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CyberLink PhotoDirector 2011 review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £64
inc VAT

A promising low-cost clone of Lightoom. Unless you batch process images regularly Photoshop Elements is more flexible for a similar price

Anyone familiar with Adobe Lightroom 3 will do a double-take when they see PhotoDirector 2011. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and we can see why CyberLink would want a slice of the Lightroom action. We’ve long been fans of the Adobe’s photo editing tool and in our review of the latest version, back in June 2010, we were impressed with the addition of lens profile correction.

PhotoDirector 2011 may lack this feature, but it has just about everything else. Even those who haven’t used Lightroom will quickly get used to the workflow of PhotoDirector: import, tag, edit and export. Efficiency is one of the main attractions of Lightroom, and it’s no different here.

PhotoDirector 2011 Library

The application is divided into three main components: Library, Adjustment and Slideshow. Library takes care of the organisational side of things and allows you to import and tag your entire photo collection, or just particular folders. You can search for images based on a range of information from keywords and whether the photo has been edited yet to any EXIF data such as shutter speed and aperture. You can’t, however, find photos taken with a specific lens. As with Lightroom, you can flag, reject and rate images. As long as you spend some time doing this for all your imported photos, you can quickly track down the best photos from each event later on.

The Adjustment section, naturally, is where you’ll spend most of your time in PhotoDirector. There’s plenty of scope for viewing images and adjustments, including the useful option to use a second monitor for a full-screen preview of the adjusted shot. If you don’t have this luxury, you can opt for a split-screen view with the original on the left or top, and the effect of the adjustments shown on the right or bottom. It’s easy to flip between full-screen and editing views but, unlike Lightroom’s layout with toolbars on the left and right of the image, PhotoDirector has controls on the left only.

PhotoDirector 2011 before after

You have the choice of manual editing or choosing from a list of presets. The order of tools is identical to Lightroom, but they cover just about everything you need. It’s simple to correct white balance errors, even with JPEGs, but RAW files from all the popular cameras are also supported. Other tools include tone, levels, colours, sharpening, noise reduction and vignette correction.

Adjusting a slider prompts a real-time update in the photo, but we found it could take a second or two for it to update on a second monitor. Using the regional correction tools you can quickly remove red-eye, spots and blemishes. Lightroom’s gradient tool is present, allowing you to boost contrast in skies, like having a virtual ND grad filter. It isn’t quite as polished here as in Lightroom, but it gets the job done. Rotating and cropping images is also possible, but there’s no dedicated ‘straighten’ tool to quickly correct a wonky horizon.

As PhotoDirector is non-destructive, it’s merely the adjustments which are saved: your original photos are untouched. You can, of course, save your edited photos to new files and there’s an array of options to choose from when you click the Export… button. As well as the files’ location and filenames, you can also specify the output format, quality and size. You can prevent unedited images being re-compressed, resize images to specific dimensions (but prevent them being made larger than the original) and also sharpen them automatically. Since you can save the settings as profiles, it’s simple to create several sets of the same images, perhaps one for printing and one for Facebook. In fact, PhotoDirector allows you to upload directly to Facebook and Flickr and there’s a slideshow creator where you can produce an HD video for YouTube complete with background music.

PhotoDirector 2011 gradient

PhotoDirector 2011 is a good budget option for anyone baulking at Lightroom’s price. There’s room for improvement, though. We’d like to see more keyboard shortcuts in the next version (a free upgrade is included in the license) and also the option to output a slideshow that can be embedded in your own website.

Another hitch is that the latest version of Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 costs a similar amount, has superior editing tools and supports layers. There’s also easy automatic photo fixes, plus the fun Guided Edit mode for some creative results. If you were considering Lightroom but couldn’t justify the expense, PhotoDirector is a fine choice. For those who want the option of working with layers and masks, Photoshop Elements is the better buy.


Price £64
Rating ***

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