Linux Tools For Serious Photographers

While most mainstream Linux distros come with photo management software, these applications are more suited for shutterbugs than serious amateurs and professional photographers. Fortunately, there are quite a few high-quality powerful Linux-based photographic tools that can rival proprietary commercial applications like Adobe Photoshop Elements and Lightroom. And using applications like Entangle, Rapid Photo Downloader, and digiKam, you can turn your Linux machine into a powerful darkroom for processing and organizing photos.

Common Photographic Tasks

Let’s start with a brief overview of common photographic tasks:

  • While you’d normally use your camera to take photos, there are a couple of Linux-based tools that can be used to remotely control and trigger your camera. These tools can come in handy for exposure bracketing, focus stacking, macro photography, and so on.
  • Before you can do anything with your photos, you need to transfer them from your camera to a computer, and then import them into the photo management application.
  • Next, you have to sort and organize the imported photos.
  • Once the photos have been neatly organized, you have to process the RAW files.
  • Most of us share our photographic masterpieces with others. And in most cases, we publish photos using either one of many third-party photo sharing services, or upload photos to self-hosted galleries.

So what are the tools that can help you to handle these photographic tasks on Linux?

digiKam to Rule Them All

A solid photographic workflow is unthinkable without an application that can help you to import, process, and organize photos. While there are several such applications available on Linux (Rawstudio, Darktable, RawTherapee, etc.), digiKam makes a sensible choice for a number of reasons.

  • Thanks to the LibRaw decoding and processing library, digiKam can handle a wide range of RAW formats. digiKam currently supports more than 400 cameras that shoot in RAW, and new models are added almost as soon as they hit the market.
  • digiKam offers several ways to view your photos. You can use a conventional album view, browse photos by tags or by date, or display your photos as a timeline. digiKam also allows you to view your photos on the map, provided they have been properly geotagged.
  • Speaking of geotagging, the application sports a separate interface for working with geographical data. You can use it not only to geotag photos, but also geocorrelate them. digiKam offers another useful feature called reverse geocoding. Using it, you can retrieve human-readable locations such as city, street, country, etc. for photos based on their geographical coordinates.
  • The photo management application offers a wide array of tools that can help you to keep tabs on your photos. For example, digiKam offers tagging and rating features. In addition to that, the application sports the Color labels and Picks tools. The former lets you apply color codes to photos, while the latter can come in handy for quickly sorting photos.
  • digiKam sports powerful filtering and search capabilities. The dedicated Filters sidebar in digiKam offers a simple yet flexible way to filter photos by specific criteria. For example, you can easily set up a filter that displays photos containing certain tags and have a specific color label.
  • The application supports non-destructive editing and versioning. This allows you to tweak photos without affecting their originals. In addition to that, you can save multiple modified versions of the same original and use digiKam to neatly organize them as well as keep track of changes made to each version.
  • When it comes to editing, digiKam offers a wide selection of useful tools. Besides the usual suspects like Curve and Level adjustment tools, digiKam offers exposure blending, lens correction, perspective adjustment, black-and-white conversion, and many other nifty features. Better yet, the application sports powerful batch processing capabilities which allow you to apply multiple editing and conversion operations on a set of photos.
  • Finally, thanks to a comprehensive collection of bundled plugins, you can publish your photos on many popular photo sharing services like Flickr, Picasa, Facebook, SmugMug, and others.


Although digiKam can handle practically any photographic task you throw at it, there are other utilities you might want to add to you photographic toolbox. So let’s take a look at how you can use digiKam and other tools to handle different photographic tasks.

Capture Photos

Tethering your DSLR camera to a computer opens a whole new world of possibilities: you can instantly view your shots on a large screen, trigger your camera remotely, practice the art of time-lapse photography, and perform other clever tricks.


While commercial tethering software for Windows and Mac OS X often costs serious money, you can enjoy all the advantages of tethered shooting on Linux free of charge courtesy of Entangle. This tethering software lets you control practically all camera settings, trigger the shutter from the computer, view a live preview of a scene, and automatically download captured images to the computer.

While digiKam won’t rival dedicated software for tethered shooting, you can use the application’s Import interface to trigger the connected camera and instantly fetch photos from it. This functionality can come in handy when you want to have an instant preview of photos you take on a large screen. There are a couple of things you need to keep in mind, though. digiKam can’t control camera settings (shooting mode, aperture, shutter speed, etc.) remotely, so you should set them beforehand. The images captured from within the Import interface are not stored on the camera’s storage card, so make sure you import them into digiKam before you disconnect or turn off the camera.

