Retouching portraits is something that you either love or you hate. Regardless of your stance, retouching portraits is a necessary skill. I love to shoot and dread sitting in front of a computer for hours afterward. If there were an editing program that could emulate my minimal style and save time, I’d buy it in a heartbeat. A few well-known plugins on the market create very noticeable results fast. The results are mannequin-esque with plastic-looking skin, which is a total let-down. This is where Retouch4me aims to make its mark on the photography world.
Retouch4me is a new AI-driven option that aims to reduce editing time while leaving skin texture intact significantly. I was curious to see how the program performed with portraits, fashion, and beauty images. Furthermore, I was interested to see how it stacked up with the demands of fashion photography. Fashion photography largely influences portraiture and associated editing practices. As such, it’s often viewed as an industry standard. Thankfully, fashion has come full circle and is showcasing reality, imperfections, and all.
Over the years, I’ve developed a quick and not too heavy-handed formula. How does Retouch4me compare? And more importantly, can it be relied on to outsource your editing? Keep reading to find out.
The Big Picture
Retouch4me is an AI editing plugin aiming to take the stress out of retouching while reducing editing time. The standalone plugins are expensive on their own and currently, there are no discounted bundles. Its Heal, Dodge Burn, Skin Tone, and Clean Backdrops are the most valuable tools they offer. Get it right in camera for the best results.
Retouch4me works best in Photoshop by either creating an action or editing with layers. Its initial results are too heavy-handed for most. Therefore use them on a lower opacity. The initial results aren’t always perfect, and you will need to send in the files to improve the AI. Retouch4me missed a prime opportunity by not offering their software in Capture One as a style that could be applied when shooting tethered.
Pros and Cons
- Maintains skin texture
- Dodging and burning on low opacity is on par with frequency separation work
- Very efficient on low opacity for regular portraits and a high volume portrait studio
- The ability to utilize masked layers and create actions in Photoshop is nice
- The actions can drastically reduce retouching time for beginners
- Most family photo and paying portrait clients will be satisfied with the end result
- The AI will learn and improve if you take the time to send in photos for feedback
- Batch processing is possible in Photoshop when exporting from Lightroom
- Healing doesn’t always differentiate between moles and blemishes
- Portrait Volumes, Eye Brilliance, and White Teeth look fake unless the opacity is lowered by at least 35%
- It can only be used as an external editor in Capture One and Lightroom
- The TIFF files quickly eat up prime real estate on your hard drive
- Each individual plugin is over $100, and there aren’t any bundles or discounts
I tested Retouch4me with Photoshop, Capture One, and Lightroom.
Ease of Use
Ultimately, the software company wants you to be able to edit your images with the click of a button. This is doable if you’re willing to put in a solid week’s worth of work to develop recipes in Photoshop that meet your editing style.
Retouch4me plugins are easy to download and install. Each product requires a separate license key for the same download code. It would have been more time-efficient if the same license key had been generated for the download code.
Capture One And Lightroom
The AI software is used as a standalone editor or an external editor for Capture One and Lightroom. All opacity adjustments need to be made within the software itself. Additionally, each plugin creates a separate TIFF file, and those files quickly eat up precious real estate on your hard drive. Retouch4me should have developed the software to function as a style for shooting tethered in Capture One.
That also means the effect must also be masked on or off within the external editor. The paintbrush and eraser size are too small, even at its largest size option. This can be annoying to erase the mask where you don’t want the effect. Because of this, the only plugin I would potentially use in Capture One would be Retouch4me Heal.
The AI plugins would be so much better in Lightroom if you could batch process many images and utilize them within layers. This is how most photographers intend to edit photos in Lightroom and another missed opportunity for Retouch4me. Batch editing isn’t impossible. You have to export all files from Lightroom to Photoshop and record an action before you can use the Automate functionality.
Retouch4me produces images with heavy-handed results. As such, the software is best utilized in Photoshop layers so that you can easily choose opacity. Choose either a white or black layer mask with corresponding brushes to get the effect exactly where you want it.
