We still haven’t settled on a favourite way to take the photos we’ve assembled over the years and turn them into vivid, compelling slideshows, despite the appeal of Google’s free Picasa app, various online slideshow making tools and even Microsoft’s PhotoStory. PhotoDirector 2011 looks to have all the bases covered – support for the uncompressed RAW file format that photographers like so much, a comprehensive range of built-in, non-destructive editing tools, captions and transitions, plus the ability to export finished shows in a wide range of formats or share them directly via YouTube, Flickr and Facebook.
Like the rest of the Cyberlink range, PhotoDirector favours that white-on-black interface that recalls products by Magix and Xara; and because it ignores Windows’ standard interface conventions, you’ll discover the occasional frustrating dead end (what for example, is ‘Delete Selected Photo’ doing on the File menu?).
Most of the time, though, things are pretty intuitive and follow a standard workflow that makes sense – locate the photos you want to use, import them (or make a complete copy) into PhotoDirector, adjust the individual photos using the editing tools – more of which in a second – and then arrange them into a slide show.
Detailed photo editing
In terms of editing individual photos, you’ve got your standard slideshow stuff – red eye removal, crop, rotate and so forth – but where PhotoDirector makes its mark is in the amount of truly detailed editing you can do. For example, under certain lighting conditions digital cameras struggle to record the right colour ‘temperature’, which can result in an odd colour cast over the photo. PhotoDirector lets you alter the white balance to correct this, either by dragging simple sliders left or right or by using a spin box to make finer adjustments.
There are also controls for setting the exposure, highlights, contrast and shadows, as well as a range of presets (warm, retro, dreamland, loom) if you don’t fancy making the manual adjustments. There’s an excellent, highly configurable before-and-after view as well which makes it easy to see the effect of what you’re doing, and an Adjustment History panel so you can go back over the changes you’ve made.
Limited titles, transitions
In contrast to the wealth of photo editing features, adding titles is effective but primitive. You can’t animate titles to produce rolling credits, and although you can create a finished show in a couple of clicks, there are only three transition styles (Fade, Wipe Soft Left and Motion) – which seems a bit mean, especially at this price.
PhotoDirector only includes five music tracks, but you can add any MP3 or WMA file on your PC, and either set the program to fade at the end or alter the duration of the slideshow automatically to fit the music. Finished slideshows can be produced as H.264. AVC, MPEG-4 or good old WMV movies at various resolutions to suit, or uploaded directly to your YouTube, Flickr or Facebook account; the Facebook authorisation seemed to involve too many steps, but the process is generally easy enough.
- Sophisticated photo editing features.
- Limited titles and transitions.
PhotoDirector gets the first part of this business absolutely right by being serious about the kind of photos you can import (it supports JPG and TIFF as well as RAW), and then providing top-quality tools to improve their appearance, non-destructively, so you can revert to the original at any stage of the editing process. But the lack of good titling effects and tiny number of transitions mean the actual slideshow part's a bit limp. Fine for creating a good looking slideshow quickly, though.