Review of PhotoWorks: a Fresh and Fast Photo Editor for PC

The post Review of PhotoWorks: a Fresh and Fast Photo Editor for PC appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.

PhotoWorks is an image editor with a fresh, clean interface and a set of tools that work intelligently to get the best from your photos. It helps you turn drab files into spectacular pictures within a few clicks – sometimes only one! The software’s Portrait Magic technology uses face recognition to add expert retouching edits to your photos. A host of other handy features make the PhotoWorks photo editor for PC an enticing proposition.

PhotoWorks interface

The histogram is a constant when you edit in PhotoWorks. It’s good to see a program that knows its value.

Who’s it for?

Automatic photo editing is the forte of PhotoWorks, but the software doesn’t do everything. It doesn’t offer the huge toolbox that many other programs do, with so much thrown in that you have to rummage endlessly to find what you want. It’s designed for ease of use and speed, which will appeal to beginners and casual photographers but might catch the eye of a few veterans, too.


The clean, minimalistic interface of PhotoWorks. All edits are memorized by the software, so they’re non-destructive.

In this review, I’ll look at everything PhotoWorks has to offer. I feel like I’ll enjoy it because this photo editing software for PC isn’t an unwieldy monster with innumerable needless features. PhotoWorks seems knowable from the first time you open it. You can jump in without facing a steep learning curve, though there are good tutorials available online if you need help. Let’s see what it can do.

Opening raw files

Raw files are always an obvious place to start when reviewing a photo editor for PC. Can PhotoWorks handle them? It’s not billed as a raw processor, but it does open most proprietary raw files in addition to Adobe’s standard DNG files.

When you open raw files in PhotoWorks, you have the option of applying one of six profiles to them: Default, Auto Enhancement, Landscape, Portrait, Sunny Day or Black & White. With the Default profile, all the settings in PhotoWorks are zeroed when you open the file, whereas the others are Presets with adjusted sliders.

photoworks-photo-editor-for-pc - raw conversion

You’re presented with six starting points when opening raw files. The default conversion opens automatically on the page.

PhotoWorks is really a pixel editor. It converts individual raw files quickly and the quality is okay – good, even – but problems like chromatic aberration (CA) and chroma noise are present if you examine images at 100%. Should you view images at 100%? Only if you’re creating big prints or trying to impress third parties with technical quality. And if you’re doing that, you may not belong to the target market for this software, though PhotoWorks has potentially wide appeal.

chomatic abberation - CA

PhotoWorks does not currently fix chromatic aberration or purple fringing. If you’re the type of photographer who scrutinizes image quality and needs impeccable files, you could run them through a dedicated raw converter first.

By pairing PhotoWorks with a separate raw processor (e.g. RawTherapee, Darktable), “serious” photographers could have the basis of an efficient workflow. That’d be good for, say, wedding photographers, who would also benefit from the software’s intelligent retouching capabilities. We’ll look at those in more detail later, but for now, it suffices to say they’re good.

Saving the PhotoWorks way

Not long after firing up PhotoWorks, you’ll notice there’s no way to close images. This is unusual, to say the least, but it’s another form of streamlining. You can save edited files and move onto the next image. Your edits are stored, even if you move on without saving, and you have the option of resuming them or starting afresh when you go back to the file. This is true even if you close the program. Edits are non-destructive.

Both Save and Fast Export let you export a separate copy of the edited file in the format of your choice, the main difference being that you choose the format beforehand with Fast Export. You can select from JPEG, TIFF (8-bit compressed), PNG and BMP.


The Enhancement tab is where you make changes to color and tone in your image. It includes an Auto Correction feature that aims to transform your photos in a single click, but you can alter its effect if you want. For instance, let’s say you’re already happy with the tonal range but would like more color, you could switch off the dynamic range and add vibrance to Auto Correction. Plus, there’s a slider that adjusts the strength of the auto effect.

PhotoWorks image enhancement

PhotoWorks includes a blue sky enhancement, which makes it easy to deepen the blue of the sky whilst also warming the photo up. Those two edits are normally at odds with each other.

Most of the color and tone sliders you’d expect to find in top-end software are in the Enhancement section of PhotoWorks under the Main tab. They give you as much manual control as you want. The workspace is so tidily laid out that it puts some established photo-editing brands to shame. The design is thoughtful and user-friendly, and it makes you want to linger. You even get to suggest features you’d like to see.

Two more tabs under Enhancement are Colors and Sharpness. The first lets you adjust hue, saturation, lightness (HSL) and color balance. The Sharpen tool is basically an unsharp mask, and there’s a blur section where you could create dreamy soft-focus effects or counteract over-sharpening. It’s all useful stuff, and the confusing terminology is notably left out.


A slightly de-sharpened image focuses attention on form rather than detail. That’s where the PhotoWorks Blur tool is useful. It works well with busy compositions.


Move along to the Tools tab in PhotoWorks and a carefully selected set of powerful tools reveals itself to the right of the screen. There are not a hundred little tool icons as with complex programs. Some of the tools, like Curves or Tone Mapping, offer an alternative and perhaps more advanced way of working with your pictures. Seasoned photographers will be familiar with these features.


The PhotoWorks crop tool includes a modern set of aspect ratio presets that fit today’s devices or social media pages perfectly. Of course, you can also use the original aspect ratio, choose a different ratio or crop the photo freely. There’s nothing much missing here. You can rotate the picture, which helps get horizons level or to achieve the most effective composition.

AMS Software, the creator of PhotoWorks, also offers a choice of grid overlays to assist you with composition when cropping. For example, you can choose a Rule of Thirds or Golden Ratio grid to help you decide what to include and where. My only slight gripe here is that the grid lines are often a little hard to see: maybe a different color or opacity control would help.

the golden spiral crop composition

The Golden Spiral crop grid in PhotoWorks.

Geometry (correcting perspective and distortion)

You can correct the perspective of architectural photos using the Geometry tools in PhotoWorks. Like in most photo editors for computers, there’s no auto adjustment, so you have to alter the vertical and/or horizontal perspective yourself using the sliders, but this is generally an easy task.

correcting lens distortion

In this pic, you can clearly see the effects of lens distortion on the window frame. In the inset, I’ve corrected it using the distortion slider.

Correcting optical aberrations such as pincushion or barrel distortion is also possible in this section. Some programs will do this for you with the help of lens profiles, but you can do it easily yourself with the assistance of the included grid and distortion slider.

Change background

PhotoWorks makes it easy to change the background of your photo, so if you want to transplant a better sky or create a composite picture, you can. The process of separating the subject from its background is simple. You draw a green line with the object brush, a red line with the background brush, and then you let the software work its magic. Typically, you need to refine the edge a bit using the same brushes, which could become labor-intensive with intricate subjects. For many photos, the process works fine. There’s even a choice of free-to-use pictures you can add as backgrounds, or you can upload your own.

PhotoWorks - change background

The Change Background feature in PhotoWorks separates subjects from their background with ridiculous ease. I’m not sure there’s enough finesse for complex selections (e.g. fur or fine strands of hair), but there’s a lot of fun to be had.


The vignetting tool lets you correct vignetting that occurs naturally with your lens. You can brighten edges and corners for even exposure. It also lets you add a vignette as a creative effect, focusing the viewer’s attention more on the subject of the picture. This photo editor for PC provides all the controls you need to fine-tune this edit.

