PhotoDirector Provides an Alternative for Photo Editing

When it comes to software developers of graphics and publishing applications, you've got your mega-corporations, like Adobe. Then there mid-sized companies, like Corel, which can still field a range of products. And many more are being cranked out by small shops, often the work of just a few passionate individuals. Many of these products are often as interesting, or more so, than those produced by the big guys. As such, has long championed the work of lesser-known developers, with our favorites being those that offer something fresh, such as an innovative interface, unexpected functionality, exceptional performance or even a remarkable value proposition — providing great value will never go out of style. An example of such a firm would be Serif, which over the last few years has shipped excellent, affordable image editing and vector illustration applications for Mac under the Affinity brand, with a beta Windows version of its vector illustration program currently available and its bitmap sibling soon to follow.

So when we recently came across Cyberlink we decided to check out its PhotoDirector photo editing program, which was recently updated. The Taiwan-based CyberLink rather immodestly refers to itself as "the world’s leading multimedia software company," which might come as a shock to Adobe. But the fact remains that it has been around since 1996 (who knew?) so we have to assume it has developed some expertise during those years. Simply surviving that long as a developer of graphics applications is quite an achievement. When you factor in a current development team of more than 500 engineers and a product line encompassing 30 offerings, you have to figure the company is here to stay.

The cross platform PhotoDirector comes in several editions, including Deluxe, Ultra and Suite. You can check out the differences but in a nutshell Deluxe is missing some essential functionality, such as layers, while Suite seems to simply include the ColorDirector application, a color grading tool for video. The Ultra version, which is under discussion here, is priced at one penny less than $100. By way of comparison, that's a bit less than a year of Adobe's Photography plan or ON1 Photo, and exactly the same as Photoshop Elements and the Windows-only PaintShop Pro X9 Ultimate. Affinity Photo will be just 50 bucks but a shipping Windows version won't be with us until next year. PhotoDirector is also part of the Director Suite bundle, which includes ColorDirector, AudioDirector and PowerDirector, a video editing solution.

As with all such programs PhotoDirector begins with extensive support for lens profiles and RAW file formats, followed with the ability to import, view, rate, tag and organise photos. Then there's a solid collection of blending modes; a robust selection of retouching tools; lots of filters, effects and blurs; content-aware fill; HDR creation; noise reduction; red eye removal; one-click presets; and layer support. All fine but nothing to raise an eyebrow about. However, things get more interesting with a series of touch-up tools to bring out the Kim Kardashian in all of us. Say hello to skin smoothing for removing wrinkles, blemishes, shine and eye bags. You say you want to slim faces or enlarge eyes — there are sliders for that! How about a dedicated Body Shaper tool? Yup. Need to bestow a glowingly healthy skin or that perfect tan? Handled.

Version 8 goes further in not playing catchup with Photoshop but instead adding fresh functionality. For example, several new features can extract imagery from Ultra HD 4K video and use it in creative ways. Simply selecting and saving crisp stills from a video is handy enough. But being able to select multiple stills and stitch them into a panorama makes perfect sense. You can also select a series of stills and merge them into a single image, to provide a sense of movement. Finally, you can create a single photo in which you choose the best faces from a video, which is a novel feature indeed. Also nifty is control over the strength, direction and position of motion blur effects (shown in the video below); converting to black and white while maintaining selected color objects; one-click toning; and templates that include the layer components of complex images, meant to serve as a way to learn compositing techniques.

In a nutshell, PhotoDirector provides some fresh thinking to the process of editing and optimizing your photographs. It would thus seem well worth checking out if you're searching for such a tool in the hundred dollar range. More information and a trial version is available on the CyberLink site.