Import Photos

digiKam offers several ways to offload photos from the camera and import them into the application. Using the commands available in the Import menu, you can grab photos directly from the camera or storage devices connected to the computer. You can also add individual photos that are already on your machine and import folders containing photos. digiKam also lets you pull photos from popular services like Facebook and SmugMug.


Instead of digiKam, you can use a dedicated tool like Rapid Photo Downloader to transfer photos from the camera to digiKam collections. Despite its name, transferring photos is only one of Rapid Photo Downloader’s many talents. For starters, it can simultaneously download photos from multiple sources, so if your camera has two card slots, you can transfer photos from both of them in one go. More importantly, using Rapid Photo Downloader’s preferences, you can configure the way the utility processes and sorts the downloaded photos. For example, you can define a rule that moves photos taken on a specific date into a separate subfolder. Rapid Photo Downloader can also rename photos during download using user-defined rules. The Backup section lets you specify a destination directory where Rapid Photo Downloader will store backup copies of the downloaded photos.

Sort, Organize, and Manage Photos

Once you’ve imported photos, you can tag them. digiKam lets you create and assign an unlimited number of tags to a photo. Better yet, you can also create sub-tags for more granular tagging. For example, you can create the macro tag for tagging all your macro shots, and then add the tamron90mm and nikon105mmsub-tags to tag photos taken with a specific lens.

Color labels is another feature that can be useful for keeping tabs on your photos. It allows you to color code photos using one of nine color labels. How you use this feature depends on your particular workflow. For example, you can apply one color label to photos you shared on the web and other one for photos you plan to use in your portfolio.


digiKam’s geotagging capabilities can come in rather handy when you want to add geographical information to your photos. The application features a dedicated Geolocation interface which offers several ways to obtain the geographical coordinates of the place where the photos were taken. You can use the mouse to move around the map to locate the desired spot. Or if you know the full or partial address of the location, you can use the built-in search feature to find it on the map.


digiKam is undoubtedly a powerful application for organizing and managing your photos, but there are situations when you need something like Geeqie, a lightweight yet flexible image viewer with a slew of nifty features. For starters, Geeqie is lightning fast, and it can handle RAW files courtesy of the UFRaw software. Better yet, Geeqie can batch convert RAW files to the JPEG format, which can come in rather handy if you want to share photos or upload them to photo sharing Web services like Flickr. When viewing photos, you can enable the Image Overlay feature which displays key info about the photo such as basic EXIF data and histogram. Using the View | Exif Window command, you can view all EXIF data of the current photo. Geeqie also sports a so-called Pan View which presents photos as a timeline, a calendar, or a folder hierarchy. Besides that, Geeqie offers the nifty Marks feature designed to make it easier to sort and filter photos. Using this tool, you can assign up to six marks to each photo using appropriate commands from the Select menu.

gThumb may look like yet another image viewer, but behind its unassuming appearance hides a rather capable application that can help you to keep tabs on your images and media files with consummate ease. The application features several creature comforts that make it easier to view and manage images. The bookmarks functionality, for example, can save you time navigating to often-used folders.


Filters is another handy feature that can be used to show only images matching specific criteria. While the filtering functionality can be useful by showing a subset of images on-the-fly, the Catalog feature lets you create permanent collections. Catalogs in gThumb act as virtual folders, i.e., photos added to a catalog remain in their original folders. Using this feature, you can keep photos from different folders in one catalog. For example, if you have photos taken in Berlin in different folders on your hard disk, you can group them into a Berlin catalog.

View Photos

If you’re primarily interested in viewing and showing photos, then PhotoQt is exactly what you need. PhotoQt is not the most sophisticated image viewer out there, but its blend of simplicity and flexibility makes it a handy utility, indeed. The application is designed to make the task of showing and flicking through photos as transparent as possible. Photo features a clean interface free from any distracting toolbars and menus.


Photo is powered by the GraphicsMagick image processing system which supports a wide range of image formats: from the usual suspects like JPEG, TIFF, and PNG to more obscure formats like JNG, PPM, EPDF. This means that Photo can handle pretty much any image you throw at it. More importantly, the application is lightning fast when it generates thumbnails and displays photos.

