Correcting photos in half the time you would need when doing the same with Photoshop or Lightroom’s built-in tools. That is what Athentech Imaging promises with Perfectly Clear. The Photoshop and Lightroom plug-ins serve the same purpose as Perfectly Clear for iOS devices.
I tested Perfectly Clear with Photoshop CS6. I don’t have Adobe Lightroom on my system, but from the user guide I could deduct the plug-in has batch capabilities, which it obviously doesn’t have in Photoshop. For completeness sake, I should mention that the company behind Perfectly Clear also develops a related system for photo printing services — those services you can order photo books from.
What Perfectly Clear is meant to do is to make your image look good and to quickly correct the most common flaws of a photo, including the ones resulting from the camera, the photographer shooting with bad settings and the ones resulting from the subject itself. In the first category we find sharpness, noise and red-eye correction, in the second category parameters like exposure, skin shine and tint, and in the third category skin blemishes, dark circles and teeth colour.
Many of Perfectly Clear’s adjustment parameters apply to portrait shooting, because as a rule people are the main subject for those who take snapshots during vacation. Perfectly Clear is not targeted at professional photographers who want to manipulate their images until they get the effect they envisioned in the first place.
It targets the largest group of photographers out there — the people who take snapshots in “Auto” mode with iPhones and pocket cameras. As it says on the Athentech website, it’s all about bringing back memories, colours as you remembered them — and judging by the portrait enhancement features, it’s also about looking your best in the picture.
There’s nothing wrong with that if the quality of the end-result looks good.
How perfect is Perfectly Clear?
The Perfectly Clear plug-in for Photoshop has its own interface, with the photo on the left and presets and adjustment controls on the right. I was relieved not to find an endless list of presets as you’ll often find with other plug-ins. Instead, there was a group of eight presets that should cover most of the imperfections found in snapshots.
The idea is to start with one of the presets and then click on the Adjustments tab to refine further. For quickly working your way through one or multiple images, that’s a good workflow and having “only” eight presets helps you decide which flaw in the photo should be tackled first.
The Portrait corrections are what makes you want to buy Perfectly Clear. They work well and much faster than with the tools Photoshop offers. Of course, if you want to make your obese model look like Twiggy, I’m afraid Perfectly Clear won’t cut it. But then again, nor will Photoshop unless you want it to be perfectly clear the image was photoshopped — pun intended.
I deliberately shot a photo with bad exposure, slightly out of focus, with problems in both highlights and shadows. I quickly realised I was going to need at least three presets to fix it, but you can’t select three presets to correct an image. If you have these kind of problems, you’ll need to tune the parameters.
The Adjustment parameters, however, are fairly basic — except for portraits. Landscapes, architecture and object photos can be corrected only with parameters like Exposure, Depth (looked a lot like micro-contrast to me) and Skin Bias/Depth, Vibrancy, Fidelity, Tint Correction, Sharpening and Noise.
I tried all of these adjustments and found that some have dramatic impact on the image, while others have not. Every change to the image is immediately reflected in the image inside the plug-in interface. There are several ways to compare the adjusted image to the original. My crappy test image would look better after having tampered with Perfectly Clear for about five minutes, but it wasn’t as perfect as I could have made it with Photoshop’s own correction tools.
If I had started out with an image shot in “Auto” mode, the results would have been much better, much more quickly with Perfectly Clear than with Photoshop’s tools. Nevertheless, I do find the terms used in the interface somewhat confusing. For example, what does Fidelity correct — it only has two settings? Is it wrong white balance? Tint Correction didn’t work out as I expected. It actually changed the hue of the test image the wrong way.
Sharpening was one element that really stood out. Apparently, Perfectly Clear uses an algorithm that only sharpens edges but even with the slider set at full strength, there was only a subtle sharpening going on, without the artefacts that usually result from boosting edge sharpness.
Features in the Portrait enhancement category that stood out were Catchlight, Blemish Removal and Light Diffusion (no exaggerated effects here). Face Slimming did what it sets out to do, but to me it didn’t enhance the portrait — perhaps if your chin makes you look like a bulldog…