Ulead PhotoImpact 11 review

Price when reviewed

PhotoImpact has always tried to help the non-expert user make the most of their camera and enjoy themselves in the process. And the program’s interface has seen a complete overhaul in this release, with redesigned icons, toolbars and palettes.

Newcomers can take advantage of Basic Photo mode (commonly useful tools), while Advanced Mode means all power is at hand. You can even create your own mode. This is a nice touch, but a residue of indecipherable command icons and idiosyncratic filter dialogs means there’s still work to be done.

In terms of dedicated photo management, Ulead bundles Photo Explorer 8.6, which provides folder browsing and album management along with the odd advanced feature such as VCD output and RAW/DNG support. In addition, PhotoImpact offers its own dedicated File Browser; this supports camera downloading and EXIF data display, and you can now apply effects and corrections directly from the EasyPalette.

PhotoImpact offers a comprehensive, if rather odd, set of corrections and filters. Two of the better new options correct the purple fringing caused by chromatic aberration and white-balance problems, while a third lets you add subtle vignette effects. More fundamental is the new support for high-end 48-bit images, although this only applies to the most common adjustments. For 24-bit photos, PhotoImpact offers its High Dynamic Range command, which lets you process multiple exposures of the same shot to generate maximum tonal range in both shadows and highlights. The new SmartCurves command attempts to do the same for single images based on known camera response curves or on customised profiles.

PhotoImpact also tackles image compositing, with a new Object Extraction Wizard for pulling complex objects out from their background, plus layer mask handling. There are also some unique montaging capabilities. Its existing Z-Merge capability adds apparent depth to your compositing, while SmartRemove makes it easy to remove or combine elements from multiple versions of the same shot.

PhotoImpact offers both good value and some surprising power. However, competition is fierce and most users would gain greater benefit from the more focused Photoshop Elements 4.

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