Who doesn’t love push-button, one-click, automatic functionality? What if you could push one button and make your digital photos automatically look better? That’s the goal of Athentech Imaging’s Perfectly Clear ($199 Photoshop plugin, $2.99 iOS and Android apps). Another intriguing “what if” prompted by that last parenthetical is “what if you could get the functionality of a $200 program for $2.99? Wouldn’t you? Of course, the mobile versions of Perfectly Clear don’t create large professional quality output of the Photoshop and Lightroom Plugins. But just like the pro tools, they do improve your photos instantly and impressively.
Each of the plugins is available as free 30-day, full function trial software. If your workflow is not tied to Photoshop or Lightroom, there’s another way to get Perfectly Clear’s imaging magic—by purchasing Corel’s PaintShop Pro X6 Ultimate, which, for $99 total, includes the plugin. Finally, if you don’t want a plugin but prefer a full-fledged application, Athentech has produced a free beta Windows standalone program.
Setting Up Perfectly Clear
For this review, I’ll focus on the pro-level Perfectly Clear Photoshop plugin. I tested on a 3.4GHz quad-core Windows 7 system with 8GB RAM and and Nvidia Quadro 2000 graphics processor. The software is available for Windows 8, 7, Vista, and XP; and for Mac OS X Leopard, Snow Leopard, Lion, and Mountain Lion. It works with Photoshop versions from CS 3 to Photoshop CC, and with Photoshop Elements 8 and up, in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions.
To install, simply download and run the executable program file, choose your language (English, German, French, and Portuguese are available). Check boxes let me set it to work in Photoshop and/or Photoshop Elements. After the setup wizard completed, I was left with a pair of folders for each of the apps I wanted to use Perfectly Clear as a plugin with, but after closing these, everything worked as expected.
How Perfectly Clear Works
Most serious photographers have a set process for getting their photos looking better. I’m probably not alone in having spent many minutes adjusting Lightroom or Photoshop slider controls trying to get a single image looking just right. Another approach is to start out by trying the programs’ Auto tone button (pro photogs will deny using this, but Adobe’s telemetry data shows otherwise)—which sometimes results in image improvement. You could think of Perfectly Clear as a whole program designed for just that one function—auto correction. It makes changes to an image’s brightness, contrast, color, and sharpness based on eye science, according to Athentech’s site.
In its Default mode, Perfectly Clear improved just about every photo I threw at it. Of course, the old “garbage in garbage out” rule still applies, so don’t expect an awfully shot image to magically look good. The plugin often made good photos look stunning. One cavil would be that it tends to add too much contrast. Luckily, you do have adjustment choices: Sliders let you control exposure and contrast, as well as sharpening and noise. But even if you just open your photo in Perfectly Clear, if you use the side-by-side before and after view, your original image will in most cases look washed out and flat.
In addition to Default, the plugin includes a few presets for common applications: Landscapes, Portrait, Noise Removal, Fix Dark, and Tint Removal. Hovering your mouse pointer over the selected preset pops up a lengthy tooltip telling you what it does. For example, the tooltip for Landscape tells you that the setting doesn’t increase contrast as much and adds vibrancy for more vivid colors.
Color options include Vibrancy and Fidelity, and whenever you adjust either these or the lighting sliders, your Preset dropdown chances to Custom. When this happens, you get the chance to create a new preset of your own, with a new name and description.
Noise reduction is another option, and the software offers correction options for Portraits, Night Scenes, Camera Phones, along with sliders for strength and details. A “Strongest” option let me smooth out even the most speckled images. I found it worked better than Photoshop CC’s built-in in noise reduction, but the results weren’t quite as clean as those produced by Noise Ninja.
One deficiency I found in Perfectly Clear related to zooming. Yes, there’s a zoom slider, but this didn’t show the percent or even let me zoom in to 100 percent—something you really want, particularly for noise reduction and sharpening.
Is It Perfect?
At first I was dazzled by Perfectly Clear’s instant improvements, and I still think it offers an easy way to get your pictures looking better with minimal effort, and it’s adjustment sliders let you fine tune to taste. But once the initial bedazzlement passed, I realized that you can do everything the plugin does with standard photo software—sharpening, contrast, color, and noise reduction—and sometimes with better final results than you get with this $200 add-in. Of course, with your standard photo editing software alone, you’ll have to fuss with sliders and adjustments a bit more to get those results; you won’t just get there by hitting autocorrect.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc