Photographic experimenters and artists are always looking out for new and exciting tools to expand their vision, and CyberLink PhotoDirector 9 does seem to offer some interesting and alternative approaches to photography, including 360 photo and video editing and crossover video and stills imaging. It’s also a pretty powerful all-in-one photo cataloguing, enhancing and editing tool, so that alone makes it worth a proper look.
CyberLink is a Taiwanese company with offices around the world. It’s been making its ‘Director’ software for some time, and it consists of PhotoDirector 9, for stills and some crossover video work, PowerDirector 16 for video, ColorDirector 6 for colour grading video and AudioDirector 8 for (obviously) audio editing.
You can get these programs individually or collectively as part of Director Suite 6. Clearly, there’s a pretty heavy bias towards video editing here, so stills photographers will be primarily interested in PhotoDirector 9.
This comes in two versions: Deluxe and a more powerful Ultra version. If you’re using a Mac, like me, there’s no Deluxe option, only Ultra.
PhotoDirector 9 is designed as an all-in-one photo organising, enhancing and editing tool. At first sight it looks like it might be setting itself up as competition for Lightroom (we’ll come on to that), but a closer look at its features shows it’s aiming at a the beginner/enthusiast market more at the level of Photoshop Elements, say.
For example, there’s a Face Swap feature for combining the best expressions from a series of photos to make one single ‘perfect’ group shot, and PhotoDirector can recognise faces automatically and offers face-tagging features. There’s also a section dedicated to cosmetic improvements (however you feel about this), such as skin smoothing, skin tone adjustments and face and body reshaping.
CyberLink wants anyone with a smartphone or a camera to be able to turn ordinary photos into works of art and it certainly offers lots of ways to experiment. Its Adjustments panel offers a selection of Preset effects and the option of downloading more from the CyberLink website – these presets are created both by CyberLink and its creative community.
More interestingly, CyberLink is embracing the latest developments in 360 imaging and new and interesting crossovers between stills and video. PhotoDirector 9 brings the ability to create animated GIFs from video clips for sharing on social media and websites. It can also create ‘living’ photos from video clips, by freezing parts of the scene while retaining movement in others.
Cyberlink gave a demo of the new features at our offices, and while you will probably need scenes to be shot with this living photo effect in mind, it did seem remarkably simple to do, using nothing more than a masking brush to identify areas with movement.
360 degree cameras might not be mainstream right now, but they are becoming more common and CyberLink is clearly keen to exploit their creative potential. With PhotoDirector you can edit 360 images directly, creating flat (planar) panoramas or circular ‘tiny planets’.
It’s not all about 360 imaging and video tools, though. PhotoDirector 9 also has new features aimed at more advanced mainstream photography. It supports Raw files directly and has more than 100 automatic lens correction profiles – not as many as Lightroom or DxO Optics Pro, perhaps, but better than nothing, and you can always resort to the software’s manual distortion and keystone corrections if you need to.
The Layers module now supports blending modes, and the is a new Express Layer Templates option for creating layered compositions quickly.
Other new features include a Dehaze tool to eliminate fog, smoke or haze, a Defringe tool for removing chromatic aberration and purple fringing, Photo Blending options for combining multiple photos into a single image and content-aware object moving.
HOW DOES PHOTODIRECTOR WORK?
The visual similarities between PhotoDirector 9 and Lightroom are very strong. If Adobe ever made a ‘Lightroom Elements’, it would almost certainly look like this. Along the top is a row of buttons for the different modules and these are: Library, Adjustment, Edit, Layers, Create and Print.
You start out in the Library module, where you need to import your images into the PhotoDirector 9 library before you can do anything with them. It’s pretty quick and, once they’re imported, they appear in a Folders panel on the left of the screen, with the option of adding them to Albums – PhotoDirector 9 also supports Smart Albums.
Images are displayed as thumbnails in the main window, as single images (when you double-click) in full screen mode or in a combined filmstrip/preview window. To work on an image, you select it and swap to whichever module you want to use.