Historic Downsville covered bridge in western New York

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The holy grail of post-processing digital images would be a true single-click option, minimizing futzing with sliders, testing this possibility vs. that-wouldn’t that be wonderful?

That day isn’t here, but with newer software programs, we’re getting closer.  I recently spent a week in Little Cayman at a Lightroom Bootcamp, taught by Erin “Go Ask Erin” Quigley.  This was aimed at intermediate-advanced users and directed specifically to the needs of underwater photographers.  After diving in the mornings, we spent 3 hours each afternoon in a classroom learning how to optimize images in Lightroom.

Even as we get closer to automated image adjustment with alternative software programs, there is a lot of utility to knowing how to process images stepwise, via Lightroom and Photoshop.  If for no other reason, it makes one appreciate the alternatives!

Seriously, the primary utility (in my view) is to learn how to “read” the potential of your images, to know what to keep as you edit, thinning the ranks down to a manageable number on which to spend your time.  Knowing what highlights can be tamed, how much to bring up the shadows, how much to tweak color…this comes with experience and certainly depends on personal preference.

That said, many images only need minimal adjustment, especially if acquired during a favorable lighting situation and with good, solid exposure.  Your histogram is your friend in making this assessment in camera.

For the time-pressed photographer, programs which present you with a shortened workflow and let you choose among a series of potential looks can be a real boon.

A program I’ve used for images needing only a “quick fix” is Perfectly Clear.  I recently played with the newest version, Perfectly Clear Complete (PCC), version 3.  You can see my initial efforts with PCC here.

Most of the images in my prior article were processed with the workhorse PCC options, the Essentials.  Within PCC are many more options.

Since I shoot a lot of landscape, the suite of looks called The Great Outdoors warranted further investigation.

Unadjusted image, straight out of my Fujifilm X-T2 with a XF 35mm f/2 R WR lens on a beautiful afternoon in New York’s Central Park.
The same Central Park afternoon image, after adjustment with Lightroom: The sky is less vanilla, the green of the grass is more vibrant.
The same Central Park afternoon image, processed using Perfectly Clear Complete’s The Great Outdoors suite, specifically “Midday,” dialed down to 60 (default is 100). Not bad for a one-click process; from here, I probably would be inclined to dial down the sky a bit more in Lightroom.

Another example, derived from a road trip to Western New York:

Buttermilk Falls, near Ithaca, New York, on an overcast afternoon, straight out of my Fujifilm X-T2, with a XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR lens: Blah, dull colors.
Buttermilk Falls, Ithaca, New York, processed with Perfectly Clear Complete’s The Great Outdoors option Magic Hour at default 100 setting, conforms more to the color my eyes could see.

A final example, also from that same road trip to Western New York in fall:

There is fantastic and iconic vernacular architecture to shoot in western New York, such as this church, set off against a blaze of beautiful fall color; this is straight out of my Fujifilm X-T2, here paired with the XF 80MM f/2.8 R LM WR Macro lens. A good starting point, in need of optimization.
Perfectly Clear Complete’s Great Outdoors option, “midafternoon” (dialed down to 60 in strength) sets off the autumn color in a pleasing way.

Finding the end result that pleases you takes some experimentation.  Perfectly Clear Complete’s looks are a relatively painless way to quickly investigate a range of possibilities for your image.  Particularly if you are a novice with Lightroom, this may be a good way to get started with post-processing and optimizing your images.

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