3D LUT Color Correction

Color LUTs might just as accurately be called “special effects” since they remap the color of your photos to create a different look. PhotoWorks offers a nice built-in selection of them as well as letting you upload your own in the form of cube files. You can’t save your own LUTs within the software, hence you can’t preview them either, but I’m glad to see this feature in PhotoWorks.

PhotoWorks review - color LUTs

This is the “Drama” color LUT. Interestingly, it compresses the tonal range. In doing so, maybe it makes the viewer feel more hemmed in and on edge.

Tone Mapping & Curves

PhotoWorks includes tone mapping and curves tools for controlling color and tone. Tone mapping lets you overlay a color or texture. You could apply a color to a black-and-white image here for a duotone effect. The curves tool adjusts contrast, changes color temperature, and tint and even corrects color if you use the individual RGB curves.

PhotoWorks - tone mapping

A black & white photo turned into a duotone (i.e. a mix of black and blue) using the Tone Mapping tool in PhotoWorks.

Noise Reduction and Grain

There are tools for reducing digital noise or adding film-like grain in PhotoWorks. This photo editing software for PC doesn’t separate color noise from luminance noise, which would be a nice feature for more advanced photographers. But it will smooth and improve the look of high ISO photos.

The film-grain effect is generally better looking than digital noise in photos. You can add that to give your photos an authentic retro look from the days of analog photography.


Some of the headlining features of PhotoWorks fall under its Retouch section. The software harnesses the power of face recognition technology to automatically enhance portraits. You can use its Portrait Magic or Face Sculpt technology to retouch faces and show your subjects at their best.

Portrait Magic

A remarkable feature of PhotoWorks is its Portrait Magic feature, which lets you automatically or manually remove blemishes and enhance portraits. Its toolset includes the following:

  • Skin smoothing
  • Control over redness (improve blotchy skin)
  • Skin tone
  • Eyes (sharpness, contrast, remove dark circles)
  • Eyebrows (sharpness, contrast)
  • Lips (sharpness, contrast, hue, saturation, luminance & glare)
  • Teeth (whiteness)
PhotoWorks portrait magic

It may be hard to see the difference here, but Portrait Magic is good at damping down glare on the skin (aka “face shine”). There are many quick fixes to choose from as well as full manual control. (Image: Pexels)

Even if you know how to fix these things already, this technology saves time. It’s easy to imagine it being useful to pro portrait and wedding photographers. The best results are achieved by addressing issues one-by-one, but there’s a set of quick-fix buttons available to speed things up. You have to be careful with it because the software isn’t infallible. For instance, a pair of glasses get in the way of removing dark circles accurately.

Portrait Magic is so good that you could buy this software for that alone. It’s a great photo editor app for pc or laptop.

Face Sculpt

Just when you thought you’d seen amazing things with Portrait Magic, along comes Face Sculpt. Move a slider and watch the software identify and alter a specific part of the face. You can do these things manually in Photoshop using warp tools and the like, but boy is it easy with PhotoWorks: a deft picture editor and retoucher in one.

PhotoWorks - face sculpt

I’ve done nothing to this photo except turn a hint of a smile into a stronger hint. Like Portrait Magic, Face Sculpt is a powerful tool that can totally transform a portrait. The technology behind it is remarkably precise. Subtle edits often work best. (Original image: Pixabay)

Maybe we should all just accept the way we look, but contrary to popular belief, the camera does lie. It’s easy to take an unflattering portrait because of technical reasons, whether it’s an unflattering camera angle, harsh lighting, poor timing or lens distortion. PhotoWorks lets you remedy such problems.

Face Sculpt enables you to reshape or resize eyes, noses, mouths, eyebrows, and the face itself. You can even turn a frown into a smile. Used subtly, it creates different versions of the truth rather than outright lies. And if it helps the subject feel good about themselves, that can’t be a bad thing.

Healing and Cloning Tools

Healing and Cloning tools in PhotoWorks are also first rate. The clone stamp auto-samples from a similar area and gives you the option of changing the sample location. It’s quick and efficient, and no intervention is usually necessary. The Healing Brush is even faster for fixing small blemishes (e.g. dust spots).

Adjustment Brush

There aren’t any layers in PhotoWorks, but you can carry out local edits with the adjustment brush. Users of Lightroom will be familiar with the concept. Color, tone, and sharpness can all be selectively adjusted anywhere on the image. You can also deal with chromatic aberration by brushing neatly over edges and turning Saturation down, though a dedicated tool would be better.

PhotoWorks - adjustment brush

It’s out of fashion, I know, but here’s a quick demo of selective coloring with the Adjustment Brush on PhotoWorks. This Lightroom-style feature offers infinite possibilities without being as daunting to beginners as layers are.

Graduated Filter and Radial Filter

The Graduated Filter and Radial Filter offer alternative ways of making local adjustments to one or more parts of an image. Whether it’s tone, color or sharpness you’re adjusting, these retouching tools make it easy to emphasize your subject. You can also even up your exposures (e.g. the classic dark foreground and bright sky) and bring out shadow detail. Characteristically, these features are neatly designed and easy to use in PhotoWorks.

graduated filters post processing

Two graduated filters are in play here – one to brighten and warm up the lower half of the photo and another to reduce exposure in the sky a little.

Special Effects

With over 150 special effects to choose from, PhotoWorks gives you plenty of ways to interpret each photo. In the Special Effects section of the software, you can add any effect you like and then adapt it to suit your tastes if you want. Hitting the “Apply” button takes you over to the Enhancements area of the software, where you can tweak color, tone, and sharpness.

Image: A quite pleasing special effect to my eye (Faded Photo -1) and one of over 150 special effect...

A quite pleasing special effect to my eye (Faded Photo -1) and one of over 150 special effects available in PhotoWorks.

I personally like adding textures to photos, so it was good to find a few textured effects among the collection. There is also a Quick Enhancements selection, which gives further opportunity for one-click fixing. You can favorite effects so they’re easy to find later on.

A Photographic Films section attempts to replicate the look of various classic films. It’s fun to play around with these effects, which you could find yourself using again and again in some cases.

Captions (add text and stickers)

Whatever you normally do with your photos, there might come a time when you want to add text to them. Maybe you’re making a Christmas card or designing a flyer. You could be creating memes for social media and entertaining your friends. PhotoWorks photo editor app for PC includes a versatile set of tools to help you create the text you want in the font, color, and style of your choice. A sticker collection lets you add cartoon-like captioning for extra fun.

Review of PhotoWorks: a Fresh and Fast Photo Editor for PC


Beneath the minimalistic surface, PhotoWorks offers a powerful set of tools that are easy to use regardless of your level. The way the software exploits face recognition technology is magical, indeed.

There are a few nuts-and-bolts things I would like to see in PhotoWorks, such as chromatic aberration removal, more nuanced noise reduction and an exposure warning to help with histogram adjustments (aka levels). The ability to export 16-bit TIFFs would be nice. At some point, though, if you keep adding stuff, the program ends up complex like many others and loses its streamlined appeal.

Design-wise, PhotoWorks positively gleams. It has a beautifully clean interface, uses simple terminology that everyone can understand, and gets a lot of work done with minimal effort. Whether you use it alone or alongside other photo editors for PC, it’s definitely worth a look.

You can download a free trial version and explore the features of the program yourself. Or use the exclusive coupon for dPS readers to purchase PhotoWorks at a 50% discount now!

Disclaimer: PhotoWorks is a paid dPS partner.



The post Review of PhotoWorks: a Fresh and Fast Photo Editor for PC appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.