Process Raw Files

Next step is to process RAW files. Here, too, you can either use the tools offered by digiKam or opt for a dedicated RAW processing application like Darktable.

Process Raw Files in digiKam

digiKam’s built-in RAW Import Tool offers all essential features for developing digital negatives. The RAW Import interface is split into three key sections. In the RAW Decoding section, you can tweak demosaicing, white balance, noise reduction and chromatic aberration correction as well as color management settings.


In the White Balance section, you can adjust white balance settings and specify how the system should handle highlight clippings (overexposed areas in the photo). In addition to that, you can manually tweak exposure compensation settings, apply one of the supported noise reduction algorithms to the image as well as enable and configure the chromatic aberration correction option. Finally, you can adjust exposure settings (brightness, contrast, gamma, and exposure) in the Post Processing section. You can use the RAW Import Tool to process individual RAW files, but if you need to convert multiple files in one go, then digiKam’s Batch RAW Converter can come in rather handy. As the name suggests, this tool allows you to process several RAW files in one go.

Process Raw Files in Darktable

While digiKam makes a rather competent tool for working with RAW files, using a dedicated RAW processing application like Darktable makes a lot of sense. Although Darktable is designed for serious amateurs and professional photographers alike, the application sports a slick and user-friendly interface which puts all the essential tools at your fingertips. Darktable relies on the RawSpeed decoder library which supports many popular RAW formats. In addition to that, Darktable comes with custom-enhanced color matrices which provide better color rendition. Similar to digiKam, Darktable uses non-destructive editing, meaning that no editing actions are applied directly to the photo. Instead, all editing information is saved in an .xmp file, leaving the original photo untouched.


The editing operations in Darktable are displayed as a list in the history palette, and you can revert to any previous step by selecting it in the list. The clever part is that you can turn a history stack into a style, so you can apply the exact same actions to other photos in just one step.

All tools in Darktable are treated as modules, and you can enable and disable them at will. This allows you to customize your workspace to fit your specific photographic needs. Darktable comes with only a few key modules enabled by default, but you can easily activate other modules by picking the ones you like in the more plugins palette. Each plugin contains a number of parameters you can tweak. The sharpen plugin, for example, lets you adjust three key parameters: radius, amount, and threshold. If you are not happy with the result, you can reset all the parameters with a single mouse click. You can also save the current parameter values as a preset which you can then apply to other photos.

Once the RAW files have been processed, you can export them. The application supports a wide range of graphic formats, including 8-bit JPG, 8/16-bit PNG, and 8/16-bit TIFF. Besides the ability to export photos to the hard disk, Darktable can upload the selected photos to your Flickr or Picasaweb account as well as send them via email.

Other Raw Processing Tools

Of course, Darktable is not the only open source RAW processing application out there. Here are a few excellent RAW processors you might want to try. GTKRawGallery, for example, provides an impressive array of tools suitable not only for viewing but also for processing and organizing RAW files. GTKRawGallery uses the dcraw RAW decoding library which can handle practically every RAW format out there, including the usual suspects like CR2, NEF, RAF, and DNG.


The application also provides a graphical interface that gives you easy access to all dcraw’s RAW processing features. GTKRawGallery also supports popular image formats such as JPG, TIFF, PNG, SVG, and many others. So even if you don’t shoot in RAW, you can use the application to manage your photos. In addition to image manipulation and management tools, GTKRawGallery boasts advanced features like a histogram tool, non-destructive editing capabilities, and the ability to read and write metadata in the EXIF, IPTC, and XMP formats. GTKRawGallery even supports color management based on ICC profiles courtesy of the LittleCMS software. All this functionality is wrapped in a lightweight interface which is usable on small screens. GTKRawGallery may not rival digiKam or Darktable feature-wise, but this lightweight application can come in handy when you need to process RAW files in a hurry or keep tabs on your photos when you are out and about.

If neither Darktable nor GTKRawGallery work for you, here is a list of other RAW processing tools you might want to try:

Share and Publish Photos

digiKam allows you not only to organize and edit photos, but also share and publish them. Thanks to the bundled KIPI plugins, the application supports a wide range of sharing options: from creating static HTML photo galleries to uploading photos to popular photo sharing services like Flickr, Picasaweb, SmugMug, and many others. In addition to photo sharing web services, digiKam supports popular self-hosted photo sharing applications like Gallery and Piwigo.


