September 14, 2020 | 19177 Views | By Dan Harlacher

The Best New Portrait Editing Workflow – Coming Soon!

9/21/20 Update: ON1 Portrait AI is available now

Very soon, you will see a totally new portrait editing workflow that will knock your socks off! So, how did we get here? VP of Product, Dan Harlacher shares the story.

Long before I started to work in the industry, I was a portrait and wedding photographer. My wife and I still operate a studio focused on children and families. I’ve always had a soft spot for portrait photographers when I’m designing features for our apps. Years ago, most of the ON1 customers were professional portrait photographers looking for ways to enhance their digital photos.

Being so close to the portrait industry, I have long heard the horror stories of staying up past midnight retouching photos for the next day’s sales session. It’s a harsh dichotomy that portrait photographers have to deal with today: Every photo people see in the media are heavily retouched, so they expect the same for every picture they see of themselves. For a photographer, that means way more retouching than we used to do. In the old days, we would tell customers that we would retouch the photos that they order for prints. However, today we don’t have that luxury. Clients often get digital files, and there is pressure to make every shot look great. Couple that with delivering far more photos than we used to (film vs. digital), and the amount of retouching has gone through the roof.

Retouching technology hasn’t kept up with the need. Many photographers are still retouching manually in Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. That means actions and brushes and layers and such. It’s a manual process painting for each face that takes a couple of minutes, even for the fastest retoucher.

There are a few plug-ins and apps that have come out in recent years that improve on this. Portraiture from Imagenomic was one of the first plug-ins to do this. Unfortunately, it works based on the color range, so it smooths other stuff the same color as the subject’s skin, and it doesn’t handle different colors of skin in the same photo well. A newer generation of tools can detect people’s faces and smooth the skin out automatically. Some even find the eyes and mouths and can enhance these too. However, some of these (Luminar) force you to use the same settings on every face in your photo. That doesn’t work well when you have a bride and groom next to each other. It forces you to over retouch the groom in favor of the bride. Or it means going back to Photoshop and using layers and masks to combine two different adjustments, taking up more time. Even in the best apps (Perfectly Clear, Portrait Professional) that do let you use separate settings per person, you still have to manually adjust the settings for each face.

What portrait and wedding photographers need is two-fold. First, they need a way to batch process tons of photos at once. Something that will find each face and do the right amount of retouching automatically. Second, they need a tool that is fast and powerful for retouching their best photos. That’s what we set out to create with ON1 Portrait AI, which is coming very soon!

ON1 Portrait AI User Interface

ON1 Portrait AI is a new app and plug-in designed especially for portrait and wedding photographers. It combines intelligent batch processing with powerful retouching tools into a single app that you can use as a standalone or a plug-in in the workflow apps you use every day like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom Classic.

See Portrait AI in action →

First, let’s talk about batch processing. This is where Portrait AI is a game-changer. With Portrait AI, you can process an entire shoot, even a giant wedding, and it will find every face in every photo, then classify each face and apply the correct facial retouching to all of them, based on your preferences. It uses the power of machine learning to find the faces, identify their age and gender, then find their facial features such as skin, eyes, and mouths and do the right thing without you having to lift a finger. It’s the first and best-in-class, non-destructive, fully automatic, and intelligent retouching solution. Now you can go to bed early and let Portrait AI do the heavy lifting for you. Your photos will look great for your sales sessions or client delivery.

Secondly, let’s talk about the powerful retouching capabilities. We thought long and hard and spoke with many portrait photographers to ensure we had the right balance of automatic settings and manual control, without making it crazy hard or slow to use. It all starts with the AI-based face and feature detection. This technology finds each face and important regions like skin, eyes, and mouth without the need to use brushes and masks. Then you can quickly fine-tune each area. First, you will want to smooth and reduce the blemishes in the skin. Portrait AI uses industry-standard frequency separation technology to smooth the skin in a natural way that maintains skin texture and pore structure. It can also reduce blemishes like fine lines, wrinkles, acne, reduce shine, and add texture to out of focus or overexposed areas. You have full control over each of these options rather than a one-size-fits-all on or off option. You can even use the skin brush to control exactly where the skin retouching is applied to fine-tune your results. There are also manual tools for removing or reducing larger blemishes like moles.

Next, you can adjust the face lighting, brightening to add fill light, or darkening it for more detail. You can even slim the face to compensate for focal length problems.

They say the eyes are the windows to the soul, and Portrait AI can make them pop! First, it finds the eyes automatically. Then you can whiten the whites and enhance the detail and color of the irises. You can also reduce dark circles under the eyes and enhance the eyebrows. Lastly, you can even out the size of the eyes to fix foreshortening issues with three-quarter views.

Lastly, Portrait AI will find the mouth automatically. Then you can whiten the smile or change the color and vibrance of the lips.

While all of that sounds great, the proof is in the results, both in quality and time savings. Let’s look at the initial quality of the most popular automated portrait retouching apps. I used the same photo and the default or automatic settings for each. (A couple applied unexpected color/tone changes and/or face morphing at their default settings, so I turned those off for a more consistent comparison.)

