Advice for new starter wanting to create photo-realistic portraits

Hello, I am just about to start my journey into photorealistic 3D art projects, and I would appreciate your guidance, so I take the best path forward for me.

First, let me tell you what my goal is. My goal is to create photorealistic head and shoulder portraits of people who have passed away. This goal has been prompted by me losing my mother recently and not having any nice pictures of her.

I was also very inspired by seeing some of the creations like these:


So being a complete noob to this area, I have done a lot of reading online and in communities like this one and I see there are many ways to get to a fabulous result.

My primary considerations are:

  1. Cost - I can’t afford to pay for many different tools.
  2. Learning curve - I’d rather the tools be as easy to learn as possible. Although I’d instead opt for a slightly steeper learning curve if the longer-term payback and results are much higher.
  3. Tech requirements - I only have a Macbook Pro 2016 to use.

The questions I have are these:

  1. Zbrush seems to be the goto tool for sculpting, but I also see some fantastic results from sculpting in Blender. Would investing in Zbrush be worthwhile? How much faster, easier better would it be than using Blender?
  2. Same question for realistic texturing of the skin and creating the hair. What packages are easiest/best for this? Substance painter for skin and Blender/Zbrush for hair?
  3. What is the easiest/best way to clothe the person and add jewellery? Are there sources of premade assets I can use or do I need to create them (that doesn’t sound easy).
  4. Is there an easy way you’d recommend to get the base sculpt from a 2d photograph?

That’s all for now, thanking you heaps in advance!

Alan