I do some professional photography work when it’s called for (engagements, product shoots and sometimes event work), but I feel the need to clear the air even before it starts. I am as absolutely sick of terrible photo apps as you are. I hate all the photography apps that claim to be “the next big thing.” There’s a special place of disdain in my heart for photography apps that don’t do what they claim to do, or are, in effect, more time-consuming than doing similar work in Photoshop.
It is with this negative attitude that I apprehensively downloaded Beautune, a photography app meant to make cleaning up portrait shots as simple as possible. I expected to hate it. At the end of the day, I ended up falling in love with this app. Beautune is singlehandedly one of the best options I’ve ever seen for professional portrait retouching. Read on to find out what makes Beautune so, so good.
First of all, Beautune’s interface isn’t perfect. I want to make it exceeding clear, after my gushing, that although I love this app, it’s not perfect. For the most part, though, this is an app that’s a piece of cake to use. The interface is a big part of it.
The adjustments pane is always present, and divided into easy-to-understand sections: Face, Eyes, Mouth and Advanced. The Face section lets you tweak things like foundation colour, reshape jaw structure, adjust weight loss, fix blemishes, etc. The eyes include everything from the basics (red-eye removal) to eye shadow and eyebrow pencils. Admittedly, it’s geared towards women, but that’s because we men rarely wear much eye makeup. The Mouth pane lets you adjust lip tint and whiten teeth, and the Advanced pane lets you deal with image attributes like cropping, detail, defocus, clone, filter-like effects and even frames.
All of this is accessible without any pop-up or slide-in menus. There’s no full-screen mode, which is unusual but arguably sensible. And frankly, I didn’t miss it. It meant everything is contained. I love Aperture’s full-screen mode, but the pop-up Adjustments pane can be frustrating. With Beautune, because it’s focused only on taking care of portrait work, it doesn’t need all that screen real estate and the adjustments pane can remain stationery.
What doesn’t work with the interface? Simply put, there are no keyboard shortcuts. I can’t even hit Command and the Plus symbol at the same time to zoom in. (Also: When I zoom in, I can’t navigate the image with two fingers on my trackpad like I can in other apps. That’s a shame.) There’s no way to make this app work faster if you’re a keyboard hog like I am. That’s my largest niggle.
I also wish there was a way to open multiple photos at once and keep a small library of your current project, that you could compare and contrast relevant photos and quickly get rid of them. It doesn’t need to be as capable as Lightroom or Aperture, but it’d be nice if the option to add ten images at a time or so was at least available for those of us with larger workflow needs.
Editing a Photo
I don’t do many portrait shots, and asked a friend to stand in front of my office wall so I could snap a couple quick photos for the review. (He agreed on the condition that I explain in this review that he’s hoping his head shot gets him a management position job, or a few dates. Ideally, he’s hoping for a management position that involves going on dates.) I didn’t use a professional setup at all, so I apologize for the shadows on the wall and the poor lighting.
With that in mind, importing the photo was as easy as clicking and dragging or selecting a file, not unlike any other Mac app. Thankfully, the app could handle my RAW Nikon file (.NEF). Upon export, it turned the file into a high-quality JPEG. I don’t think RAW exporting is necessary in this case, since it’s unlikely you’ll be doing any further edits.
Editing a photo really impressed me, and I wanted to take a little time to go over how easy some of this was. The first thing I wanted to do was whiten my friend’s teeth. I zoomed in on his mouth and resized the brush. From that point on, it literally took just a couple sweeps of his mouth to get a half-decent job done. I wasn’t aiming for perfection, but even if I was, it wouldn’t have taken long. This thing is precise. It even kept the highlights intact, so his teeth still look completely natural.
Even advanced effects like the clone tool were easy to use. I just had to navigate the element around, and within seconds, the blemishes were gone. Quick clicks let me adjust the blush in his cheeks (not that he was wearing any), and I was even able to straighten his crooked nose in all of two seconds flat.
Some of the advanced tools, particularly the eye adjustments, felt like they needed a little tweaking. I wasn’t able to make his eyes pop — not easily, anyway — without having it become overwhelming. It seemed like a minor quibble to me, especially since his pupil was so large. I’d imagine smaller pupils make it easier for the app to work its magic.
Overall, the reason I’m impressed with the editing capabilities of Beautune isn’t because it’s out-doing Photoshop. I’m well aware that all of this can be done in Photoshop and other editors still. That being said, what does blow me away is the speed with which it can be done. With just a click here and a click there, I was able to get done all the work necessary for my friend’s portrait in a matter of a minute. I was even able to quickly smooth over acne scars and any other blemishes (mate, if you’re reading this, don’t take offence).
If you’re a professional, you might already have a really quick workflow. Maybe you’ve customized Photoshop to a point where an app like Beautune just doesn’t flow with the rest of your groove. But if you find that you’re spending way too long in Photoshop and you just want a quick and simple way to make your photos beautiful and presentable for your clients, Beautune is the answer.
I opened this review by saying that Beautune had set the lofty goal of being simple software that made editing portraits a very simple task. I think the succeeded. The app doesn’t take up much of my time and the interface makes it a piece of cake to use. I do wish the app allowed you to even compare a couple photos side by side if you need to choose from your portraits, and I wish that there were some keyboard and trackpad shortcuts, but in all other areas I feel Beautune excels and is worth every penny.