Fast Portrait Eidting

It takes a critical eye, but if you look closely at the results, you will notice that the default eye enhancement of Perfectly Clear is too high while the skin smoothing isn’t strong enough. You will see the skin shine is harsh, but Portrait AI tames it while maintaining natural skin, reducing blemishes, and providing great looking eyes, all at the default settings. Keep in mind all of these could improve with more time using some manual adjustments, but we are trying to reduce the amount of manual work.

Let’s talk about how much that manual work adds up. I took this same photo and retouched it manually in Adobe Lightroom Classic, Adobe Photoshop, and compared it to manually adjusting Portrait AI and using the other tools in ON1 Photo RAW to make the best version in each app. Note there is no retouching of the mouth as it didn’t need any.


ApplicationAdobe Lightroom ClassicAdobe PhotoshopON1 Portrait AI
Total Time2:283:371:20
Features Used
  • Local adjustments for:
    • Skin
    • Eyebrows
    • Iris
    • Eye Whites
    • Solid Color to reduce shine
    • Healing Brush
  • Clone Stamp
  • Action for Frequency Separation
  • Adjustment Layers for:
    • Solid Color to reduce shine
    • Levels for Eyebrows
    • Hue/Sat for Iris
    • Hue/Sat for Eye Whites
  • Retouch brush for big blemishes
  • Local adjustment for final shine reduction

Now let’s say that you need to retouch 20 photos from the session. In Lightroom Classic, it would take 50 minutes. In Adobe Photoshop, it would take 1:16 minutes (I added 10 seconds to open and save each photo) versus only 27 minutes using Portrait AI. In real life, that would probably be even less as this photo had a tricky color cast in the shine that required a little extra work in Photo RAW. If you think that’s impactful, imagine if I just let the AI Auto do all the work, it would only take 1:13 to batch process out full-sized retouched JPGs of those 20 photos while I watch Netflix and eat Doritos!

I’m excited to get Portrait AI into the hands of all my portrait and wedding photographer friends. It feels like I will be giving them the greatest gift, the gift of time to do more critical work than repetitive retouching. Now you can use that time to grow your business, be more creative, or spend more time with your family instead of hunched over your computer late into the night.

Watch Portrait AI videos →

32 comments on “The Best New Portrait Editing Workflow – Coming Soon!”

  1. On September 15, 2020 at 11:16 am Carsten Rasmussen wrote:

    Carsten Rasmussen

    Nice ??. I am so looking forward to this. As a portrait photographer this is going to be awesome …

  2. On September 15, 2020 at 12:50 pm Carolyn A Woodard wrote:

    Carolyn A Woodard

    Can’t wait to see this.

  3. On September 15, 2020 at 3:30 pm Stephen Hopkirk wrote:

    Stephen Hopkirk

    If this is as good as you say Dan it will be a big time saver.
    Is it a stand alone app separate from ON1 RAW?
    Will it work with Capture One and Affinity Photo ?

    1. On September 15, 2020 at 4:00 pm Patrick Smith replied:

      Patrick Smith

      It will work as a standalone and be integrated into Photo RAW. Affinity plug-in support will be included in both standalone Portrait AI and Photo RAW. Capture One plug-in support will come soon after the release.

      1. On September 15, 2020 at 10:01 pm Pier Giorgio Zuccaro replied:

        Pier Giorgio Zuccaro

        Very very well

      2. On September 20, 2020 at 12:28 pm Stefan Diaz replied:

        Stefan Diaz

        WOW!! If this will work as a plugin for Capture One then I am super excited for this to be released!! ??????????

  4. On September 15, 2020 at 5:17 pm jimcostellophoto wrote:


    I can’t wait to try it!

  5. On September 15, 2020 at 6:31 pm Adam Rubinstein wrote:

    Adam Rubinstein

    Hmmm… very exciting though can you show some additional examples? I found the one image a bit over processed.

  6. On September 15, 2020 at 6:48 pm Andrea Bruns wrote:

    Andrea Bruns

    Hi, will there be a Lightroom and PS plugin?

  7. On September 15, 2020 at 8:00 pm Gerry Fraiberg wrote:

    Gerry Fraiberg

    The term “game changer” gets a lot of screen time, but, game changer. Affinity support is a bonus. Looking forward to this next version.

  8. On September 15, 2020 at 8:17 pm Lynda Chan wrote:

    Lynda Chan

    Dear ON1,

    I love you even morer than I did beforer. And I loved you dearly then.

    I have continued to use ON1 for my portrait work anyway, waiting for just something like this. And now it’s here (almost). I am soooo excited!

    Did I mention I’m excited? I am. Thank you, Dan Harlacher and Team ON1!!

    Warmest regards and three cheers too!

  9. On September 15, 2020 at 11:04 pm Kristin Jona Gudjonsdottir wrote:

    Kristin Jona Gudjonsdottir

    So exited, almost like Christmas is coming. Looking forward to try this. Do we have a date yet, when we get this update?

