Product Review: Athentech Perfectly Clear Photoshop Plug-in 1.5.5

February 17, 2011

By Dan Havlik

Let’s face it: editing photos in Photoshop is a pain in the ass. Who has the time? I enjoy doing an Adobe deep dive on my images as much as anyone, but if you’ve got hundreds of pictures to review and adjust and a looming 5 o’clock deadline that Photoshop toolbox can become your enemy in a hurry.

I’ve long searched for a professional-level quick fix adjustment tool for Photoshop that will do the heavy lifting for me. (Sorry but Auto Levels in PS and whatever else is out there just hasn’t cut it for me.)

For a number of years now, I’ve been paying visits to the Athentech booth at PhotoPlus Expo wondering when the company was going to finally release its much-previewed Perfectly Clear plug-in for Photoshop on the Mac. This past PPE show in New York City, I got the good word at last.

Perfectly Clear has been available for some time for photo labs and, more recently, as an app for Apple’s iPhone and iPad, but Athentech seemed to be taking it’s own sweet time with the Photoshop plug-in. (I jest; they’re sticklers at this Canada-based software company and I’m sure they’ve been hard at work.)

In October 2010, Athentech launched Version 1.5, which is compatible with Macs and CS5, and now supports layers. (You can apply Perfectly Clear to any layer you want in Photoshop.)

I’ve been trying the plug-in out for the last few months and like what I’ve seen. It’s hard to explain exactly what Perfectly Clear does to your shots but the best way I can describe it is it removes an ugly gray cast you may never have known was there in the first place.

The Perfectly Clear “before and after” effect is more dramatic in photos captured with the iPhone’s less than optimal built-in camera. In Photoshop, I use the plug-in for all those images I think are okay but don’t want to waste too much time cleaning up. I just open these shots in the plug-in, pick one of the presets (there are selections for Landscapes, Portraits, and Fix Dark but I usually just pick Default) and let Perfectly Clear work its magic.

Along with removing the grey cast, the Default pre- set automatically gives your images a brighter look with punched up colors. There’s other stuff going on behind the scenes, which I can’t fully explain but let’s just say the effect is pleasing to the eye.

Along with the presets, multiple sliders and adjustment tools let you further tweak exposure, contrast, sharpening, skin tones etc., to create a more customized look which you can save as your own preset. I highly recommend doing this after you’ve gotten more familiar with Perfectly Clear because the default setting, while good, produces a slightly oversaturated, consumer-y effect. You’ll likely want something subtler for your images. You’ll likely want something subtler for your images.

I also recommend Perfectly Clear for shots that are on the dark side rather than the lighter side. The ice in images I shot of the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden tended to get overexposed after I ran them through Perfectly Clear. My one other quibble with the plug-in is that it runs slower than I’d like. Granted, part of the problem is that I’ve been using it on a five-year-old MacBook but it drags more than some of my other plug-ins.

If you’ve craved a good quick fix tool for Photoshop to turn your photo duds into crisp, sparkling winners, Athentech’s Perfectly Clear plug-in for Photoshop is worth opening your eyes to. As with most photo software, you can try Perfectly Clear out for 30 days before you buy it but I think I think you’ll clearly see it’s benefits right away.

Perfectly Clear 1.5.5

Pros: The quick fix editing tool for Photoshop you’ve always wanted

Cons: Runs slow on older Macs. Price: $199