Recovery Toolbox for Photoshop: Rescue Your Damaged Adobe Photoshop Files

The post Recovery Toolbox for Photoshop: Rescue Your Damaged Adobe Photoshop Files appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Have you ever endured the stress of dealing with a corrupted Photoshop PSD file? It’s not such a common problem, but when it happens it can invoke serious mental and emotional hardship. Let me introduce you to a little software tool that can be of great help to photographers, designers, and anyone else who uses Adobe Photoshop – the Recovery Toolbox for Photoshop.

Fully recovered corrupted PSD file

How PSD files become corrupt

Imagine spending hours post-processing a photo you’ve captured or graphic you have created. It’s one of your best. You’ve worked through some tutorials, and been inspired to create a masterpiece of digital art.
You’ve put the final touches to it and hit Save, and then the power goes out. Your file has not saved correctly. Or you’ve saved it to a hard drive with bad sectors. Even when you revive the drive, the PSD file will not open. These are events that create nightmares.
There are other ways PSD files become corrupted and Photoshop won’t open them. At times, all you’ll see is an error message.
Other times the file will open but will be incomplete. Layers may be missing, or the file may have been flattened. Maybe all you’ll see is digital noise.
Recovery Toolbox for Photoshop: Rescue Your Damaged Adobe Photoshop Files
You may have encountered similar file retrieval problems with bad memory cards or hard drives. These situations require specialized software that can recover files and rebuild them.

Adobe Photoshop Repair Tool

Adobe Photoshop Repair Tool from Recovery Toolbox is specifically designed to reclaim and repair damaged Photoshop PSD files. It’s not a tool you will use every day (hopefully), but when you do need to, it can save you considerable stress and maybe hours of work.

This small piece of dedicated software opens and restores PSD files. Often it will manage to completely restore a file which Photoshop refuses to open. Other times it will work partially. You might get most of your layers back, but not all of them. At this stage, however, it is only available for users of Windows 98 and above.

How it works

Step 1:

Open Recovery Toolbox for Photoshop and select the file you are having issues with. Click ‘Next’.

Step 2:

The ‘View Data’ window will open. Here you have a breakdown of what the Recovery Toolbox for Photoshop can see in the corrupted file. If the file has multiple layers, click on the ‘Layers’ drop-down in the left-hand panel to view them.
In the right-hand panel, there are two tabs. Click on the ‘Picture’ tab for a preview of each layer.

Step 3:

Choose your target file and the layers you want to recover. In this step, you can also select or deselect certain layers you want to recover.
Recovery Toolbox for Photoshop: Rescue Your Damaged Adobe Photoshop Files

Step 4:

Click ‘Recover’ and the software will work its magic. Once the recovery process is completed, click the ‘Show Result’ button to open the recovered file in Photoshop. It’s as easy as that.
Recovery Toolbox for Photoshop: Rescue Your Damaged Adobe Photoshop Files


Whether you’re a keen amateur or a professional photographer, this software will help you out when Photoshop fails to open a file. This might mean the difference in saving time rebuilding an image, or it might save your skin and keep a valuable client.
This Recovery Toolbox for Photoshop works on any PSD file saved from Photoshop version three or later, and recovers files with .psd and .8bps extensions.

Working through the easy steps is fast and allows for some control in the layers you choose to repair. I found that when testing this software, it was not necessary to do this, but the feature allows for flexibility with more problematic files.

This software is specifically designed to read, analyze, and recover your PSD files.

When testing this software, I purposefully produced a series of damaged PSD files, corrupting them in different ways. While saving a multi-layered PSD file, I rebooted my computer while the file was in the process of writing to a hard drive. I also saved the file to a thumb drive which I removed before fully saving the image. I did this at various stages in the process of saving. In these instances, the Recovery Toolbox for Photoshop was not able to restore my files even when they’d been nearly through the saving process.

Recovery Toolbox for Photoshop: Rescue Your Damaged Adobe Photoshop Files
The software was sent to me with a number of test files. Each of these appeared to be corrupted in different ways. Some of them opened with Photoshop, but incompletely. Others failed to open and Photoshop displayed an error message.


  • Dedicated to repairing PSD files.
  • Easy to use.
  • Well laid out user interface.
  • Detailed information and controls.
  • Price.


  • Doesn’t repair all damaged PSD files.
  • Only available for Windows Users
If you don’t like the idea of installing software onto your computer, Recovery Toolbox for Photoshop also has an online repair service where you simply upload your damaged file. The benefits of using the online version include:

  • Helps to repair Photoshop files on all Operation Systems: macOS, iOS, Android, Windows and so on
  • Work on any devices: PC, tablet, phones
  • Affordable price: $10
  • No need to install any software

In this review, the online version was not tested.


Recovery Toolbox for Photoshop is a great tool and will help you out where Photoshop fails to. However, there is never any substitute for having a disciplined backup routine. Saving your work often and backing it up on a separate drive, device or in the cloud is the most sure-fire way to ensure your precious files are safe and usable.
Disclaimer: Recovery Toolbox for Photoshop is a paid dPS partner.


The post Recovery Toolbox for Photoshop: Rescue Your Damaged Adobe Photoshop Files appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Review of PaintShop Pro 2020 Ultimate: A Photoshop Contender?

The post Review of PaintShop Pro 2020 Ultimate: A Photoshop Contender? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.

Not for nothing is Photoshop called the “industry standard” for graphic design and photo editing. The moment you defect to another product, you start missing stuff. Can Corel Paintshop Pro 2020 Ultimate do the job just as well? It’s a comprehensive standalone program with lots of extras thrown in for free.

New stuff

This edition of Paintshop Pro (PSP) introduces several new features, including a touch-ready Photography Workspace, a SmartClone Tool, and a Refine Brush for ultra-precise selections. There are improvements to existing tools, too. We’ll cover these things during this review as well as looking at preexisting features.

Paintshop Pro Photography Workspace

The new touch-ready Photography Workspace may not suit everyone, but it’s uncluttered and armed with enough tools to rifle through many pictures.

Raw processing in Paintshop Pro

Paintshop Pro Ultimate comes with Corel Aftershot 3 raw processing software as well as its own in-built raw conversion. Since many of our pictures start out as raw files, it seems apt to look at these facilities first.

Aftershot 3

Aftershot 3 is a pared-down version of Corel’s Aftershot Pro, which you can upgrade to for a modest sum. The latter lets you create Lightroom-style catalogs, so all changes to images are stored inside the program instead of in separate XMP sidecar files. Although not as sophisticated as the pro version, Aftershot 3 Standard offers much more than the in-program raw conversion tool of PSP 2020. A notable exception to this is DNG support, but it does have lens corrections, layers and Perfectly Clear auto image enhancement. The latter works well with layers since you can adjust the opacity to achieve optimum results.

After shot 3 - Perfectly Clear

Reducing the opacity of Perfectly Clear on an adjustment layer often gives a nice result.

An early problem I had with Aftershot and Paintshop Pro 2020 was that neither liked my custom monitor profile, so I had to switch to a generic Adobe RGB profile to make the color look acceptable. It took some head-scratching before I realized why raw previews looked so bad.

With that problem temporarily solved, I found the software eminently usable, though I think Corel should include a histogram in the standard Aftershot version. The pro version has enough to commend it without cutting essentials from its little sibling.

zPerspector plugin Corel Aftershot 3

Adjusting perspective in Aftershot 3 using the zPerspector plugin.

