Editing Portraits in Perfect Effects 4 Free

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Portrait processed in Perfect Effects 4 Free

It’s hard to ignore the number of photos being produced on camera phones using apps like Instagram. Who would have thought that adding filters to photos to create a retro or vintage look would be so popular? Not only that, but it’s often surprisingly effective.

Now, what if you’d like to take advantage of programs like Instagram but want to apply them to photos taken with your camera rather than use a camera phone to take the photos? One option is to load the photos you want to alter to your phone or tablet then use Instagram (or your app of choice) to edit them (you can see some examples of that here). But that’s an awkward way of working and the software also reduces the size of the image.

You can also use Photoshop Actions or Lightroom Presets to achieve similar effects, but with a lot more control (you can read my article about using Lightroom Presets here).

Perfect Effects 4 Free

Enter Perfect Effects 4 Free, made by onOne Software for both Mac and PC. It lets you apply fancy Instagram type effects to your images, a little like using presets in Lightroom or actions in Photoshop. Click the link to go to onOne software’s website and find out more.

That’s the fun side of the software – it also has a few tools for more serious functions like retouching portraits. Best of all it’s free, and it gives you a taste of what you can expect from other onOne Software applications.

Note: Perfect Effects 4 Free is a scaled down version of Perfect Effects 4. You can buy the full version of Perfect Effects 4 on its own or as part of the Perfect Photo Suite.

Perfect Effects 4 Free for portraits

Let’s start by taking a look at how you can use Perfect Effects 4 Free to spice up your portraits. Remember, the best way to use software like this is to make good photos better. Don’t fall into the trap of using it to try and make mediocre images look better than they really are.

Here’s my original portrait, processed in Lightroom 4:

Portrait processed in Lightroom 4

This is the Perfect Effects 4 interface. It displays your photo in the middle, with effects and presets on the left. There’s a Navigator pane on the right, with layers displayed underneath:

Perfect Effects 4 Free interface

Click on any of the Effects categories on the left to reveal the options. The program displays a thumbnail with a preview. Click the thumbnail to apply the effect. It is applied as a layer and displayed in the Effects stack on the right, where you can click the eye icon to turn the effect on or off.

Each later has an Amount slider, similar to Opacity in Photoshop. If an Effect is too strong, use the Amount slider to reduce it. You can also stack several effects on top of each other, varying the Amount of each (use the Add button to create a new layer each time). This gives you a lot of control:

Perfect Effects 4 Free Effects Stack

Here are some more examples. They show some of the available effects:

Portrait processed in Perfect Effects 4 Free

Black & white – coffee

Portrait processed in Perfect Effects 4 Free

Cross-process blue

Portrait processed in Perfect Effects 4 Free

Landscape – Magic sunset

Portrait processed in Perfect Effects 4 Free

Vintage – Blue yellow

Portrait processed in Perfect Effects 4 Free

Vintage – Honky tonk

Portrait processed in Perfect Effects 4 Free

Vintage – Mayor

The most interesting (and Instagram-like) effects are found under the Vintage tab. Combining the Vintage Effects with Black & White Effects creates some interesting results:

Portrait processed in Perfect Effects 4 Free

Black & white – coffee & Vintage – Honky Tonk

Portrait processed in Perfect Effects 4 Free

Black & white – sepia & Vintage – Red yellow

Portrait retouching in Perfect Effects 4 Free

This is all good fun, but Perfect Effects 4 Free has some useful tools as well. A good one for portrait photographers is Auto Skin Smoother. Here’s an example of it in action, with the Amount dialled down to 60 (the skin smoothing effect is applied to a new layer) so it looks realistic:

Perfect Effects 4 Free auto skin smoother

In both cases I used the Masking Brush to restrict the skin smoothing effect to the face. The Masking Brush is can be used with any of the Effects, and lets you apply it to just part of the image. This screenshot shows you how it works – the red area is masked and unaffected by the Auto Skin Smoother Effect:

Perfect Effects 4 Free mask


You can use brushes to make local adjustments. For this portrait I used skin smoother and lighter brushes to lighten the shadows underneath my model’s eyes, and warm and more punch brushes to add contrast and warmth to the background:

Portrait processed in Lightroom 4

Original portrait

Portrait processed in Perfect Effects 4 Free

Processed in Perfect Effects 4 Free

Finally here’s another portrait that I processed in Lightroom 4 then ran through Perfect Effects 4 Free:

Portrait processed in Perfect Effects 4 Free

These are the Effects I used to obtain this look.

Vintage – Honky Tonk
Vintage – Brandon
Vignettes – Subtle Vignette
Landscape – Magic Desert
Vignettes – Dark Glow Vignette

Perfect Effects 4 presets

Just like Lightroom, Perfect Effects 4 Free lets you create presets. You should do this after you have applied Effects and brushes, but before you save the image (as the Effects stack is compressed into a single layer for saving if you select JPEG or TIFF formats).

Go to Preset > Save Preset to save your settings as preset. You can then easily apply it to any of your photos, and make changes to the settings to suit the image you are editing.


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