  10. On September 15, 2020 at 11:32 pm Petr Krenzelok wrote:

    Petr Krenzelok

    I have to admit, that with the on1 Portrait module, I was like sitting on the wave – first I did not like it was missing. Then, when added back, I found it slow to use and not good enough.

    I am also over-sensitive, when SW app changes the look of a person, so that it does not feel like the same person anymore. I have tried many times with the competing Portrait Pro and even with the slightest touches, I disliked the resulting dolly looks or changed metrics of the face.

    To be honest, I did not expect much with the new Portrait AI. After seeing some videos re the upcoming PR release though, the only thing I have to say is – I am shocked. Shocked, how it can improve the portrait look, yet letting portraits still look natural!

    I think that the new Portrait AI might be the best addition to the upcoming PR 2021 release. Can’t wait to use it for some of our photos.

  11. On September 16, 2020 at 12:05 am Paul Bataille wrote:

    Paul Bataille

    Good news. I agree the results with Perfectly Clear and Portrait Pro can be a artficial (I own both), but with the right presets, that play down the default settings a bit, results can be great all the same. I noticed you didn’t include the time needed for the edits in Portrait Pro. For a reason probably…

    But anyway, it would be great to have this in ON1 Photo RAW. All in one app. For critical work I now have to switch between apps for one image, and to be able to do everything on the highest level in ON1 PHoto RAW would be great indeed! And all non-destructive and re-editable on the fly. That’s impressive.

  12. On September 16, 2020 at 12:08 am Paul Bataille wrote:

    Paul Bataille

    PS: I agree that the current portrait module isn’t all hat impressive. I tend to avoid it, having better options, though these require switching apps as I just explained

  13. On September 16, 2020 at 12:13 am Joeri Peeters wrote:

    Joeri Peeters

    I can imagine it is very usefull when you need to retouch a lot of pictures like wedding photography but not for High End retouching.
    When I see the 3:37 editing time for photoshop this is the quick and wrong way (using Gaussion Blur on the lower layer in bigger selections). It can never give a good result.
    To get a realistic skin texture with beautiful light you need to dodge & burn locally and/or use FS 2.0 with a median filter using the mixer brush to blend the darker and lighter parts of the image and clone ond the higher layer. This is very time consuming. Not mentioning the other “skin” parts of the body you have to retouch.

    1. On September 17, 2020 at 12:21 am Paul Bataille replied:

      Paul Bataille

      I guess for the best results there’s never a fee lunch, is there?

      1. On September 17, 2020 at 12:21 am Paul Bataille replied:

        Paul Bataille

        ‘free’ instead of ‘fee’ of course, sorry

  14. On September 16, 2020 at 1:02 am Alex Padilla wrote:

    Alex Padilla

    Can we please have a plug-in in on1 2020 for affinity photo. Please ??

  15. On September 16, 2020 at 4:16 am David Martin wrote:

    David Martin

    Bless you, I know what you mean, as wedding and portrait photographer ll went through a lot of hurdles and used portrait pro for assistance, now that your Ai portrait is coming out soon I m terribly exited, boy I m glad I am using on1 Raw.

    David Martin

  16. On September 16, 2020 at 5:34 am artcameraman2012 wrote:


    OK, show me, I’m listening.
    Long time user,

  17. On September 16, 2020 at 8:29 am Martin de Jong wrote:

    Martin de Jong

    Portrait AI promises to be a big improvement, but imo the blemishes are corrected a bit to much. The model has them and I think they should be more visible. The eyes are good so it’s a draw between Portrait AI and Luminar if you ask me.

    BTW, I appreciate the upcoming support of Affinity and Capture One Pro plus the new font.

  18. On September 16, 2020 at 9:52 am Rodney Smith wrote:

    Rodney Smith

    Sounds too good to be true. I cannot wait to try this. Like someone above said, Christmas has come early!

  19. On September 19, 2020 at 1:38 pm David Price wrote:

    David Price

    All I can say is that my copy of Photo Raw runs smoothly and doesn’t crash, any more than does MS Word. (I don’t use catalogues, so I can’t comment on them).

    My copy of PR 2020.5 has never crashed when simply browsing images, and does not lose edits either.

    I have read the comments made on some of the forums. But, the reality of using Photo Raw in practice, is completely different from what is described by some of the forums.

    Photo Raw is already a very usable and stable app.

    1. On September 21, 2020 at 8:58 am David Price replied:

      David Price

      I am just an ON1 User,

      There have been numerous examples of Members of the ON1 Team responding directly to enquiries made by Users in the forums.

      Generally, the ON1 Team allow people to speak freely, and they keep a low profile. But that does not mean that they are not listening. The same can be said of the Photo Raw Project.

      I am looking forward to the launch of PR 2021, and as far as I can see the current programme is fundamentally stable and works well.

  20. On September 20, 2020 at 5:04 pm Sam Collins wrote:

    Sam Collins

    This is the advancement I have been waiting for.

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