Who was that masked woman? My girlfriend, getting a makeover from PhotoDirector

You don’t need expensive lotions to turn zits and wrinkles into flawless skin. Not if you have CyberLink PhotoDirector installed on your PC! In my last post, I played with this inexpensive photo editor’s presets, canned corrections you can apply to a photo for instant changes, such as turning a color picture into black and white. For today’s post, we’ll explore PhotoDirector’s manual image correction tools, which let do-it-yourselfers do the retouching. These are the same types of editing tools professional photographers use to make fashion models and celebrities look magazine perfect.

PhotoDirector’s manual image correction tools let you remove flaws.

To test PhotoDirector’s manual image correction tools, I imported a few shots of my girlfriend, Susan, taken at a restaurant. Now, Susan is extremely photogenic, but I was using a point-and-shoot camera in low light, not very flattering conditions. I thought she’d appreciate some digital touchups to remove the dark shadows under her eyes and smooth out her crow’s feet. Also, the photo didn’t do justice to her beautiful emerald eyes, so I pumped up the color.

It took less than 10 minutes to accomplish everything I set out to do, all without cracking a manual. And thanks to my laptop’s second-generation Intel Core processor, I was able to see each tweak instantly.

It was all a breeze using PhotoDirector’s adjustment brush, one of several Regional Adjustment Tools provided for making spot edits. This brush paints "masks," which in PhotoDirector are areas that can be edited, leaving the rest of the picture unaffected. (FYI, in other image editing programs, a mask is usually a protected part of the picture that you can’t edit.) I created three masks: One under the right eye, another under the left, and a third for the irises. (PhotoDirector conveniently lets you mask discontinuous areas.) Each mask you create is assigned its own color, represented by a dot on the photo. By clicking on the corresponding mask color in a pull-down menu you can easily jump back and forth between working on different parts of your shot. Handy!

From there, retouching Susan’s eyes was a simple matter of changing a few settings. For example, to zap the crow’s feet and dark circles, I nudged the exposure up, changed the contrast level, and decreased clarity and sharpness. To make her eyes greener, I tweaked color and saturation levels.

The adjustment brush lets you define specific areas for editing — called masks — indicated on this photo by red, yellow, and blue dots.

Whenever I went too far, I was able to step backward as many steps as I needed to, thanks to Cyberlink’s Adjustment History, a complete list of every tweak you’ve made. If you don’t like the final result, you can simply select a previous state that you liked, click Apply, and voila! You’re back to wherever you want to start from.

Better yet, this nondestructive editing works with JPEGs as well as RAW files (for more on RAW files, see my previous post). PhotoDirector edits a virtual copy or "instance" of the original JPEG, so no matter how many changes you make, you can revert to the original picture.

The Adjustment History tool lets you jump backward or forward in your edits, allowing you to experiment with RAW and JPEG photos fearlessly.

PhotoDirector includes many other powerful manual image editing tools that let you correct problems such as overexposure. Next time, I’ll show you how to clean up your shots by adjusting white balance, levels, and noise. I’ll also explain how to save and share you own editing presets!

[ This sponsored article was written by IDG Creative Lab, a partner of TechHive. ]

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