You have the option to send your files into Retouch4me if you find the finished result unsatisfactory. This should allow the AI to learn and improve how you will use it if you take the time to click the Not Happy tab. Furthermore, take the time to learn and understand the software and develop actions to match your workflow.
Retouch4me is best utilized in Photoshop either as a separate layer or recording an action for a set of images. Each plugin is easily accessed at the bottom of the Filter menu. You will want to make all edits on a color image. It doesn’t recognize the same correction in a monochrome image as there is less information. The instant results are on par with a lot of YouTubers and influencers seen on Instagram. However, they require a much more light-handed approach to be on par with fashion industry standards.
The Healing plugin is probably the most sought-after among the lineup. It does a great job of removing most imperfections with the click of a button. Choose the mask option and only apply the effect on the chosen imperfections.
The initial result isn’t always perfect. It can’t always differentiate between a large freckle or mole and a zit. I also encountered a few patches of skin that are entirely blurred when you zoom in and look. Retouch4me Heal also didn’t recognize a cold sore or boil as an imperfection.
If you buy Retouch4me Heal, you will need to send in the images you aren’t happy with to get improved results. The AI should get better with time and continued feedback.
Retouch4me Dodge Burn
The Dodge Burn plugin is an excellent option for portraits of women with minimal skin imperfections. Choose to create a Soft Light layer to apply the effect without risking a color shift in the tones.
For best results, use it at 50% opacity or less. Oftentimes, anything more than that removes too much of the skeletal structure, which isn’t realistic. The only exceptions to this are significant skin imperfections. I recommend painting the effect with a black mask and white paintbrush.
I tend to prefer a man’s natural skin texture, blemishes and all, over an edited result. Men look better with their imperfections. Therefore, this plugin should be used very sparingly with men’s portraiture.
Retouch4me Skin Tone
Hands, feet, and legs are seldom the same tone as a person’s face. The plugin does a sufficient job at evening out skin tone with the click of a button.
Choose to create a Soft Light layer to best preserve the tones and then change the layer blend mode in Photoshop accordingly.
I did notice that the AI is influenced by the overall color temperature of the environment. The plugin adjusts the tone of the entire image. If you do not want this, you will have to paint the effect off in the Retouch4me window. The largest eraser size is still too small and erasing the mask is annoying. After one image, I decided it’s best to let the AI do its thing.
Retouch4me Eye Vessels
This application does a great job of removing unsightly vessels from eye irritation. Reduce the overall opacity by around 30% for the most realistic results.
Retouch4me Eye Brilliance
I would opt for the Eye Vessels plugin over the Eye Brilliance if I were to spend my money. The initial result is unrealistic, and the whites of the eyes are a bit jarring. Use it with an ultra low opacity for best results.
Retouch4me Portrait Volumes
The Portrait Volumes plugin adds depth by emphasizing the eyes, nose, and lips. Initially, the contouring is too heavy-handed with natural light portraits. The result changes the skeletal structure at 100% opacity. I’d recommend using this at 20% opacity or less with natural light portraits. And even then, I’d recommend the dodging and burning plugin over this.
The Portrait Volumes does have its place in a well-lit studio environment. I could see this being an excellent option for high-volume portrait studios. It would be even better if Retouch4me offered this as a style option for Capture One. Then it could be applied to the image when tethering.
Retouch4me White Teeth
The brighten functionality of this plugin works very well as long as you reduce the opacity. I’d recommend only utilizing the brightness.
The whitening aspect leaves a lot to be desired. It focuses on reducing yellow by applying blue. The result is muddied and gray, regardless of brightness, as pictured on the right.
Retouch4me Clean Backdrop
The Clean Backdrop Function does a great job removing dents, holes, folds, and dirty footprints from a backdrop. It also does a sufficient job at removing the soft brick and mortar lines for images with bokeh if you run it more than once.
