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Using Perfectly Clear to enhance candids

Over the years, Perfectly Clear has become one of my favorite tools. While it can be used for a vast array of photographs, I typically use it for professional portraits and headshots.

However, recently I wanted to enhance some of my candid portraits more. While I photograph events, I’ve also gotten more and more into street photography, and capturing those powerful street scenes. Integrating Perfectly Clear into this workflow seemed like a natural step, allowing me to up the ante, so to speak.

Getting started

Just like my posed, professional portraits and headshots, I do a brunt of my editing in Adobe Lightroom Classic. This allows me to whip through the photos and do a lot of batch processing before I spend more time on my individual picks. What’s important here is to make sure things like exposure, leveling and overall color is accurate. I basically focus on the Tone part of the Basic panel, in addition to the Transform panel. Other panels I leave for after the Perfectly Clear edit.

Once I’ve chosen a batch of photos as my selects, I bring those over to Perfectly Clear. Depending on the lighting and exact location of the photographs, I might bring over all of my selected photographs, or just one or two. For me, it’s important to only batch process when it makes sense.

Basic adjustments

When I was in New York City for the PhotoPlus Expo, I had the chance to do some street photography. The below photo is one of my favorites. Starting in Lightroom, I only touched five sliders — Exposure, Highlights, Shadows, Whites and Blacks. The rest are at zero. Once I brought it into Perfectly Clear, it made some subtle adjustments.

Tone panel

But I wanted more. To me, the photo seemed a little flat, and with my street photographs, I really like them to “pop.” To get started, I added the girl’s face manually. Then I adjusted the exposure up a bit, and made sure that “Face Aware” was set to on.

As I continued down the Tone panel, one of the most powerful sliders was Depth. There are two options here — High Contr(ast) and High Def. Switching this to the High Contrast option instantly had a powerful impact on my photo, deepening the blacks and adding more contrast to the image.

Color panel

From there I moved down to the Color panel, and clicked Color Restore, Color Vibrancy, Fidelity and Tint Correction to on. Color Restore and Color Vibrancy brought in some additional color to my photograph, helping it to not feel as flat. It gave just a subtle punch to my image. Fidelity also increased the colors just slightly, bringing in some colors that my camera failed to capture.

But the most powerful slider here was Tint Correction. My photograph was a bit yellow, and while that was realistic due to those ugly, yellow-orange fluorescent lights you often see in cities, I wanted to bring in a cooler tone. By just increasing this slider to 21 (on the Maximum setting), it made a subtle difference, but got rid of that awful yellow-orange glow.

Adjusting the finer points

Details panel

While I was pretty happy with my image, I knew there was more I could do. Perfectly Clear’s Sharpening (in the Details panel) is one of my favorite features of the software, and it’s one I use on virtually every portrait and headshot I take. So why not a street photograph?

For the Sharpening slider, I tend to zoom in a bit so I can see the difference between the before and after photograph. Depending on what your style is, you might crank this way up (like I did), or keep it at a lower level for just that subtle increase in sharpness.

Eyes, Face and Skin panels

While I didn’t use these panels in this particular photograph, if you have a person’s eyes in view, I’d recommend turning on Eye Enhance. This adjusts the brightness and sharpness of just the eyes. In the Face panel, I will often turn on the Face Contouring slider just a bit, which helps to remove any distortion the camera added to the person’s face. It can also be used to take off a few pounds, if you wish.

Finally, the Skin panel. Depending on the photograph, I usually use the Perfectly Smooth and Shine Removal sliders. Perfectly Smooth can help to reduce or eliminate any blemishes on the person’s face. Shine Removal will help in reducing shine when you photograph with a flash or strobes. Obviously for street photography, you probably won’t use these sliders often, but they’re there in case you want to make any adjustments.

The final image

Many people know that I like to have a natural style when it comes to editing. And with street photography, this is no different. However…what if I wanted to make the image black and white? Perfectly Clear does a great job at this too, offering me one-click presets that I can then adjust further.

Once I’m done in Perfectly Clear, I can bring the image back into Lightroom and fine-tune other adjustments, like Clarity and Contrast.

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