CyberLink PhotoDirector 3 Review: All-In-One Photo Editing and Organizing
At a Glance
A great way for casual photographers to get the benefits of a digital workflow and lossless editing, but serious photographers will feel far too limited
CyberLink PhotoDirector 3 offers a mainstream--and less specialized--digital workflow management alternative to Adobe Lightroom 4.1 and Corel AfterShot Pro, both of which plainly target professional photographers. PhotoDirector 3 ($150), resembles Lightroom in many ways, but its design and approach make it far more inviting to casual photographers.
PhotoDirector lets you fiddle with the program's many exposure controls manually; but it helps keep things simple with a one-click presets menu, where you can choose from among two dozen custom settings that emphasize skin tone, optimize for landscapes, convert photos to black-and-white, and more. Hundreds of additional user-created presets are available for download in the online DirectorZone community, and you can save settings for one-click recall.
The program's palette of "regional" adjustment tools lets you selectively apply changes to exposure, brightness, contrast, saturation, and other settings to portions of the photo. The adjustment brush paints a mask similar to the one in Lightroom. But PhotoDirector has some delightful alternatives, as well, such as a Smart Selection brush that works like a magnetic lasso selection tool, and a gradient mask that enables you to vary the intensity of a photo effect across the photo.
PhotoDirector is at its most accessible in the Edit tab, which offers a slew of custom effects designed to handle specific photo enhancements. The People Beautifier category, for example, includes a Tooth Brush, an Eye Blinger, a Skin Smoother, and a Wrinkle Remover. The Eye Blinger is a configurable brush that enhances the white and the iris of the eye, while the Tooth Brush lets you whiten teeth with a tool that restricts the effect to the inside of your subject's mouth. These tools all work fairly well, but they're not magic; you'll still need to paint carefully and experiment with the tool's various options to get optimal results.
An Object Removal brush lets you outline an element in a photo that you'd like to remove (an intruding tourist, for example) and then indicate the part of the photo to use as the texture to erase it. There's also a tool for removing a scene's background.
But here's where PhotoDirector gets wonky: Many of the specialty edits are not lossless, and you have to save your photo as a new image even to exit the tool's controls. Photo Composer, which lets you create composites from two images, doesn't even import RAW photos--it supports PNG and JPG formats only. The tools are cool, but they break the model of lossless editing and they force you to think carefully about the kind of edits you make to your photos.
To make matters worse, unlike workflow programs like Lightroom, PhotoDirector gives you no way to export photos to another editor for specialty editing and then automatically reimport the results to PhotoDirector.
To get started with PhotoDirector, you must import your photos into the program's Library--an annoying step thatLightroom also requires but that Corel's AfterShot Pro lets you bypass. Still, PhotoDirector provides a wealth of ways for you to organize and view your photos--including Smart Collections that you can set up to manage photos automatically by specific criteria such as ratings, keywords, or exposure data. You can also set up manual albums to group photos by project or event. Unlike Lightroom and AfterShot, though, PhotoDirector doesn't automatically import keywords that you may have added to your photos in another program, so get ready to do a lot of typing when you reorganize them. Video isn't welcome in its environment, either.
PhotoDirector has a superb printing module with one of the most pleasant page layout controls we've ever used, especially if you want to print several photos on the page at once. Sharing is easy, too, thanks to integration with Flickr and Facebook; and a slideshow creator that makes generating a video from your favorite photos a snap.
Despite its many strengths, PhotoDirector is a mixed bag--it's more approachable than Lightroom, and it has some delightful editing tools. But the lack of a plug-in system and the inability to export photos for advanced editing limit this program's potential.