Clean Backdrop will not remove heavy textures from a background shot at f8. It works best when there is sufficient background separation.
The Fabric plugin cleans fabrics by evening out the color tones of the material. It does not remove unsightly folds or rolls of clothing. I would suggest Retouch4me look into adding that functionality to make this plugin work the way photographers intend to use it.
I did find this tool useful when retouching the hands in a purposefully under-exposed image. I created a black layer mask and painted it on with a low-opacity brush.
Who Should Buy This?
The Retouch4me suite would be a great workflow option for any photographer just learning how to retouch. The program is best suited for Photoshop users and Lightroom users who migrate to Photoshop during their workflow. It creates better results than many plugins on the market, such as Portraiture.
Retouch4me is aimed toward women’s portraiture where there is still an emphasis on perfection. I would suggest getting accustomed to lowering the opacity of the final result with women and lowering it even more with men. That is where the industry has headed and will remain there for some time
Portrait Volumes could be a fantastic solution for high-volume studio portrait or headshot photographers. The healing, dodging and burning, and skin tone plugins are great tools to produce results that most customers would be delighted to pay for. Wedding, boudoir, family, and senior photographers would find the most benefit from these tools. The software produces results in about the same amount of time as a seasoned professional retoucher.
Would I personally buy this for my editing needs? No, I would not buy this for my fashion imagery and model development. The results are too heavy-handed, even on lower opacity, and they’re not much faster than my current workflow. I am constantly on a quest to get my images to look natural and like they haven’t been retouched at all. However, I can see where this would benefit other portrait photographers.
The features are from the Retouch4me website.
- THE MOST DELICATE WORK: Retouch4me plugins preserve original skin texture, and photos look natural.
- ONE BUTTON RESULT: You just upload photos, click a button and get the result.
- BATCH PROCESSING: Your photos are processed while you are doing other things.
- THE FASTER THE PROCESSING, THE HAPPIER THE CLIENTS: Retouch4me plugins significantly reduce photo processing time.
- NO INTERNET ACCESS REQUIRED: Retouch4me plugins can work autonomously on a local computer.
- 100% CONFIDENTIALITY GUARANTEED: Your clients’ photos remain secure because they don’t need to be uploaded to a remote server.
- Retouch4me Heal: $124
- Dodge Burn: $149
- Skin Tone: $124
- Eye Bundle: $124
- Portrait Volumes: $124
- Clean Backdrop: $149
- Fabric: $124
- White Teeth: $124
Retouch4me is best used in Photoshop, either with masked layers or creating an action. The software company missed a significant opportunity with Capture One. It could be great if they utilized styles and layers that photographers could apply to images when shooting tethered. The use of individual TIFF files for each plugin takes up prime real estate space on your hard drive. Plus, skin tone is already easily matched in Capture One. As such, I wouldn’t recommend using it with Capture One.
Retouch4me missed another opportunity with Lightroom. They should add layer functionality and the option to batch process images. That is how most photographers intend to edit within Lightroom. Not to mention, many photographers are looking to ditch Photoshop in favor of either Lightroom or Capture One.
The healing, dodging and burning, skin tone, and eye vessel removal are what most photographers will be interested in adding to their arsenal. Retouch4me would be a better option for photographers if they offered those plugins bundled together at a discounted price.
Portrait Volumes has a place in a portrait studio or high-volume headshot studio for Photoshop users. Most of the initial results are too heavy-handed with each of the plugins. Choose a lower opacity for best results. Also, take the time to send in images so that the AI can learn and improve.
Retouch4me could be a fierce competitor in the retouching world if they apply these suggestions to future iterations of the program. The adaptions would be something worth looking forward to.
We are giving the entire Retouch4me suite three out of five stars. The Heal, Clean Backdrop, Dodge Burn, and Skin Tone would receive an additional star as a bundled offer, especially if the company heeds the advice about integrating better with Capture One.
Want to try it out? Head over to the Retouch4me website and try a free demo or purchase one of the plugins for yourself.