Aftershot is rebranded Bibble software, which was highly rated in its time. It includes access to many plug-ins, such as the Wavelet Sharpen plug-in and the zPerspector perspective correction plugin. These are useful add-ons. I’d recommend that you trial Aftershot thoroughly before buying or upgrading. Remember, the Pro version won’t catalog your DNG files if you use them. You need proprietary raw files. As well, Paintshop Pro doesn’t like Adobe’s enhanced DNG files.

Working in Paintshop Pro 2020

The first thing to do in Paintshop Pro 2020 Ultimate is to choose from three workspaces: Photography, Essentials and Complete. The new “touch-ready” Photography workspace is inviting since it doesn’t distract you with a bewildering set of tools. It’d be a good place to start for beginners. But if you’re coming from years in Photoshop, you’ll probably skip to the Complete workspace where all things are possible.

Adjustment Layers

Just like Photoshop, Paintshop Pro 2020 gives you the choice of editing photos on adjustment layers or independently. Some of the editing choices are not available as layers, though you can always apply these to a duplicate layer. All adjustment layers have built-in layer masks for selective editing.

Color and Tone

Paintshop Pro offers most of the features you’d expect in an advanced pixel editor when it comes to correcting color and tone. There are a few things you may not have seen before. For instance, the “Histogram” adjustment layer is a kind of advanced blend of Levels and Curves.

The “Histogram Equalize” adjustment in PSP 2020 evens up the tonal range of the image, often brightening it. You need to be careful with this if you don’t want to blow highlights. More useful, I think, is “Local Tone Mapping” at its default low settings. It seems to have a very subtle HDR effect that perks many photos up.

Smart Photo Fix - PSP 2020

Smart Photo Fix lets you alter the software’s One Step Photo Fix adjustment, and as an alternative starting point, it’s pretty good. PSP did a decent job with the photo in the screenshot, though it could still do with brighter whites.

Conspicuous by its absence in Paintshop Pro is any form of clipping display or exposure warning. If it’s there, I never found it. To me, this is a must-have feature, since it shows you what you’re losing with tonal or color adjustments and whether it’s likely to matter. I don’t expect it to be missing in a wide-ranging package like Paintshop Pro.

Correcting perspective

I’ve gotten used to being able to correct perspective in architectural photos, so I was keen to see what Paintshop Pro offers in this respect. In fact, the Perspective Correction tool in PSP is very good, albeit without the full-auto option of ACR or Lightroom. It’s the work of a few seconds to correct most photos, and that’s good enough for me.

correcting perspective - Paintshop Pro 2020

This is all you need do to correct verticals in Paintshop Pro. Not automated like Adobe’s solution, but easy.

Cloning (& the new SmartClone tool)

The regular cloning tool in Paintshop Pro is fine for most cloning work, but now we also have the SmartClone tool. This is useful if you want to lay textures or patterns over another area of a photo or even a different photo. Three blend modes are available for different effects: Original, Blend, Black and White. The first gives you regular-type cloning, the second tries to blend color and texture by reducing opacity, the third clones only texture by desaturating the selected area.

smart clone tool and paint brush - Paintshop Pro 2020

I used the SmartClone tool to superimpose Proust’s face onto a separate image of the beach at Cabourg – a scene he’d have known well. By placing the clone onto a duplicate layer with a layer mask, I was able to refine the original rectangular selection using the Paint Brush with “Smart Edge” tool.

A neat feature of the SmartClone tool is the ability to save selections as presets, so you can use them with future images. This tool is not an equivalent to content-aware fill in Photoshop. It has its own uses and controls. Paintshop Pro offers Object Remover and Scratch Remover tools to intelligently fill in areas of an image, though you have to be reasonable in your expectations as to what these things can do.

Selection Refine Brush (new)

I never need to make intricate selections in my day-to-day photography, but perhaps that makes me a good candidate for testing the new Selection Refine Brush in Paintshop Pro 2020. I had trouble even accessing it at first until I realized the chosen selection tool must be docked for the button to appear. Despite this shaky start, I was soon impressed.

I started with a quick freehand selection around the edge of the subject and well within the hairline so that any intricate hairs could be selected later with the refine brush. The brush does such a good job at picking out fine detail that it’s a waste of time to attempt precision yourself. You can further refine the end result with global corrections such as smooth edge or feathering.

Image: In this photo, everything not in red is selected. You can see the Selection Refine Brush has...

In this photo, everything not in red is selected. You can see the Selection Refine Brush has done a very good job of selecting strands of hair. This was the work of just a few minutes, and I’m a novice at selections. (Photo: Pixabay)

Once you’re happy with the selection, you can output it in various ways. It’s easy to copy and paste the selection with transparent background onto a new image if you want, or you can edit it further on a new layer. Whatever your aim, it’s hard to imagine other software doing a much better job in getting you to that point.

Dealing with Chromatic Aberration

Fixing chromatic aberration, even in its most common purple fringing form, is one of the great strengths of Photoshop. Other programs struggle to compete. Paintshop Pro’s “One Step Purple Fringe Fix” introduced an artifact the first time I used it and didn’t completely remove the fringing. On the other hand, “Chromatic Aberration Removal” in PSP 2020 gave a good result. Taking as small a sample as possible seemed to help. Based on this, it might be better to leave chromatic aberration in a raw image and fix it in the rendered version, unless you have advanced raw conversion software on your side.

Image: Using the Chromatic Aberration Removal tool in Paintshop Pro to remove green fringing. Radius...

Using the Chromatic Aberration Removal tool in Paintshop Pro to remove green fringing. Radius and color range settings help to fine-tune the correction. (You may need to view this full size to see the difference.)


Paintshop Pro offers four sharpening methods: Sharpen, Sharpen More, Unsharp Mask, and High Pass Sharpening. These are familiar choices. Unsharp Mask lets you choose radius, strength and clipping settings. It also includes a set of presets you can pick from according to your intended use for the image.

High Pass Sharpening focuses sharpening on edges.  Most programs give you a grey overlay with this feature so you can clearly see the effect of your edit, but that’s not possible in Paintshop Pro. Instead, you have to eyeball the image directly.

There is another route to high-pass sharpening in PSP where you do get the grey preview: create a duplicate layer and go to Effects->Edge Effect->High Pass. Choose an Overlay, Hard Light or Soft Light blend mode.

high pass sharpening - PSP 2020

You get this useful preview if you sharpen your photos using Edge Effects->High Pass in PSP 2020. It’d be nice to see this in the High Pass Sharpen tool, too, but you get a regular preview there. As you can see, the grey overlay makes it easy to see what your sharpening settings are doing.

The noisier your photo is to begin with, the wiser it is to avoid global sharpening. If you have a clean file to work with that you want to quickly publish online, a simple Sharpen or Sharpen More adjustment will often look fine.


A great feature of Paintshop Pro is its compatibility with Photoshop plugins (those with 8bf, 8be, 8bi, and 8ba extensions). A lot of the time they work fine, though I noticed the color goes flat in my Nik Collection Viveza 2 plugin if the preview is small. This is a known problem with other Photoshop alternatives.

Paintshop Pro’s compatibility with PS plugins is not an insignificant factor when weighing up the software. In fact, a range of downloadable plugins and scripts is available as soon as you buy the product – some of them free.

Time Machine

Paintshop Pro also offers the fun “Time Machine” photo effect. This teaches you something about photographic history and attempts to replicate photos from different eras, ranging from the daguerreotype in 1839 to the cross-processing look discovered in the late 1950s to early 60s. You can add appropriate borders to each effect if you want. Below is the “Early Color” preset in action with James Joyce obliging as the subject.

