Cyberlink PhotoDirector Review
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Cyberlink PhotoDirector is a stand alone photographic work flow tool designed to make editing and storing pictures a lot easier. Using powerful tools such as native RAW conversion for Canon and Nikon cameras, regional adjustments and non-destructive editing, PhotoDirector should be able to speed up your time sat in front of a computer to allow more time to get out and take pictures. After all, that's what photography is all about. Cyberlink PhotoDirector costs around £80 / $100 for the 2011 edition.
PhotoDirector is available for download from the Cyberlink website and is very easy to do. It's also available as a free trial so you can see if it works for you before you commit.
We downloaded the program from the website which took us around ten minutes with a half meg broadband connection. Installation only takes a few minutes and at this stage, Cyberlink will recommend to sign up to their newsletter to get special offers. This can be changed in your profile which is created when you register so don't worry if you say yes or no and then change your mind.
Starting out with the program is easy enough. Guide boxes will pop up to give an indication of what needs to be done next. Importing pictures can be done by going to file and selecting Import. You then get to choose if you want to import individual photos, an entire folder or directly from a camera. Alternatively, you can use the dedicated import button in the bottom left corner. An important point to note here is that when the window opens to navigate to the folder the pictures are in, the bottom right corner has a drop down box with file formats listed in it. This is defaulted to JPEG, meaning that any TIFF or RAW files won't show. Changing this to All files will show them all. Why a program promoting professional image conversion defaults JPEGs is unclear and it's certainly annoying because it always defaults to JPEG with no clear way of setting it to anything else permanently.
The program is compliant with all Canon and Nikon RAW file types because Cyberlink have licensed the SDK (Software Development Kit) from them. However when we downloaded a series of pictures into the program that were taken on a Canon EOS 60D, PhotoDirector flagged up an error message saying: "Cyberlink PhotoDirector is unable to decode the master". We contacted Cyberlink who were very fast at replying and correctly identified that the computer we were using hadn't had the latest driver updates for the graphics and sound card. A quick visit to the computer manufacturer's website fixed the issue and we could download the pictures properly after rebooting. We brought in around 60 pictures and it only took a couple of minutes which is good considering they're approximately over 20Mb each. This is because the pictures are shown in a minimal quality to speed up the processor but if you have the time, you can click on the cog (Preferences) at the top of the page, go to File Handling and change the preview quality there.
The program is split into 3 main parts: Library, Adjustment and Slideshow. The layout of the Library runs along a similar vein to Phase One's Capture Pro with the menus and options down the left side of the main viewing panel which is in itself split into two tabs: Project and Metadata. The Project tab is where the pictures are graded using a star rating system and you can also add keywords and create albums to place the pictures in. The initial work to do this will make it a lot easier to find them in the future. The Metadata tab simply shows the EXIF information of the picture that's highlighted in the preview window.
Cyberlink's PhotoDirector is also reminiscent of Corel's Paint Shop Pro with the thumbnail gallery towards the bottom although this can be changed to a list view if you prefer. This layout can be chopped and changed by clicking one of the three icons in the top left corner of the preview window. There's the option to remove the thumbnail gallery or remove the preview window. Next to this is a full screen option which removes everything. Pictures in the thumbnail section can be filtered using the 3 filters available. They can be flagged as selected or rejected, coloured labels can be added and you can also show pictures that have been adjusted or ones that haven't.
Pictures you've changed or finished with can be automatically uploaded to Flickr or Facebook using the Share button. This is a very popular thing to do these days and it's not just limited to young people.
After sorting the pictures, you can click over to the next part of the program to edit them. It's obviously not as extensive as a full photo editing system but there's plenty to do all the same. A histogram allows you to keep a track of the exposure while you make adjustments. There are 7 options: Regional Adjustment Tools, White Balance, Tone, Level, HSL/Colour, Detail and Vignette. This is similar to the adjustments available in Lightroom from Adobe. There are only 5 Regional Adjustment Tools which seems minimal at first but drilling down into each one opens up a lot more. Take, for example, the Adjustment Brush. The brush will adjust everything from exposure to contrast, saturation and colour. First the strength has to be selected using the slider system before placing the brush on the picture. The size of the brush can be adjusted at the top as well. Along the sliders are the values of the adjustment you make. These can be changed using the small up and down arrows but they don't always change in individual movements. Most do but there are a few rogues such as the Exposure slider in the Mask tab. If that's a problem and you'd like a more precise adjustment, double clicking the values will allow you to type in the number you want.
Adjustment - Exposure Mask
We found the brushes and especially the clone tool more difficult to use than the tools in Adobe Photoshop and this could possibly be because we're more used to the latter. The clone tool has the preview that CS4 has, which is handy and the more we used it, the more we liked the linking of the arrow to show which spot was coming from where. However, if the picture has a lot of these, they all remain in view and it can get cluttered. Places that have been adjusted can be highlighted by clicking on the small red button which will show the area adjusted in red. This colour can be changed in the tools on the left if need be.