Whether you shoot RAW images or JPEGs, and whether you're an amateur or a pro, if you own a digital camera, you probably have lots of digital images to file, sort, manipulate, and share. At a list price of $100 (as of November 2, 2011), CyberLink PhotoDirector 2011 aims to help you do just that.
Using PhotoDirector is easy and intuitive. Import your images--proprietary RAW formats from all well-known camera manufacturers, JPEG, or TIFF--directly into albums; flag, rate, and label them; duplicate or delete; sort by metadata; locate the original; and export. When you export images--individually or in a batch--PhotoDirector can add copyright information, resize images, and resave them as TIFF or JPEG files, among opther possibilities. You can also create and save profiles to standardize export options that you commonly use.
In addition to cataloging and manipulating your images, PhotoDirector lets you share images through Facebook or Flickr, or assemble a slideshow movie and share it as an AVC, MPEG, or WMV file (complete with MP3 soundtrack) on YouTube.
All of PhotoDirector's cataloging and sharing features are available in Google's Picasa and Microsoft's Windows Live Photo Gallery--which are free and do the job equally well. But PhotoDirector's image manipulation is much stronger. Though all three programs offer basic tools such as automatic contrast/color/temperature correction, crop, red eye removal, retouch, sharpen, and out-of-the-box effects, PhotoDirector delivers a level of control more reminiscent of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 ($299).
With PhotoDirector, improving images was a satisfyingly quick and easy process, and I appreciated the software's ability to undo applied features independently, without my having to backtrack or revert to the original. You can adjust white balance, tone, noise, saturation, and sharpness automatically or by using sliders.
Unlike with Lightroom, you can't import PSD files into the library; so if you use Photoshop to alter images in ways that PhotoDirector can't handle--such as flipping images, merging images, making panoramas, or adding text or layers--you can't use PhotoDirector's cataloging system to keep track of your 'shopped images.
PhotoDirector does give you access to two dozen presets--ranging from fantasy and retro color to traditional black-and-white--in the trial version, with more available to download for free. To create unique effects across multiple images, either copy effects and paste them onto other images, or click to create a new preset.
If you're looking for a reasonably priced image management system whose powers exceed those of free photo editing tools, try PhotoDirector. The catalog is only as good as the information you add to the database, but the ability to adjust your images quickly and effectively will make you look like a pro.