Review of PaintShop Pro 2020 Ultimate: A Photoshop Contender?


As well as Corel Aftershot 3 raw conversion software, Paintshop Pro 2020 Ultimate comes bundled with a host of other goodies. Here’s the full inventory:

  • GRFX Studio: gives access to 1000s of photo effects.
  • Parallels Toolbox: a suite of tools to keep your computer running smoothly.
  • PhotoMirage Express: turn stills photos into eye-catching animations.
  • Painter Essentials 6: lets you paint, draw and sketch as well as automatically adding painting effects to photos.
  • Aftershot 3: raw conversion software (good, but lacks some of the near-essential features of the pro version).
  • Creative Collection: free pack of many extras available for optional download.

As well as letting you create original artworks, Painter Essentials 6 can generate “paintings” from your photos.

Other new features of PSP 2020 include copy-and-paste layer styles; quicker text rendering, editing and text wrap; faster Pic-to-Painting transitions; and an improved depth-of-field effect.

shallow depth of field - flower photography

Paintshop Pro lets you apply arty shallow-depth-of-field effects with the improved Depth of Field tool.


Corel Paintshop Pro 2020 Ultimate is a vast photo-editing package that doesn’t leave you wanting for much. But it’s lacking in places. The absence of a clipping display or exposure warning that I could find is almost a deal-breaker for me. I use that all the time when adjusting color and tone. Also on my wants list would be gradient maps. There are surprising omissions and inconsistencies in Paintshop Pro. That aside, it’s not unlovable.

black and white conversion - GRFX Studio

The Classic B & W effect in GRFX Studio creates some pleasing black and white conversions and gives you plenty of control over the result.

Some of the tools in Paintshop Pro 2020 Ultimate are exceptional. My new-found ability to make complex selections with the Refine Brush was a bit of a revelation. And there are tons of special effects, so there’s no excuse not to be creative. Paintshop Pro seems to lean that way – towards the visual editor who doesn’t care so much about the math and more about how the photo just looks. And maybe that’s not a bad thing.


Have you used Paintshop Pro 2020 Ulitmate? What are your thoughts? Share with us in the comments!



The post Review of PaintShop Pro 2020 Ultimate: A Photoshop Contender? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.

ACDSee Video Studio 4 Review – An Intuitive, Easy-to-Use Video Editing Software

The post ACDSee Video Studio 4 Review – An Intuitive, Easy-to-Use Video Editing Software appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

In this review, we take a look at the new video-editing software – ACDSee Video Studio 4.

Video is something that, as photographers, we seem to be delving into more and more. Whether that be capturing behind the scenes of photoshoots to create marketing material or simply a video of your photo adventures with friends, video is something many of us are either doing or may want to do. However, it’s not always as easy as that.

Image: Video Studio 4 is great for editing short clips for social media or uploading to YouTube. It...

Video Studio 4 is great for editing short clips for social media or uploading to YouTube. It will not, however, enhance your skills in front of the camera, as you will see later in this review!

The main problem with video content isn’t necessarily shooting the video, but the editing process. I am sure some of you have lots of video footage that you always intend to make into a video (as I have), but it never gets made. You start with good intentions, but the editing always seems to be the sticking point. For those who don’t edit very often or are new to video, editing can be hard and so much software lacks user-friendliness.

Video software usually comes with a steep learning curve too. Those that many consider the standard, Premiere and Final Cut, aren’t particularly user-friendly to the novice user. You will end up spending hours of your time watching YouTube videos to simply understand the basics of how to create a simple edit for either of those pieces of software.

ACDSee has set out to change that. With their latest software, Video Studio 4, you get powerful video editing built into a software that is intuitive and simple to use.

Opening it up

When you launch the software, the layout you see may resemble others. However, with ACDSee Video Studio 4, this layout is streamlined, and the most useful stuff is there, ready and waiting.

On the left side, there are 10 different options for you to work with. They are laid out in a way that guides you through the process of editing from start to finish.

Let’s go through them to see how you can use each one.

The left panel


Video Studio 4 accepts a wide variety of formats for audio, video, and images. These are:

  • Image formats: JPG, JPEG, GIF, BMP, PNG, HEIC
  • Audio formats: WMA, MP3, AAC, WAV, AC3, OGG, M4A
  • Video formats: AVI, MP4, WMV, FLV, MOV, TS, MTS, M2TS, ASF, M4V, MPG, MPEG

As you can see, the software can handle pretty much any format you want to use. It is great to see such a wide range of options available. It means you don’t need to worry about converting files before editing.

Image: Here is a variety of a png, JPEGs and HEVC iPhone footage. ACDSee Video Studio 4 handled them...

Here is a variety of a png, JPEGs and HEVC iPhone footage. ACDSee Video Studio 4 handled them flawlessly.


Adding in titles and captions is simple and easy. A wide variety of fonts and placement options means you can create a title for your videos quickly.

Image: There are several different styles to work with when it comes to adding titles and captions.

There are several different styles to work with when it comes to adding titles and captions.

Audio Recorder

If you make videos, sooner or later you will find yourself in a situation where you need to record a voiceover. With ACDSee Video Studio 4, you can record audio directly into the software, thus, keeping everything together. This means you don’t have to move between programs to record extra audio. A really fantastic little tool that you may not think is useful – until you need it.


With 30 different transitions to choose from, you can easily apply transitions between video clips. Tweaking these to your desired length is simply a matter of dragging them onto the timeline. Some are cheesy, some are incredibly cheesy, but you have options. I am a simple “fade” guy, but if you want something different, you will definitely find it here.

Image: Whilst there are several to choose from, I rarely tend to look past a “fade” or...

Whilst there are several to choose from, I rarely tend to look past a “fade” or “fade to black” transition. If you do, there are several options.

Audio Effects

Adding fade in and outs to your audio tracks is simple and easy too. You can do it manually, but by using the presets and then tweaking to get the desired effect, you can really save some time. You’ll also get your content created much quicker and easier than ever.

Image: It is easy to add fade in and outs with audio in the program.

It is easy to add fade in and outs with audio in the program.


New in this version of ACDSee Video Studio 4 is the ability to use keyframes to make custom animations. This allows you to create bespoke animations for your clips, which is great when using a still image in your video.

There are also some great presets to use as starting points, which you can fine-tune to get your clips just how you want them.

Image: You can start with one of the inbuilt animations or start from scratch.

You can start with one of the inbuilt animations or start from scratch.


Behaviors are customizable entrance and exit effects. You can use these on a clip to really emphasize the clips’ start and end. Simply tweak each effect to customize it to your taste.

I really didn’t see where I would use this, and it feels a little gimmicky. This is a feature most people will not use too often, but in the right hands, I am sure you can do something cool with it.


ACDSee Video Studio 4 gives you many filter options to tweak the look of your clip. When applied, these filters tweak things like the clips color, and exposure. There are also several creative effects for quick and easy effects for your footage.

There are several options to explore here. Which ones you choose depends on your taste and preference, but there is something to please most people here. You will no doubt find your favorites when you have used the software a few times, and these will become your go-to filters.

You can add multiple filters should you need or want to. They stack on top of each other in the clip, and you can edit them individually.

Image: This shows the exposure filter in action. It worked well on a clip that was underexposed. The...

This shows the exposure filter in action. It worked well on a clip that was underexposed. There are many others – some good, some that you probably won’t use.