If you are looking for a web-based application that allows you to host photos on your own server, Piwigo should be at the top of your list. This application runs on the Apache/MySQL/PHP stack, and it offers all the essential features. You can upload photos to Piwigo using the built-in uploading tool, you can arrange photos into albums and sub-albums, and limit access to individual photos. Piwigo also allows you to tag the photos, and edit them in batches. The application can handle multiple users, and you can specify access rights for individual users and groups. In addition to that, Piwigo supports plugins, so you can extend its default functionality by installing third-party modules.

38 comments on “Linux Tools For Serious Photographers
  1. John says:

    For us newbies, you may want to mention that display (aka sharing) options include using either a desktop application such as Jalbum, or using a self-hosting server application such as Gallery or Piwigo on dedicated box or virtualized on a desktop using VirtualBox. Virtualization can be used for development.

    Thank you for your article.

  2. Stumpy says:

    Thank you for your article. (I notice GIMP is not featured). I’m pleased to see Geeqie is recommended. I use it extensively. Fotoxx has some useful tools for HDR and Panaorama that I have used too. I haven’t used GTKRawGallery (terrible name) for a while – I might have a look again though. I’ve used Darktable and RawTherapee with good results. Thank you again.

  3. hkb says:

    More inclined to go with Darktable; also looking at Aftershot Pro.

  4. Warren says:

    Piwigo requires PHP and MySQL but does not require you to be running Apache, according to their website. Apache is not the only web server, nor everybody’s favorite.

  5. There seems to be a “new” tool you haven’t listed called LightZone ( Once commercial software, now in the early stages of beeing converted to open source.

  6. PS also, I think the features of Gimp 2.10, which will be released soon, might be of some interest to photographers. The Gimp roadmap:

  7. garhol says:

    There’s also the pretty impressive commercial offering from Corel. Aftershot Pro used to be Bibble but Corel bought it out (if I recall correctly). It’s got a really nice workflow (non-desctructive), good raw support and I didn’t see any slowdown moving over from Lightroom on windows to it. There’s a free trial as well. ->

  8. Phil says:

    50%-80% of the photos I take are off people I know and of them, 20%-30% are in the places one of them live.
    Can someone show me the photo organising suite that can easily tag photos with a unique tag for a person I know or a place where they live such that I can use it as a foreign key into my contacts list?
    I mean a proper key – not the person’s name (possibly fudged with their maiden name or date of birth) – a proper unique through time ID shared between a half decent contact manager and a half decent photo manager.
    Whilst I’m on this rant, a photo manager that does not store all the information in a database – you don’t store the jpeg file in the db, why store all the tags and descriptions in one? If they can’t be shoehorned into the image itself (well, the raw image should always be left intact shouldn’t it?) perhaps a similarly named file in the same directory?
    But then again, I’m probably just showing my hard core command line background 🙂

    Rant over – carry on

  9. Bob K. says:

    I’m sorry but Linux is not a platform for serious photography. Most if not all professional photographers that I have seen use Macs or Windows based PC’s. With way better, and more advanced, photographic, proprietary tools. Adobe, Canon, Corel, Nikon, Capture One, etcc. all shun Linux, and the opensource philosophy. Gimp is poorly developed, one or two, at the most, full time developers. and lacks 16 bit or higher color depth. End of 2014 now, going on 2015, and no Gimp 2.10, with higher bit color depth. Most professional photographers will not stand for this extremely slow development cycle, and lack of high end features like over 8 bit color depth, and lack of integration with high end plugins. Topaz, Photomatix, Nik software. ect. .. So why bother using, or even trying Gimp. Someone mentioned Aftershot Pro. Great product but one major problem!. Where is Painshop Pro for the Linux platform. Corel’s pixel editor, and companion to Aftershot Pro. Shows how much even Corel considers Linux as a photography platform. Not highly. Good articles, but your barking up the wrong tree, by putting Linux and serious photography in the same title. In reality there is no such thing, and probably never will be. Should have been titled. “Linux for Beginning Photographers”. and note that you will at some time need to change platforms, if you really want to do photography seriously.

    • yourmom says:

      @Bob K., I agree with your points regarding the underdevelopment of Gimp, and I agree that the Linux tools are nowhere near as easy to use as some on other platforms. Given the choice, I will always feel more comfortable using Photoshop on Windows or Mac. I don’t agree with you at all when you say that serious photography can’t or doesn’t go well with Linux. Believe it or not, there are still a lot of serious photographers that produce quality images with zero post processing. I wouldn’t consider myself a pro photographer, but I am a Linux user by trade, and to discount it as a legitimate platform for any endeavor is just misinformation or plain laziness.

