Aerial view of French Polynesian atoll at sunset
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Test Drive: Perfectly Clear Complete

Editor’s Note: Perfectly Clear is offering Photofocus readers a special $99 bundle, including Perfectly Clear Complete and SharkPixel presets. A $163 value!

In theory, a skillful user of Lightroom or Photoshop can massage a photo to shine, highlighting the best features of a scene, minimizing distracting elements and directing the viewer’s eye to whatever it was that first attracted the photographer to the scene.

In practice, optimizing images can take a LOT of time and effort, even for a photographer who is relatively comfortable with image processing. The sheer numbers of images a trip can generate can become overwhelming. Even editing a stack of images down to a manageable number to even decide which image on which to concentrate one’s processing efforts can consume a lot of time.

I used to think one-step processing, using tools like Aurora HDR 2019 and Perfectly Clear Complete, was a cop-out — a shortcut which took away too much control over the look of the image from the photographer. But I have come to realize such software tools have a place in the workflow of any photographer who generates a lot of images and has aspirations to keep up with processing them.

Although I’m reasonably proficient with Lightroom, many times I find that even with considerable effort, I can’t quite get the look I’m after as readily with Lightroom as with another product.

In the past, I happily used Perfectly Clear version 2 to shortcut some of my processing. Recently, I’ve been thrilled with the HDR capabilities of Aurora HDR 2019. So I jumped at a chance to test out the latest version of Perfectly Clear, called Perfectly Clear Complete (PCC).

PCC is simple to use. From Lightroom, I select Edit in > Perfectly Clear v3. A copy of the image to be processed opens in PCC. There are multiple different looks which one can click through. The default is to the effect at 100%. Any effect can be dialed up or down as desired. You can also run Perfectly Clear as a stand-alone application.

Here are my first experiments with PCC, applied to images languishing unprocessed from a diving trip to French Polynesia five months ago.

Beach scene near sunset, Tahiti, straight out of my Fujifilm X-T2, unprocessed.
The same scene, processed with PCC, with one click (Landscape, at default 100 setting). The foliage is brightened up without being unnaturally green, the volleyball players in the distance on the beach are more distinctly seen and the swath of color in the surf (what drew my attention in the first place) is now highlighted.

My second effort, a waterfall scene from the island of Tahiti:

Straight out of the Fujifilm X-T2, untouched, the scene is muddy.
PCC’s Landscape look (at default 100 setting) brightens up the foliage with one click.

In general, I found the Landscape look, one from the Perfectly Clear Essentials suite, more natural looking and more suited for my preferences than other options in The Great Outdoors suite.

I was also curious how PCC would perform with underwater images.

A French Polynesia shallow reef scene, unprocessed, straight off my Panasonic GH-5.
Landscape, dialed down to 80, from the Perfectly Complete Essentials suite, increased the contrast in a way I found pleasing. I subsequently tried to duplicate this look using Lightroom and came up short.
Under a pier, Fakarava Sur, Tuamotos, French Polynesia, a strobe-lit scene of schooling fish, straight out of my Panasonic GH5 without any adjustment.
A different choice in the Perfectly Clear Essentials suite, Vivid (at default 100 setting) improves the detail of the underside of the pier. I was able to achieve a similar look using Lightroom to process this image, but at a cost of introducing a strange aliasing artifact which turned a pink rock in the foreground a weird brown.

My final comparison on this test drive is a wide angle blue water shark scene.

Unprocessed image of gray reef sharks in Fakarava, Tuamotos, French Polynesia: As shot using a Panasonic GH5.
One touch processing with Perfectly Clear Complete and the Intelligent Auto look (default setting of 100): Very natural looking without the muddiness of the unprocessed image.

If you’re like me, you’d much rather be out in nature taking photographs than slaving over them afterward in front of a computer. Perfectly Clear Complete has given me hope that I may one day “catch up” on my backlog of images to process!

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