PhotoImpact is rarely spoken of in the same breath as Adobe Photoshop or Jasc’s Paint Shop Pro. However, there’s good reason to push PhotoImpact XL, the latest version of Ulead’s product, well up there with the leading photo editors and bitmap painting programs under Windows.
PhotoImpact XL is a graphics program with a good pedigree, supplied with more printers and scanners than perhaps any other. Its feature set, from image manipulation, to layer management, to photo effects, is an easy match for the other heavyweights, but it fits ease-of-use quick fixes into its repertoire as well as professional tools.
One of the interesting new features is what Ulead calls High Dynamic Range. The idea here is that you take two or more digital photographs, bracketed at different exposures, and combine them together to produce good detail in both bright and dark areas of the same image. It works well, as long as you remember to take several shots of the same view, ideally with a tripod.
The new ExpressFix wizard follows six steps, enabling you to adjust overall and subject exposure, colour saturation, colour cast, focus and skin tones from linked dialogs. It does this by showing you direct comparisons of the effects of adopting the suggested adjustments. You simply choose the thumbnail that looks best at each stage.
New photo effects, such as adding a photorealistic moon at any of its phases to a night-time shot or enhancing a day-time photo with artificial sunlight, make it easy to produce unusual digital images. There’s even a filter which removes spherical or trapezoidal distortion to straighten out images from ‘fish-eye’ lenses.
Simple extensions to existing tools can make a big difference. The lasso tool, for example, now produces an outline with editable nodes, so you can adjust its shape around a selection before extracting part of a graphic from its background. This much-needed enhancement makes it much easier to create clean-cut collages from two or more photos cut together.
There are several extras supplied as standard with PhotoImpact XL. In the box are Photo Explorer 8 and PhotoImpact Album, a pair of applications which can be used to organise photo and media databases and to acquire, file and view these collections of images. There are 5,000 Hemera Photo Objects; professionally taken photos on white backgrounds for use in composing composites. And there’s COOL 360, software which transforms a series of individual photos into 360-degree panoramas.
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