    • UnshackledMind says:

      You are wrong on so many levels that it’s difficult to respond to your comment, but I will try:
      1) Serious, or advanced photography is not a synonym of professional photography; professional photography is a subcategory of photography in which you earn money from making photos;
      2) I’m not convinced that professional photography uses commercial software because of it’s supremacy over free and open source software. It is a fact that commercial photographers tend to use commercial software, and in order to collaborate with those commercial photographers you need the same tools. This does not prove any supremacy of commercial software over free and open source software, there are many reasons why this might have happened.
      3) If you are a freelance photographer, and you don’t have to collaborate with people using commercial software, you can achieve any creative goal using free and open software.

    • Adobe, Canon, Corel, Nikon, Capture One, etcc. all shun Linux, and the opensource philosophy.

      The “open source philosophy” is to share knowledge. There is no shunning that. You might as well suggest that they shun science or food recipe books.

      Topaz, Photomatix, Nik software. ect.

      It is up to 3rd party software developers if they create plugins for GIMP. Running plugins built for Photoshop/Windows requires using WINE on Linux _and_ extending support beyond .8bf. This is just stupid work. It will never work perfectly and will only harm reputation.

      Where is Painshop Pro for the Linux platform. Corel’s pixel editor, and companion to Aftershot Pro. Shows how much even Corel considers Linux as a photography platform.

      Well, where is Paintshop Pro for the Mac? 🙂 Shows how much Corel considers Mac as a photography platform, doesn’t it? 🙂 And while at that, whatever happened to Corel DRAW for Mac? Didn’t they retreat from Mac after one or two releases? They did. Following your logic, that only shows that Mac is also is a horrible platform for designers.

      Finally, here’s some vital background information: AfterShot used to be called Bibble Pro and developed by an entirely different company. It is also originally written in a crossplatform toolkit called Qt. Corel _inherited_ the existing application that already worked on Linux, see? Very few products by Corel run anywhere but Windows. That means absolutely nothing, whether you like it or not, whether you agree or not. It’s just a fact.

    • joncr says:

      It’s pointless to blame something as amorphous as “Linux” for commerical vendors failure to release products.

      Few people who take photos are “professional” or even “serious”. What they want is the easiest, simplest, route to an acceptabe image, not the burden of learning how to use Photoshop/Gimp/Darktable/whatever just so the Christmas pics from the phone aren’t awful.

      I used to be a “serious” amateur, with a closet full of thousand of dollars worth of hardware I don’t use. Finding photos to take is fun. Processing photos is not fun. It’s drudgery.

      I don’t expect corporates like Adobe to eliminate that drudgery because they’d eliminate their sales. As long as “pros” think Photoshop is a rite of passage, it will be there.

      Meanwhile, 99 percent of the people out there taking pictures just want something dead simple to use, without all the arcania of layers, curves, white levels, etc. That’s much more likely to come from the open source community and outfits like Google and Yahoo than it is from the traditional commercai vendors.

      • Meanwhile, 99 percent of the people out there taking pictures just want something dead simple to use, without all the arcania of layers, curves, white levels, etc. That’s much more likely to come from the open source community and outfits like Google and Yahoo than it is from the traditional commercai vendors.

        As the mobile abuse clearly shows, 99% are likely to use Instagram and dead-easy photo editors that aren’t and, most likely, will never be open source or free/libre. Bit since these pictures aren’t meant to be epic masterpieces and will fit an attention span as large as 3 seconds, this isn’t going to be much of an issue.

    • Stefan says:

      Being a – more or less – serious photo amateur for nearly fourty years ans using Linux as my only OS for about 15 years, I have to answer: “you hit the bull’s eye – but on the wrong target”.

      I work very well with Linux, Geeqie, Darktable and Gimp, and so far noone has ever complained about sub-optimum post production. If I was a pro with a big studio and in need of outsourcing parts of my PP (e.g.: subcontracting layer-masks to some dude in asia), I’d see a big benefit in working with “industry-standard” tools and program-packages. But I ain’t.

