As a wedding and portrait photographer, I can benefit from using anything that helps with post-processing. So when I was asked to review Perfectly Clear software, I was excited to try it and see how it would fit into my workflow.
Installation & Activation
The version I tried is a plug-in that can be used in Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. Installation was simple (I used the Lightroom version), and I activated the product by simply right clicking on an image in the filmstrip or library and choosing Edit In > Perfectly Clear.
Upon first activation, you will be required to start your trial, purchase a key, or enter your licence key. Activation is all done within the software, which is an added bonus, as I hate being reverted to other sites to register. You can then register the product if you wish – but this isn’t compulsory, which again is nice to see.
I purposefully chose a flat, slightly underexposed and altogether not-so-great image to try the software with for the first time. When the plug-in loaded (which took a couple of seconds on my pretty powerful PC), I was actually quite staggered by what I saw.
Figure 1: Instant results
As you can see from the screen shot in Figure 1, Perfectly Clear did a remarkably good job of auto-enhancing my image – simply by loading the plug-in. At this point, I haven’t pressed any buttons or applied any presents. This is exactly how the photo looked the moment the plug-in was activated; I was impressed.
I think the Perfectly Clear website is right on the button with its product description:
“By applying over 15 patented corrections and 10 years of scientific research, Perfectly Clear saves time and produces accurately beautiful photos. Perfectly Clear should be the first step in your workflow, automatically correcting for camera limitations.”
I included Figure 1 to show you the Lightroom and Perfectly Clear tools side by side, and you can also see a before and after view in the Perfectly Clear application itself (Figure 2). Again, this is immediately after launch, with nothing else applied at this point.
Figure 2: Adobe Lightroom on the left and Perfectly Clear on the right
In addition to the impressive auto-enhancements of pretty much every image I put through Perfectly Clear, I found it also has sliders and presets that can be applied. There are sliders that allow you to control most of the standard elements of exposure, including White Balance, Tone, Colour and Clarity.
Colour options include Vibrancy and Fidelity. Noise reduction is also present, and Perfectly Clear gives correction options for portraits, night scenes and camera phones that come with adjustment sliders for strength and details. There is also a strongest option available, which I found was a little overkill on most images, but it did come in handy on some extremely high ISO images that I perhaps would otherwise have not used. I found it generally worked better than Lightroom 5’s built-in noise solution.
If you prefer a streamlined workflow like me, you will probably take a look at the built-in presets. You can choose from Landscape, Portrait, Noise Removal, Fix Dark, and Tint Removal. Much like in Lightroom itself, selecting one of the presets visibly affects the sliders so you can see exactly what is happening to the exposure. This is great, as one of the other features of Perfectly Clear is the ability to create your own presets. Once you’ve decided on a particular look, you can click New under the presets drop-down and simply enter a name and a description for your preset. Thereafter, you can also update the preset with the simple press of the Update button. And because the Lightroom and Photoshop tools use the same application interface, your presets will work across both applications.
The ability to edit and tweak is necessary for any post-processing program. Visual adjustments are, of course, subjective. For my portrait images, I tend to prefer the Landscape preset with a slight reduction of contrast and sharpening.
So far, everything is simple, smooth and, well — just works.
I’m primarily a wedding photographer, and in the UK, which means in the summertime especially I am dealing with dark venues, low light, rain, and white balance hell. So, I next tried the tool on a high ISO image that was shot in very difficult lighting (Figure 3).
Figure 3: Low light
Initially, the product did a great job, and when I selected the Tint Removal preset, it made a better job of adjusting the white balance and overall vibrancy of the image.
As a wedding photographer, I shoot and produce most of my work in black and white, so I was intrigued to see how the application dealt with black and white images. Of course, black and white images are either going to be JPEG files from the camera or already processed TIFFs, and unfortunately, I don’t have a Leica M9 Monochrome to test black and white raw files with.
Figure 4: Black and White
So, I put a fairly flat black and white photo to the test. It did OK. Perfectly Clear adjusted it a little too heavy on the default for me, but it was something I could adjust. It would be cool if the guys at Perfectly Clear could build in some Black and White presets in the future.
That being said, I’m pretty sure the power of this application is in its pre-processing. I will be running this over every one of my images at my next wedding as the initial processing step.
In all actuality, Perfectly Clear is a replacement for the Lightroom or Camera Raw “Auto” feature. This software is powerful for that first hit on the image; it cleans it up and actually makes every image much better and ready for additional processing (such as monochrome conversion). I can definitely see Perfectly Clear as part of my overall workflow in the future.
Kevin Mullins is a Zenfolio Pro Team member who shoots primarily black and white, documentary-styled wedding and portrait photography. Based in the UK, Mullins has won multiple awards and acts as an industry leader for his unique shooting style. Learn more about Mullins on his website, www.kevinmullinsphotography.co.uk.