Photoshop without the painting tools, that’s what onOne Software’s Perfect Photo Suite Premium is in a nutshell. Perfect Photo Suite Premium is a RAW converter/editor with an image browser and features such as image correction and enhancement, B&W conversion, compositing and Fx effects, layers and masks, portrait-specific enhancement and resizing. Its masking capabilities are unique and in my opinion allows to position this app in the market as a proper Photoshop replacement.
Perfect Photo Suite Premium 9 is a RAW editor that also handles other image formats such as JPEG. Its RAW decoder is the Adobe demosaicing algorithm, which guarantees good results. The Perfect Photo Suite Premium is a modular app with tabs for layers, enhancement, portrait, effects, B&W and resize. You start the app in browser mode. In this mode you can browse your image collections and set folders as favourites.
The browser is snappy, but not as snappy as Capture One Pro 8 or DxO Optics Pro 10. Double-clicking a thumbnail enlarges the image, which is a good idea if you want to edit its metadata, rate it and have a close look at its EXIF and IPTC information. Right-clicking gives you a load of options, including opening the image in one of the modules. Before opening the image in a module, you’ll need to select whether you want it to open as a copy in Photoshop format, or as a layer. Either choice is non-destructive.
In Layers mode, you can add layers — obviously! — and add masks. Perfect Photo Suite Premium 9 has a very accurate, very efficient masking tool that almost perfectly ‘recognises’ the boundaries of even low-contrast areas. However, the masking tool starts up in ordinary mode, which is a mask painting mode that leaves you entirely free to paint a mask regardless of contrast boundaries or subjects. To enjoy the boundary recognition, you must click a switch. I was quite baffled to see the “Perfect Brush” keep intact fluffy grey hair that stood against a slightly darker greyish background. Combined with the fine-tuning tools in this module, you can indeed mask difficult areas in minutes — unlike other apps that promise it, Perfect Photo Suite Premium 9 just does it.
Masking areas allows you to composite images using layers just as you can with Photoshop, with full blending and opacity settings included.
When you’re finished working in a module you can switch to the next. Perfect Photo Suite Premium will briefly pop up a progress bar to let you know your work has been saved to a new layer and will switch to your next selected module. By the way, it doesn’t really matter much which module you start with, but I think the most logical workflow is to start with Enhance and then work your way through the other ones, using Layers as a compositing tool. Layers is also where you’ll see all of the layers created by the other modules. It’s the centre of gravity for photographers who want to retrace their steps or turn off all edits and corrections — the non-destructive nature of Perfect Photo Suite Premium 9’s edits. This is known as Smart Photo, which is a special PSD format that allows you to save your settings and masks from each module that you use so you can go back and re-edit them later.
The Enhance module lets you automatically — or quickly via buttons — apply fixes and enhancements, with the ability to fine-tune your fixes with tools that you’ll also find in Capture One or DxO Optics Pro. In this mode, you can also use presets and create them, and retouch the image. Creating vignettes is also part of this module, although I would have thought this to be part of Effects.
Effects works with Filters, much the same way Photoshop has filters. For example, you can set a glow here, but also a bokeh effect. Some filters like the bokeh effect did not respond well to my changing some of their settings. It was if the filter was stuck on its initial setting. Since Effects is a layer just like the others, it’s not a big deal when this happens only occasionally, but it would be preferable that if you change a bokeh effect from linear to radial, for example, the effect would apply the change immediately.
Except for a large range of preset looks you can choose from as a starting point, you can apply the effects either to the whole image or to a masked part of it. The mask painting brushes and gradient “Masking Bug” of the Layers module are repeated here. Most effects come with quick to apply buttons that strenghten an effect’s results with a predefined increase. Again, you can fine tune the results by setting sliders differently, just as what you would do in Photoshop.
Special modules: Portrait, B&W and Resize
Portrait is a specialised module that is only of use with portraits. It has excellent automatic recognition of eyes, lips, teeth and skin tones, and allows you to quickly get rid of red eye, make eyes ‘pop’ more by increasing the detail and vibrance of the iris, whiten the white of the eyes, etc. The selection of eyes and lips is automatically done for you and works with multiple faces.
I tried Portrait and found its effects to give you subtle but clearly visible improvements. For example, on a chap’s portrait I could turn his two-day beard that looked distinctly prickly into a softer, more trimmed result, simply by playing with the skin retouching tools.
I can be short about the B&W module: it’s basically a film emulation module with monochrome settings only. As with competing products, you can select film grain from a long list of films, vignettes, borders and toning (selenium, copper… you know the drill). Of course you can adjust the colour filters used for the B&W conversion.
I was particularly interested to know how difficult it would be to create a B&W image with a coloured area. You can brush colour back in, right inside the B&W module. However, you can’t adjust that colour individually from the B&W conversion effect, i.e. if you want your spot of colour to be more saturated than it was in the original image, you’ll need a different approach.
To accomplish this, I first converted my file into a B&W version, then went back to the Layer module, changed the layer order and painted away the coloured version, which was now the top layer, until I had only the coloured area I wanted to leave intact. It took me a couple of seconds.
The nice part of my experiment was that I realised I could have done this in Photoshop or Pixelmator too, but not without spending much more time trying to get the B&W “look” I was after — complete with grain, contrast, etc.
The Resize module lets you export your image to paper, web or video sizes or to a custom size you define. You can then still crop and even rotate the image before actually exporting. The Resize module automatically sets output size based on your crop or media size adjustments. It works with the Genuine Fractals algorithm or onOne Software’s own algorithm for portrait resizing. I couldn’t really test this module — the results — by lack of a large format printer.
If you’re not a “Photoshop guru” you’ll probably find Perfect Photo Suite Premium 9 better in a lot of areas. I’m not a huge fan of Photoshop, as I think it’s become more of a Swiss knife for anything related to bitmap art than a perfect image editor, so I was genuinely thrilled by the ease-of-use, the power, the masking capabilities…
Perfect Photo Suite Premium 9 costs approx. €127.00 and it’s worth every cent!