      I’m an amateur – I work with the Gimp for 10 or 15 years and I get along very well with it. Everything is there and I get the job done, because I know how to handle the software. The same is true for Darktable, which is by far superior to lightroom (just learn how to use the equalizer and then search for something adequate in LR … it’s hopeless!). IS 8-bit color depth in Gimp a disadvantage? Only if you treat colors in Gimp. I do that in Darktable and that’s that.

      There are great Professional Tools out there, but they are of no benefit to me. Like I don’t have or need a convection oven. It’s mandatory in every professional kitchen today, but I don’t need it in my house. A taxi-driver – being a pro car user – may opt for a car that I would never consider buying…. and I drive 40000 km per year nevertheless.

      If you go for a stand-alone solution, Linux and the Open-Source-World may or may not offer the workflow-solution you are after. Things get complicated , when you need to exchange pre-fabs, because the industry-standard is commercial software.

      • mrashkovsky says:

        Thanks, this is a sound rebuttal and provides good insight into someone that takes linux and photography seriously. It is encouraging to read that you use these tools regularly and are happy with them.

    • John says:

      You, sir, are the most clueless person I have read from in a LONG time…..

    • John Calloway says:

      Your criticism of slow development must be acknowledged. OTOH, development proceeds at the hands of unpaid volunteers. Progress has been slow by “for profit” standards, but progress has been relentless, nonetheless. I invite you to check out the current state of those offerings to which you so pathetically referred way back when you wrote your post. Gimp 2.9 supports more than 16 bit, now. Darktable is a mature offering. I am a current subscriber to Photoshop CC, but have spent the last two weekends reviewing and re-editing my library from within Ubuntu using Darktable and Gimp.
      FOSS, by nature, invites others to borrow liberally (either altruistically or for profit) from innovations and development that are rooted in open source software. Adobe is not unknown to borrow at will (Content Aware technology is one prime example). FOSS would enjoy greater respect if mega-corporations like Adobe would give credit where it is due.
      Ultimately, this debate is moot. FOSS will overtake the proprietary realm. It is just a matter of time.
      If you are a pro, relying upon the latest/greatest as a means of sustaining your career, there is certainly no crime in paying for tools that make (or that you feel make) that possible for you.
      As an ameteur, you should be no less criticized for viewing said tools as the ultimate in pursuing your goals.
      But those of us who yearn to see innovation made available to anyone possessing the intellectual curiosity to avail themselves of the FOSS offerings, deserve more than the belittlement of posts such as yours.
      Time marches on. So does FOSS. In just three years, your assessment has been laid bare. More to come.



      • John Calloway says:

        Should be “AS an ameteur, you should be no more criticized”

  10. On a side note something that really disappointed me on Darktable is the fact the .xmp sidecar files it creates have a life of their own. Why? Simply because its developers decided to include in the .xmp filename the file’s original extension.

    So, if a RAW file called image.cr2 is give, say, geotags on DT, the accompanying side car file will be called image.cr2.xmp. And that’s where the problem lies, as other image organizing and editing software won’t recognize it, in case you decide to use them!

    Besides having to rename/delete those files, (mine amounted to thousands, before I found that out) so other programs, like Digikam can recognize them?


  11. Richard says:

    Excellent summary of photography tools for Linux users. Thank you.

    I have one issue and it is NOT with the article. I have used digiKam for years, it is wonderful for organising and finding photos. The issue: there is no high-end raw-converter/editor for Linux. (Yes, I have tried DarkTable.) One of the large issues: where are the local masks or selects? (so I can, for example, apply a local white-ballance to different parts of a picture)

    My solution, untill I find a really good raw-editor for Linux: Phase One’s Capture One Pro in a VM for raw editing and Linux for everything else. (Yes you need a high end CPU and a lot of memory to make that work well.)

    • Danny W Burdick says:

      The issue: there is no high-end raw-converter/editor for Linux…
      Aftershot Pro is the fastest thing you will ever see for batch conversion from raw to jpg
      And the end product is better quality than digikam’s plugin, geeqie, or rawtherapee…

    • RawTheraphee if you not yet found it

  12. RawTherapee 4.2 paired with GIMP produces results on par with any commercial tool out there. I do not depend heavily on post production but I may do a little retouching here and there. Adobe and other commercial offerings with their various lighting adjustments etc. have become a crutch for many photographers nowadays. However, I actually spend the time ensuring that my lighting is done properly in the field; it works out to be far less time consuming than using all those things in post.
    This over reliance on post processing has become so commonplace that a customer once looked at her picture on my camera’s lcd and said “that looks like it has been photoshopped”. Linux photo editing tools are less forgiving than Adobe’s offerings, with all their lighting brushes and fake bokeh tools but they force you to be a lot better.
    As the old adage goes; a shoddy workman blames his tools.

