Organizer/Editors: A few comparisons

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JMoochie Contributing Member • Posts: 510
Organizer/Editors: A few comparisons

I recently embarked on a quest to update my 10-year old Elements 9, Lightroom 5, and Picasa 3. This comparison is from one who is more an on and off dabbler in photography than a hyper-serious pixel tweaker. My priorities are easy photo downloads and retrieval, easy and effective editing, and the absence of program glitches. I may spend hours per day for a few weeks, and then ignore the hobby for a few months, so I don't want a high learning curve again when I return. My search for an updated app is limited to basic to mid-level software from free to $100.

Here is my experience.

First, the older programs can do 90% of what the newer programs do. So the investment of another $30 to $100 in an updated program is questionable unless you just want the latest and greatest or are drawn to a newer feature. The newer programs update camera models, lens databases, and RAW file choices. Some also have made great advances in applying artificial intelligence in identifying and cataloging image content and refining image quality.

A disappointing surprise is that there has been virtually NO progress made in email integration. The options for email clients are very limited. And for those that are available, contact lists have to be created from scratch. The exception, of course, is Google Photos and probably others I'm not aware of. So for many, it may be easier just to "export" the images to a folder or desktop and then upload them to your favorite email client.

Free apps are great for quick downloads, sharing, and storage plus making tweaks to brightness, contrast, exposure, cropping, leveling, and several additional settings. Amazon Photos, Faststone Image Viewer, and Google Photos have very usable versions of these apps. Even photo sharing sites like Flickr, Smugmug, and Photobucket have very decent, but basic photo editing abilities.

BTW, until recently I've used Picasa 3.   Many still use it.  Google replaced it with Google Photos which most users don't like as well. But, Faststone Image Viewer is a worthy replacement, more so than Google Photos.  While Faststone doesn't have a lot of editing options, but no fewer than Picasa had, it is an excellent organizer/viewer, which it is designed to do.   As far as editing, I have it's edit options linked to both my Element 2021 and CyberLink Photo Director 12. It's email function link automatically to the Mozilla Firebird I had already set up for Photo Director.

I downloaded and looked at six of the apps that seemed to best fit my priorities. The ones I considered included:

ACDSee

Gimp

Digikam

Photoshop Elements 2021

CyberLink Photo Director 12

Magix Photo manager

These range in price from free (Digikam) to $100, depending on the promotion of the moment.

I eliminated ACDSee, Gimp, and Digikam from more serious consideration because the interface was not as easy to navigate as what I have become accustomed to. Digikam, being free, would be great for the individual on a budget and who has two additional characteristics: Has the motivation to learn a relatively complex interface (in my opinion) but who also wants to do more complex/thorough edits, which this software can definitely do, perhaps more than the others on my list. I eliminated Magix Photo Manager because it was a bit more basic than I wanted lacking an integrated print utility and a couple of other "nice to haves" which I don't recall at the moment.

The ones I am keeping for now for further evaluation are Photoshop Elements 2021 and CyberLink Photo Director 12.

A bit about each:

Photoshop Elements 2021 (PSE)

I thought it was a no brainer to update my old version to this new one. I expected a lot of interface and cataloging improvements. But no. The same folder/filing/duplicates/disconnect/catalog quirks that existed in Elements 9 exist here. But worse.

First there was downloading of duplicate images from one of my cameras when using a USB cable, but not with a direct SD card inserted into the computer. That was hard to figure.

Then there was the conflict of the Organizer with the auto Task Bar setting in Windows 10 that caused the Organizer to freeze upon opening.

Next, when attempting to use the Collage feature, upon saving, it produced a "disconnected" alert and no collage.

I would estimate I spent at least 6 hours on each of the above quirks to either learn of a workaround or a fix. The latter "collage" issue was solved only by saving the collage via "save as" to a different folder than the original image was in. Who knew? It was not documented just as most filing protocols are not documented well in Elements throughout the ages.

So why would I keep this program?

Ultimately, I either solved or can live with the above-mentioned quirks. Secondly, it has amazing photo "Search" qualities. Search "dog". All your dogs will show up WITHOUT typing in any tags in specific photos. Same for "house", "tree" "plane" and several dozen other pre-defined AI words in the program.

Face identification and naming are excellent, a touch easier than Cyberlink's.

It also has the fastest responding thumbnail retriever of all the others. I can have 50 very small thumbnails on the screen and scroll down as fast as I want and they are all displayed for quick searches - without having to wait a second or four for them to load.

And finally, its Guided Edits are more useful than most. I replaced a drab sky with its AI in just a couple of minutes whereas older versions would take me a lot of trial and error before I succeeded.

The PSE forum is helpful and responsive, except for the fact that one of the helpful guys goes roundabout with his explanation without directly answering my questions. It takes two or three tries to nail down what I need to know.

Cyberlink Photo Director 12

This has been the more solid download between the two. No cataloging issues. All very glitch-free.

The interface is very easy to learn and use.

The loading of thumbnails on this app on my computer is a bit slow. They are fully loaded on my initial screen, but as I scroll down, loading "circles" begin to twirl on a number of thumbnails, often taking a second or two, sometimes longer, to fully load. I find it interesting that on the same computer system, two different Organizer apps can be worlds apart in their speed. For some reason, the "File" pull-down menu often takes a couple of seconds to display.

Face ID is very good, just a touch behind PSE. But the search feature is not nearly as good as PSE. No built-in AI to automatically id photo content as in PSE.

The Cyberlink forum is both responsive and their answer to questions directly to the point.

While I have not found the "Guided Edits" function to be as useful as in PSE, I have found the photo editing options to be more useful and effective.

For example, I took a photo of a group of guys at an indoor table where I was facing the brightly lit window behind the last guy. So the image had widely varying contrast between the front and back of the photo, with a washed-out appearance of the guys in the back near the window.

Here is the comparison of the shot from the camera (Galaxy S9+ phone), the first being directly out of the camera, next edited with PSE and then with Photo Director. The two edited photos (2 and 3) were "quick and dirty" (mostly dirty), to see what I could do in about 2 minutes with each. I have no doubt that more in-depth knowledge and experience with each app would yield better results:

Original out of the camera, Samsung Galaxy S9+

The best I could manage in PSE in 2 minutes

Two minutes or less with Photo Director 12, mostly using its very useful HDR control.

Below is an example of a photo fix I could not readily find in Photo Director after a brief search, but I found in the Guided Edits of PSE 2021. This involved replacing a drab sky with a colorful one. It took about 2 minutes to figure out how to do it:

So, all things considered, I have learned that every Organizer/Editor has its pros and cons. It could be worthwhile for many of us to have more than one on their computer. In fact, I have about 5 or 6 on mine, including Elements, Photo Director, the ancient Picasa, the 10-year old Elements (which by the way is more solid than the 2021 version), Lightroom (smoother, more refined settings for everything), and both Amazon and Google Photos.

 JMoochie's gear list:JMoochie's gear list
Fujifilm FinePix HS50 EXR Nikon Coolpix P950 Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 Samsung Galaxy S9+ +3 more
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