Overlays are effects that sit on top of your clips. Some of these, such as the animated hearts and bubbles, are an acquired taste and most of you probably won’t touch them (but will no doubt serve a great purpose for the young generation). However, light leaks and film scratches can give a great effect, depending on the look you are going for with your project.

Image: You can add filters to give your footage a certain look. Some are a little cheesy IMHO, but t...

You can add filters to give your footage a certain look. Some are a little cheesy IMHO, but there are some really nice ones, such as old film, which I used here.

Advanced Effects

This is where the software gets seriously impressive. Here you will find some features most commonly found in high-end editing software, yet they come with the ease and simplicity of use that makes Video Studio 4 so user-friendly.

Starting with one of the new features in Video Studio 4 is Remove Color. This is most commonly used for green screen work. This allows you to shoot against a green screen (or other color backgrounds) and remove it from the clip. You can then add in a background of your choice. This is great for YouTube videos, where you can buy a cheap green screen (or even use a green sheet) and then add in a background you created in Photoshop or similar. It can give you a host of creative options, is incredibly simple to use, and really powerful.

A new cool feature is Color LUTS. These allow you to add a variety of different color grade options to your footage to enhance their look.

Another new addition allows you to adjust the speed of your footage. You can create time effects such as slow-motion, or speed up the timing of your clip.

The last new addition is Mosaic, which is great to blur out items in clips, such as car number plates. This can then be sized and tweaked to match your clip. Again this is one of those tools that you probably won’t use very often, but when you do need it, you will be glad the software includes this handy tool.

Image: You can add LUTS to color your footage. Start with a preset or upload your own. For the short...

You can add LUTS to color your footage. Start with a preset or upload your own. For the short video I created, I used Tinsel.

Using ACDSEE Video Studio 4

It’s one thing to list all the features of a software, but it is another thing entirely to put it in practice. With this in mind, I put a few things together in ACDSee Video Studio 4.

The first project involved taking a couple of clips from a photoshoot on my iPhone and making them into a quick clip for Instagram. I also wanted to try out the screen recording software that comes with Video Studio 4 so I used this to make a quick tutorial on creating custom animations in the software.

Lastly, I wanted to test one of the key new features, Remove Color.

Green screen test

As this was one of the new features of the software, I was keen to test it out. However, rather than test this with a perfectly lit green screen, I tested it in a more common situation. At first, I tried against a blue block wall, not expecting it to work at all.

Then I used a green screen I borrowed from a friend. Now, this is by no means a high-end green screen. In fact, one of the stands fell to pieces when we were putting it up and had to be held together with tape! I also didn’t iron the green material (as you can see in the clip). It was a very cheap eBay purchase, but it is the type of setup the most people will use when starting with a green screen, so I wanted to see the results.

I used no specialist lighting in the setup either. Again, with the right type of equipment, this is super easy, both for the editor and the software. But, I wanted to push it a little…

Here are the results:

As you can see, the software worked pretty well on the green screen (just a slight issue with the reflection in my glasses) and surprisingly well on the blue wall, even if it didn’t manage to get it quite perfect. I think that a simple, smooth painted wall, with decent natural light, would work perfectly well for this type of work. Moreover, with an ideal studio lighting setup, it would work great.

The tutorial video

ACDSee Video Studio 4 also comes with software that allows you to record your screen, which I wanted to test to create a simple instructional video. As I am reviewing the software, I decided to make a quick tutorial on creating a logo animation. I simply selected the inbuilt Mic and Webcam and hit the record button.

When you have finished recording your footage, it drops it directly into Video Studio 4 ready to edit. Editing is then simple.

Here is the result:

If you are looking to get into creating tutorial videos for your photography, or tutorials for any software, Video Studio 4 is great. 

The Insta edit

What I see as the biggest possible use of this software is for quick, simple edits for Instagram. This software is perfect for that purpose –one of those situations where you just want to put a few clips together and make an edit as quickly as possible.

In this example, I had three phone clips I wanted to use. I also had my logo and background I created in Photoshop. With all I needed ready to go, I jumped into Video Studio 4 for the first time.

It is super simple to use, and within minutes I had a completed video.

The first thing I wanted to do was to create a quick intro using my logo. I saved my logo as a .png file so that I could keep the background transparent so it would work with layers. Then I placed both the background and the logo into the software. To add some animation, I used the custom animation feature in Video Studio 4. By dragging and dropping this onto the logo, I was able to quickly add two 360-degree motions to the logo to add interest.

It was easier than I imagined. Within 20 seconds, I had my animated logo.

Then I added transitions to the start and end of the clip as well as adding an old film overlay. That was it. One minute and I had a finished animated logo. If I wanted to, I could export this clip and use it in all future videos as an intro. That saves even more time when creating clips like this.

Next, I needed to insert my clips. Again, it was simply a matter of drag and dropping them to get them onto the timeline. To trim the clips to the required length, you have two options:

  • drag the ends of the clip to where you want them, or
  • split the clip where you want the edit and delete the part that you want to trim.

I found this splitting quicker, and this is what I did for the rest of the clip.

With my clips trimmed, I also needed to remove the audio. There are two ways you can do this: Method one is to adjust the sound level of the clip by right-clicking on it and selecting Edit Audio. This is great when you want to adjust the sound levels of a clip. In this case, however, I didn’t need the audio at all, so split the clip into separate audio and video tracks. This way, I was able to delete the audio from the clip quite simply.

Image: You can either edit the audio level of clips or split the audio, which is what I did here. As...

You can either edit the audio level of clips or split the audio, which is what I did here. As I didn’t need sound, I simply deleted the audio from the clips.

I then added transitions between clips. While there are loads to choose from, you will probably find yourself going back to a select few. In my case, I have always tended to use Fade to Black or Cross Fade (called Fade in Video Studio 4).

For the last stage, I easily added a LUT to the footage. There are several LUTs in Video Studio 4, or you can upload them into the software. I decided to use the Tinsel LUT, which adds a color grade to the footage.

Adding music

When I watched the footage back, I decided I wanted to add some music.  I used a track by A Himitsu, the details of which are as follows:

Adventures by A Himitsu, Creative Commons — Attribution 3.0 Unported— CC BY 3.0 

Music released by Argofox Music provided by Audio Library

Once I had the music in, I wanted to move my edits a little to match the music. Even though I had LUTs applied and fades in place, this was easy, and there was no lag when dragging clips around. The software felt speedy throughout using it, which was reassuring. With the music added, and clips altered, I just needed to add an audio transition to fade the music out, which I then tweaked until I was happy with it.

All complete, it was time to export my project. You can see the final edit below.


Exporting is quick and easy and helped by Video Studio 4 holding your hand through the process. You can export and save to a file, or you can upload directly to YouTube or Vimeo. Just log in to YouTube and follow the instructions. In terms of time, the software exported quickly, and I didn’t notice a difference in export times compared to using other editing software.

You can also export to an animated gif, which is ideal for things like action sports clips.

As you can probably guess, the theme of simple and easy continues here. Video Studio 4 guides you through things in the beginning while allowing you the ability to be more creative as your confidence grows.

Image: Video Studio 4 guides you through the export process. You can export to file or upload direct...

Video Studio 4 guides you through the export process. You can export to file or upload directly to YouTube, which is what I did. It was simple and worked perfectly.


ACDSee has some great training videos for their software on their website. For those of you new to video editing, these are well worth a watch to get you started with Video Studio 4. I am sure that more will be added over time, but they have everything you need to get started. There is also great technical support should you have any other issues.

