Thanks. I think it's a better photo to start with; however I'm never sure whether these kind of artistic effects work well for photos of family and close friends, as opposed to shots of an abstract "model" taken solely for photographic purposes.
Would a typical parent react positively or negatively to their child being presented in an artistic kind of way, when they are used to seeing them in the real world? All parents love to see their children photographed expertly by a professional, but does an artistic presentation (by which I mean things like grain, bleach, texture, etc not compositional elements) generally go down well? I guess this is a question for those with experience of family portraiture.
Also, does a slightly out of focus photo have the same impact as adding "soft focus" for a portrait, as long as the eyes are sharp? Is soft focus simply the opposite of sharpening? (I couldn't decide whether sharpening these portraits was actually the wrong thing to be doing!)
I think the sharpness is pretty well just about right for these. You can always be a bit selective and just sharpen the eyes a touch if you think it needs it beyond correcting for the anti-aliasing filter (when present).
I know what you mean about effects though. I find that, as long as they are relatively subtle, the recipient doesn't necessarily notice they are there: they just see a nice photo. But, whatever you do, don't give them a choice!! Go with what you wanted to create. Different if they are commissioned of course.
I don't think you should worry about process, Chris is right - if it looks different to what they normally get with their £149.99, reduced to £74.99 in the Currys sales samsung p&s they will be happy (tongue in cheek sweeping generalisation ... But you get my point)... Take venture as an example - everything they produce - along with most other high street studios is high key, and significantly more processed than what you have just done ... They sell prints for hundreds, if not thousands of pounds