retouch 2 action set takes much of the hard labor out of the process and, in turn, will make your life a little easier. And who doesn’t want that?
If you’re not already familiar with actions, they’re pre-programmed editing sequences in Photoshop, which create a specific look or effect with just a few mouse clicks or virtual brushing in Photoshop. In the case of Pro Retouch 2, there are 34 Photoshop actions that may take a bit of getting used to if you haven’t worked with these types of effects before, but should take hours off your workflow once you’re comfortable with them.
One thing to get straight, if you haven’t used actions before, is that they aren’t exactly like plug-ins. You can’t just open them in the Filter menu and click through a bunch of presets to see the effects.
With Pro Retouch 2, you first install the action set by double clicking on the ProRetouch2.atn file, and it automatically loads itself in Photoshop. After they’re installed, you’ll find the Pro Retouch 2 actions nested in the Actions palette on the right side of your screen. If you don’t see the Actions palette, you can make it visible by going to Window and dropping down to check “Actions.” You’ll want to switch the Actions palette to Button Mode, to make it easier to see the actions and run them.
So yes, it takes a little getting used to but once you’ve got the swing of it, the rest is a breeze. (I suggest watching a few of the Pro Retouch 2 tutorials on the Totally Rad! Web site as well.) The actions are broken down by subject area: Skin, Eyes, Hair, Lips and Misc.
A great place to start is in the Skin section with the Lite Foundation action, which kinda, sorta simulates the effect of putting foundation on a face to smooth out wrinkles and lines. Just dab a little here and there on a face with a brush and Lite Foundation will take effect immediately. I’d go easy on the Strong Foundation action since it’s easier to go overboard and create that dreaded “plastic” effect on your subject’s skin.
With the De-Blotch action, you can brush away blotches with a few swipes, while the Pore Reducer reduces pores without eliminating them so your subject doesn’t look like a mannequin. Also handy is the catchall Magic Eraser, which wipes away the years on a face; and De-Shine, which virtually sponges up greasy forehead sheen.
You’ll probably spend most of your time retouching portraits using the Skin treatments but the Eye actions are also effective for producing pop while removing redness, lightening irises and even adding eyelashes.
I found less use for the Hair actions, which add shine to brunette or blonde hair, but the Lips actions were great for removing that unnatural yellow tint in teeth that digital cameras are prone to producing and for making lips glisten naturally using the Luscious Lips action.
There’s not as much in-app help as you would get from, say, a Nik Software plug-in, but each action does give you a short prompt explaining what it does when you click on it. The action names are also rather self-explanatory.
Because each action creates a new image layer in Photoshop when you run it, you can tweak them individually to get them just the way you want them. The actions are rather forgiving, so you can get by with a soft brush in Photoshop and things won’t get messy.
Just don’t go too crazy. As much as Pro Retouch 2 does a good job of creating subtle retouching effects, if you spend too much time dabbling and doodling with these actions, you will eventually turn your subjects into Ken and Barbie. Don’t do that. Please.
The Bottom Line
Yes, retouching portraits is a pain in the butt but it doesn’t have to be. The Totally Rad! Pro Retouch 2 action set offers some excellent, quick brush fixes to skin, eyes, hair, lips and teeth that will go a long way to getting you over your fear of retouching images while transforming bland, out-of-the-camera shots into pleasing portraits.
Pros: Simple-to-use, effective actions will get you over your fear of retouching while helping to create professional-looking portraits; will save you a lot of time in Photoshop
Cons: Spending too much time tweaking portraits with these actions can create “plastic” skin so be careful when using
Price: $99; www.gettotallyrad.com