CyberLink PhotoDirector 3 review: Lightroom streamlined

CyberLink PhotoDirector 3 is out, and we’ve decided to put it through its paces. Not just by reviewing it, but by putting it up against the number one PC photo management and editing tool – Adobe Lightroom 3. Can it topple the editing giant?


Yes – if you’re a beginner

There’s a lot to like about CyberLink PhotoDirector 3, from the cute loading animation to some pretty powerful features. The real selling point, however, is ease-of-use.

PhotoDirector 3 has streamlined Lightroom’s editing interface, increased the font size and generally made navigating the complicated options of something like Lightroom much easier.

Rather than digging through the options of Lightroom, all the most commonly used features for amateur photographers are available as big, obvious options – “People Beautifier” is one, “Photo Effects”, “Remove Objects”, “Watermarks”. They’re all useful, automated options that are a bit hidden in Lightroom and have been put to the fore in Cyberlink’s product.

Each option comes with a mini-tutorial as you use them, providing instructions on how to use it. It’s super-user friendly, and could really bring these editing tools to the masses.

Check out the intro video:

Unfortunately, it’s all a bit slow. Even on our behemoth of a computer (12GB RAM, SSD hard drive, Intel Something Amazing Processor) piling on too many effects causes the program to return long waiting times between actions. In fairness to Cyberlink, it does tell you that the image is loading, rather than just leaving you hanging and hoping for the best.

Lightroom 3 – the older product – has no such problem on our computer. This may be a set-up thing, but perhaps some of the automation from Cyberlink has caused some slow-down – enough to provide a mild irritation for users.

The presets are also superior to Lightroom’s – if you’re looking to turn your family and friends into models. There are some other types, but the selection feels like they’ve all been set to make people more beautiful, rather than enhance any artistic quality of the photographs.

Our biggest concern, however, is intellectual property theft. PhotoDirector 3 is like a large-fonted twin of Lightroom, from the grey-on-grey theme, to the walk-through style editing menu at the top, to the layout of the image editing tools. Really, Cyberlink, we know Lightroom is good – but did you have to go for something so similar?

The similarities really annoy us, because PhotoDirector 3 could be a stand-up tool even without copying Lightroom so closely. And there are a bunch of things about Lightroom that annoy us (including ease-of-use) that CyberLink could have fixed. Still, if you’re an amateur photographer and feel daunted by Lightroom’s options, then PhotoDirector is the tool for you.