  13. DigiKam is good for asset management, but RawTherapee 4.2 is the best raw processing app I have found so far for Linux. It offers a lot of adjustments and more importantly, the best noise removal tools on any platform including the mighty Adobe. The film stock emulation tools also help to speed things up.
    I do not rely heavily on post processing, so I do not depend on the exposure adjustment brushes etc. that have become a crutch for so many photographers in Lightroom. It is far more efficient to get your lighting right in the field than relying on software to do it for you. This over reliance on post processing has become so commonplace that a customer looked at her picture on my camera’s lcd and said “that looks like it has been photoshopped!”. Linux based photo editing tools may not be as forgiving as the commercial stuff, but they force you to be far better in the field.

  14. Grix says:

    I use also Lightzone which is very good if you need masks to edit your pictures. I think there are several tools in linux that do professional work out there. the only aspect that is very bad in linux is printing, Big trademarks do not support it in fact and open source drivers don’t give the options privative drivers for win do. So this is important because I use apps that are also developed in paralel for both plattforms in case I need specific printing issues.

  15. Logics says:

    Professional Photographer since 1982, Using Linux solely since 2001. Used to use Jasc’s PaintShop Pro (or PSP as it was affectionately called) before moving to The GIMP. Now I mostly use DigiKam for organizing and Darktable for everything else.

    Yes, one can use local masks/selects in Darktable contrary to what Richard suggested but I rarely ever have to do so. As Omar Spence Photography said, you do it right in camera, you have not much to do in PP.

    Other tools I use include The GIMP and RawTherapee, although not so much. They are both excellent tools. The GIMP, I only use for special needs after completeing most of the PP on my RAW file (non-destructively) then export a JPEG or PNG to muddle with a few tiny things in The GIMP since it is 8-bit integer processing. All my other tools are 16+ bit floating point processing and that is more than some of the “Pro” products available in Windows/Mac.

    Regarding workflow for non-Linux users who insist on “industry standard” tools, I have never had an issue working with any of them since I can export my work to any format they use and I can import any format they use. Besides, in Hollywood, most of the big studios do not use “industry standard” tools because most of the big studios use tools developed by ILM on Linux and Linux has the best tools for those files. Over 10,000 Professional photographers and over 1,000,000 users of Linux had petitioned Adobe to make a Linux version of CS (which is a cloud-based, subscription model, SaaS tool) and Adobe refused. We do not mind because what we have more than suffice and out performs Adobe products in many respects.

    Bear in mind that “Linux software” is not synonymous with “Open Source” or “free”. Many Linux products, including many provided by Canonical (Ubuntu), Novel (SuSE), RedHat (Fedora), Oracle (Java, MySQL,, etc,), et al, are neither open source nor free.

    Recently I worked at a large Augmented Reality firm and they are on Linux for SW product development and some creatives including 3D, Macs for some creatives, and Windows for accounting and some 3D work. Yes, they use Solid Works for some of their 3D designs for HW product development and they use the Linux version and the Windows version which are both practically the same thing. Can’t say much more since I am under an NDA.

    Linux has been a serious OS for serious professionals in many fields for many years, including music, photography, video and 3D imagery & film and will continue to be so for a long time. Trust me, George Lucas and others like him are no fools. Neither are expert, seasoned, professional photographers like me.

  16. Val says:

    I am a new Linux fan (using Linux Mint) and a serious enough photographer. My main photo editing workflow is based on Capture One Pro 9 (Mac version). So far, I have not found a RAW convertor that would produce results even close to Capture One. Apple Aperture 3 is nothing in comparison to Capture One. Corel Aftershot Pro 3 cannot compare. Sorry, I wish I had a Linux-based platform that would allow me to produce the same results as Capture One Pro. Even rather expensive DxO Optic Pro cannot achieve the quality of raw conversion that Capture One Pro provides. I wish Capture One pro could be run via Wine. It would be worth every penny.