Below is an example of their training videos with Director of Photography, Alex Watson. Before anyone says it in the comments, I know his delivery is a little better than mine.

Who is this software for?

If you use Premiere or Final Cut, you will have more than likely not even made it this far. It is not as fully featured as these programs and is in no way a replacement, but that is not the purpose of this software.

ACDSee Video Studio 4 is for those who are new to video editing or who just want to create quality content without having to spend large amounts of time learning to use software.

While Video Studio 4 is incredibly user-friendly for the beginner, it also contains many features for those wanting to delve deeper and use more advanced features such as the green screen.

In a nutshell, the aim of Video Studio 4 is to create professional videos quickly and easily for those new to video. It does this impressively well.
It is really competitively priced, and for those who are new to video and use PC, I can’t think of a better alternative.

Final thoughts

ACDSee Video Studio 4 is a simple to use, yet surprisingly powerful video editor. It is not a replacement for Premiere, nor is it intended to be. There are some really powerful features in here, but it also contains some stuff that I would personally never use. For example, some of the fades and overlays feel cheesy and overdone. Then again, as a teen starting out with video editing, these will more than likely be fun, and I am sure they will get used in creative ways. Maybe it’s more me being an old stick in the mud for the classics?

If you have been thinking about adding video to what you do, I would recommend you try Video Studio 4. This is simple to do as ACDSee have a free trial, allowing you to try before you buy. When it comes to purchasing, you also have options. You can purchase the software outright, or you can get it as part of the ACDSee 365 plan, which also includes ACDSee’s Photo Studio software for a simple monthly payment.

ACDSee is known for offering alternative software that is feature-packed, simple to use, with a great price tag. With Video Studio 4, ACDSee has definitely cemented that reputation.

ACDSee is a paid partner of dPS.

The post ACDSee Video Studio 4 Review – An Intuitive, Easy-to-Use Video Editing Software appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

Catalog Photos Like a Pro: ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 Review

The post Catalog Photos Like a Pro: ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.

ACDSee software has been around since the earliest days of digital photography. For 20 years, it’s been competing with Adobe Photoshop. Today, with Adobe offering its top image-editing programs by subscription only, there’s more room than ever for alternatives. ACDSee offers a compelling subscription model of its own, but it also maintains a full suite of standalone products. Photo Studio Standard 2019 is among them, and I’ll review it here.

ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 - default layout

The default layout in Manage mode of ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019. You can move things around as you wish and close any panes you don’t need.

Aimed at keen photographers with growing photo collections, ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 is ideal for sorting, finding, and viewing photos. It also has a set of editing tools that will quickly make your pictures look good for the web or printing. We’ll look at all this in detail. To avoid wasting anyone’s time, this program recognizes and opens raw files but it’s not a raw editor or metadata editor – it’s a pixel editor. You have no control over how raw files are processed and can only save 8-bit files.

Embedding ACDSee metadata into DNG files

Preview of a DNG file. You can embed ACDSee metadata into DNG files, unlike other raw formats.

This review of ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 will include the following:

  • Starting up
  • Manage mode
  • Photos mode
  • View mode
  • Edit mode
  • Other features
  • Conclusion

Starting up

One thing that struck me immediately about ACDSee software was how quickly it opened. Sometimes I wait 2-3 minutes for Photoshop CC to start. There are technical reasons for that, like the plug-ins I have loaded into it and its sheer girth. Perhaps it connects to my Adobe account, too. Whatever. Photo Studio Standard 2019 opens in around 15-20 seconds every time.

Manage mode

Digital asset management (DAM) is the great strength of ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019. In Manage mode, the software offers all you need for sorting and locating your images. Like many people, you may already have your folders arranged chronologically. This is handy for sifting through them using the folder pane of ACDSee, but the software gives you lots of other ways to find pictures.

ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 - folder pane

Here, I’m using the folder pane in Manage mode to browse photos. I’m not the best organizer, but I do have most folders labeled chronologically.

Calendar pane

I latched onto the Calendar pane within minutes of opening ACDSee. Even if you have your folders arranged by date, it’s so quick to rifle through your photos month by month using the calendar. You can widen the search by choosing multiple months or use single days to narrow it. I used this feature straight away to dig out a few files I might’ve overlooked as potential stock photos.

Catalog pane

The ACDSee Catalog pane gives you several ways to find what you’re looking for: color labels, keywords, ratings, saved searches, categories, and auto categories. Of course, you have to add most of this info yourself to the images, but that’s easy using the software. Auto categories come from EXIF data, so you can filter results by the lens or aperture used, for instance.

cataloging photos with ACDSee software

There are various ways to filter photos in the Catalog pane, some of which rely on you having rated, keyworded, labeled, tagged, or categorized your photos already. In this screenshot, I’m looking at photos taken with a particular lens.[/

Map pane

ACDSee includes a Map pane. Drag your photo(s) onto the place where they were taken, hit Save, and the GPS coordinates are automatically embedded into the EXIF data. Cool! That wasn’t a feature I expected at this price point (Lightroom has it), but it does show how thorough this software is in what it does.

Embedding GPS coordinates into photos

Dragging a photo or several photos onto a spot on the map and hitting “Save” embeds GPS coordinates into the metadata.

Shortcuts pane

The Shortcuts pane offers a way of bookmarking files you know you’ll often need. It makes it that little bit quicker to find any special photos – perhaps a collection of your best-ever shots.

Image Basket

Another neat feature of Photo Studio Standard 2019 is the Image Basket. Normally, when I’m preparing a gallery for the web, I create a new folder on my desktop to work from. The Image Basket is a way of gathering original files together without having to copy them elsewhere.

Keywording in ACDSee

Keywords are an invaluable way of quickly finding what you’re looking for, but they can be time-consuming to add. ACDSee is ahead of Adobe in this respect. It’ll import any keywords you’ve added elsewhere to the IPTC data, but it has excellent keywording capability of its own.

Adding keywords to images

The ability to create large keyword sets of up to 250 is enough to satisfy any lexicologist. I wouldn’t normally need that many, but 40 or 50 isn’t uncommon. Adobe software is restrictive in this respect.

A welcome feature of the new ACDSee ‘Quick Keyword’ tool is the ability to use 25 rows by 10 columns of words (i.e., up to 250 keywords). In Lightroom, you can only have 9 keywords max per set – a source of frustration for many users. ACDSee has its own metadata field that is stored in the database rather than embedded in the file, but you can embed it into suitable file formats.

Photos mode

In Photos mode, ACDSee catalogs all images from the location(s) of your choice and puts them on display so you can scroll through them. Like the Calendar pane, it’s an easy way for you to search visually and find pictures. Hovering the cursor over a thumbnail brings up a larger preview with vital info such as image dimensions, file size, and folder location.

ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 - Photos mode

Photos mode on the daily setting. You can scroll through your whole database, but it’s still divided by daily, monthly or yearly headings.

View mode

Double-click on a photo in Manage or Photos mode and you’ll bring up a large view of the image in ACDSee’s View mode. Various viewing options are available as well as useful editing tools like Auto Light EQ™ and Auto Lens. You can rapidly scroll through files in this mode and tag images or add ratings, labels, keywords, and categories. It’s an extension of Manage mode if you want it to be. Clicking on Edit mode from here takes the open picture into editing.

ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 - View mode

View mode is the place to be if you want to browse large previews of your pictures. Double-clicking on any picture in Manage or Photos mode brings you here, too. You can also perform a few basic edits in this space or categorize photos.