  17. Dyachenko Evgen says:

    This tool, that tool…. Linux bad? Linux good….. Mac is for Pro, Win is for Pro…. Hell! People! Real photographer can take ANY camera in his hands and use ANY platform or program to make the GREAT shots!!! “oh! This editor cannot make same as that one…”. It’s not because it’s bad!!!! It’s because photographer is idiot! He cannot read manual and make it! The real difference btwn Photoshop and GIMP is that in Adobe people work for money and so they produce it more quickly, than in GIMP where mostly they do it for fun. What You cannot do in GIMP? Oh, yes! You cannot push one button, so the Pro script will do it for You, You have to do it manuały. Oh! If You wanna do it manuały – do it for free, if wanna push the button and wait some time for processing it automatically – pay for program! Here is all the difference of commercial and opensource! Don’t say, that opensource is less functional! I wrote 30 scripts in GIMP that make my pictures much better level than Photoshop production. For the money I save, I bought two flashes, octo, and softbox. Don’t want to screw up with scripts? Pay to people who wrote this plugins for You (Photoshop)”

    • Val says:

      I love Linux too but why are you so angry? Chill out, people should enjoy what they are doing.

  18. Augustin Riedinger says:

    I’m surprised nobody mentions backup of files which is critical for serious/professional photographers. Would you mind explaining how you tackle the issue?

    • Sherwood Botsford says:

      I’m currently on Mac, but for decades was a linux user. The solutions differ only in detail.

      You have the following scenarios:

      A: Disk failure. Drives fail after a time. In general drives seem to last better if you don’t power cycle them. They draw 6W sitting there — that’s about 1 kWh/month. $3/year to double or triple their life (or reduce their chance of failure by that amount.)

      B: System Fries. This can be due to an electrical problem (lightning strike nearby) or a house problem (Fire, flood)

      C: Bit rot. Current disk technology has about 1 unrecoverable error per 10^14 bits read.The actual error rate is much higher about 1 in 10^10, but the drives have internal checksums that can catch and correct this.

      D: Human error. Can range from “I deleted the wrong file” to “I just reformated my computer.

      At present:
      User_Raid houses my home directories. It’s a mirrored raid — 2 copies of the same drive.
      User_Raid home directories are backed up using Time machine to two different external disks that alternate on a weekly schedule.

      Bugkiller is my project disk. It’s also a mirrored raid. I has my primary Aperture directory.

      LookingGlass is my Aperture Vault. It’s a smaller raid from older disks.

      All Raids are composed of a disk inside and an external disk. So: No two drives in a raid are on the same controller. No two are on the same power supply.

      Everything plugs into a UPS.

      This still doesn’t protect me from a house fire.

      The ideal protection for a house fire is cloud backup. But you want a system where, if you need it, they can courier you one or more disks. You do NOT want to restore a multi TB file system over a ADSL connection.

      At present I have a secondary disk for aperture vault that I attach once a month.

      Bit rot has no really good solutions right now. ZFS, BTRS, FreeNAS all have approaches. There are issues with stability, expandability, management, feature sets. At present none are quite ready for prime time.

    • logics2u says:

      Aside from all Sherwood Botsford says, (I use DMRAID and LVM to create a RAID5 across 4 striped 2TB internal HDDs —total of 6TB available— plus a 2TB USB3 external HDD), Rapid Photo Downloader is now my tool of choice which offers the option of on-the-fly backup during download.
      I shoot on dual SDXC cards and download only one to the computer, giving me three copies by that time. After a scheduled backup, I will then have four copies, and am now free to re-use the SD cards.
      I am already close to having 2TB of data on my system so looking to upgrade my external storage to a NAS device, which will be on the other end of the concrete-walled house. In case of fire, hopefully one copy will survive. Ideally, I would make an additional backup every weekend and take it off-site.
      I also do not have any speed issues as I have 32GB RAM and barely use 8GB with all apps loaded (including about 50 browser tabs in Chrome and Chromium together) and never use swap file (except when rendering a complex scene in Blender with the CPU and not GPU).
      P.S., I no longer use DigiKam for DAM but use the tools available in DarkTable. I always thought that DigiKam was a better collection manager (and it probably still is) but I figured, if that is all I am using this heavy tool for, maybe I should try to learn how to accomplish it all in DarkTable. It was not so difficult in the end to use Rapid Photo Downloader with DarkTable. RPD is very lightweight, can be highly customized, and is very fast.

  19. Kevin says:

    Has no one heard of Krita ! for Linux windows and mac it’s Free !
    lots of videos

  20. Excellent post, thank you!

  21. icewater says:

    So is it impossible to **print** high quality photos from Linux?

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