Edit Mode

ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 has plenty to offer in terms of editing but something has to be sacrificed at this price point, and that’s parametric (non-destructive) editing. Photo Studio Standard is a pixel editor only, so you make physical changes to rendered images. You can still leave the original file untouched, but as soon as you finish editing and save a file, there’s no going back and tweaking your adjustments. This is more important if you’re in the habit of reworking pictures or if you edit extensively and want your work to be reversible.


There are a couple of tools under the “Repair” heading. The red-eye reduction tool is something I’d probably never have a need for, but I tested this with a public domain image. Works well – easy to use.

Correcting redeye in photos

With this close-up view, I found myself wishing the size of the adjustment would go slightly larger, as it barely covered the dilated pupil. But still, the red-eye has gone. Most portraits won’t be as near to the subject. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

One of the few glitches I encountered in ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 was a malfunction among the repair tools. I can get the Heal tool to work, and it does a nice job of blending the sampled pixels into a new area. But the Clone tool hasn’t worked for me even after a reinstall. I just get a blacked-out image. This appears to be a bug in the program, as it works flawlessly in other ACDSee software I have on my PC.


Under the “Add” heading you can insert text into your photos or a watermark (the Watermark feature is new in 2019). The default watermark is the ACDSee camera logo, but you can use your own graphic if you want. There are also borders, vignetting, special effects and tilt-shift choices here.

tilt-shift photo effect

The Tilt-Shift tool makes Manhattan look miniaturized.

Personally, I’d be most likely to use vignetting out of these, as it helps direct the viewer’s eye and is a useful photographic tool. It can be fun to add borders to your photos, too, which you can customize in this case with a wide selection of textures or any color you choose.

I counted 54 special effects in ACDSee’s collection, and each is modifiable in some way. Even the ones that don’t instantly appeal might work for you with some adjustment, so there’s a lot to go at. Among my favorites are Collage, Lomo, and Orton. The latter is great for creating a dreamy look.

ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 - Orton special effect

This is the Orton special effect, making a peaceful scene even dreamier.


Under “Geometry”, ACDSee provides rotate, flip, crop, and resize tools. There are some thoughtful touches among these tools, like the ability to control darkness outside the crop area. The Rotate tool also has a cropping feature, so you can level the picture up if necessary and correct wonky horizons.

When resizing, the default algorithm is Lanczos, but it’s worth experimenting, depending on what you do with your photos. Lanczos gives a sharp result when downsizing, for instance, but if you want to back off that a little and achieve smoother edges, try Bicubic.


ACDSee offers some powerful tools under “Exposure/Lighting,” not least its excellent Light EQ™ technology alongside traditional tools like levels and curves. Light EQ™ is similar to curves, only better in some respects since it treats highlights, mid-tones, and shadows separately. That’s only possible to a degree using curves without layers.

ACDSee Light EQ technology

Here, I’m using ACDSee Light EQ™ to adjust the tone of the image. By having the Exposure Warning switched on, I can ensure a good tonal range without losing detail in the shadows or highlights. As soon as pixels appear in red or green, I back off the adjustment slightly. I have the histogram showing the blue channel, as that’s the nearest to clipping at both ends.

The auto buttons in these exposure/lighting controls are also worth a hit every now and again. Personally, I find the auto setting in Light EQ™ tends to make things too bright, but it might provide a better starting point.

You can set your black and white points using eyedroppers in levels and also define the clipping limits under “tolerance.” (Don’t worry if this means nothing to you – it’s only one of several options.

I should mention, too, that ACDSee provides an Edit Brush and gradients with many of these controls, so you can apply edits to selected parts of the image.


Under “Color,” you’ll find White Balance, Color Balance, Convert to Black and White, and Color LUTs. The White Balance tool is excellent, though, like all white balance tools, it relies on neutral tones in the image to use as reference points.

You could also correct color using the Color Balance tool, especially in conjunction with the floating histogram. A good thing about the ACDSee histogram is you can stretch it out as far as you like for a detailed look at tonal distribution. There’s a hue/saturation tool alongside color balance.

Using the histogram - ACDSee software

You can make the floating histogram as compact or elongated as you wish.

“Convert to Black and White” is new to ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019. Based on the colors you know are in the image (e.g. blue sky), you can adjust their brightness to alter the contrast of the final result. This also lets you emphasize different areas of the photo. Good stuff! Contrast is also affected by the RGB percentages, which must always add up to 100. A high proportion of red usually creates more contrast in cloudy blue skies, for instance. Colorized monochrome images are possible, too, under Convert to Black and White.

ACDSee Convert to Black and White

Using the new “Convert to Black and white” feature, I’ve increased the brightness of cyan a fair bit to make the fire-escape steps stand out more. Then I’ve colorized the picture with sepia-like brown tones.

One of the best things in ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 Edit mode has to be Color LUTs. These let you alter the look of your photos (often drastically) via numerical color shifts. They’re like photo filters on steroids. ACDSee LUTs are good, but you can also download LUTs from the web and load them into the program.

Using color LUTs in photos

The lower half of this picture has the ACDSee “Turin” Color LUT applied to it. Look closely and you’ll see it’s darker with deeper blue windows and yet has a more cyan sky. You can use the Edit Brush or gradients on many edits.


Sharpen, blur, noise, and clarity all lie under the “Detail” heading. These are all pretty standard. The sharpen tool is like unsharp mask with amount, radius and threshold settings. Typically, you use a low radius for high-frequency photos with a lot of fine detail or a higher radius to bring out coarse detail across a wide area. A sharpening mask slider would be a nice bonus here if I were compiling a wants list. That would be quicker than selective sharpening with a brush.

Other Features

In case all the above isn’t enough, there’s more. For instance, the external editor feature in Manage mode lets you swiftly open images in other programs. Perhaps that will be Photoshop or it could be ACDSee Photo Editor 10, which would complement Photo Studio Standard well.

ACDSee also has a dashboard that gives you stats on equipment used, database size, and photo counts that show you how prolific you’ve been at various times.

ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 dashboard

The ACDSee Dashboard, indicating prolific use of a Sony RX100 in my case. There are numerous other stats available.

You can create PDFs, PowerPoint files, slideshow files, zip archives, contact sheets, and HTML albums straight out of ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019, too. There really isn’t a lot you can’t do.

More new stuff

ACDSee also introduced AutoSave and Auto Advance features in 2019. AutoSave does away with the “do you want to save changes?” dialog when you move onto another image. Auto Advance is good for rating, labeling, or categorizing photos, as it moves onto the next image automatically once you’ve clicked.

Also new in 2019 are customizable keyboard shortcuts, support for HEIF files (used on later iPhones), and print improvements that let you adjust for differences between what you see on screen and what your printer produces.


As much as I understand the benefits of SaaS and subscription software models, I think there will always be a market for standalone products that consumers can update when they want.

ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 is, first and foremost, a great photo organizer. I’ve never seen better. It’s quick as a browser – doesn’t hold you up – and it gives you workflow choices. There are lots of nice touches to make tasks easier. It’s not especially advanced as a photo editor, but you can achieve a lot without layers, 3rd-party plugins, and even Adobe’s unassailable repair tools.

If like me, you prefer taking photos to organizing them, ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 is the ideal way to get your collection under control. It drills into your database from several directions and helps you find any picture. Many people will want to supplement the editing capabilities with other programs, but you won’t find much better than this for photo management.

Disclaimer: ACDSee is a paid partner of dPS

The post Catalog Photos Like a Pro: ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.