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Up for Discussion – Alternative Editing Software

Omar from the blog, My Photoblog, has written a post for us today on editing software, or rather introducing us to a new one, well it is new to me.  It is one that is open source, or free.  Many of you know that I love Linux and have been using Ubuntu on my computer at home for many years, and have used open source editing software.  Omar suggested writing a post on it here for all of us.

Basic Photography tools with Open Source

In todays IT industry, Linux has gained a lot of ground in the server rooms, but it is also a great alternative to Windows, and Mac OS X on the desktops/laptops at home.  I administer linux servers for a living, and I’ve been using it at home since 2005.  I have to admit, it can be a little rough around the edges, with upgrades breaking a system, but I’ve never had a problem that I couldn’t find a solution for online.  I also love photography, as a hobby, so I had to find tools to get organized, edit, and develop RAW images,  I would like to introduce digiKam for photographers. It’s an advanced digital photo management application for Linux, Windows, and Mac-OSX, so you can also try it if you are using one of those operating systems.

  • Workflow using digiKam
    • Downloading Images
    • Selecting Keepers
    • Tagging
    • Rating, sorting
    • Basic Editing
    • Sorting/searching
    • Batch processing


Downloading images, either using digiKam, or a simple file manager such as krusader or GNOME Kommander, or File Explorer on windows, or the Finder on OS X.

Selecting keepers: you can use the regular preview mode, or if you have multiple images of say the same subject.

selecting images

Using the light table is a great way to compare 2 images next to each other.


This is the Light table view, where you can compare two similar images.  Clearly the second one is a keeper, where the first will be deleted.


Using keyboard shortcuts, you can easily assign labels, Alt+1: Rejected, Alt+2: pending, and ALT+3: Accepted.  I usually also assign it a rating, 1 to 5 stars, using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+<number>.  This comes in handy in the next steps.

Once you finish going through the images, you can go to the filters, and select all the images that are rejected, or with a less than 3 star rating, and simply delete them.

Once the selection is done, and the keepers are rated, you can start tagging.  digiKam creates XMP sidecard files, using the same filename with an xmp extension, which is a standard used so that other applications can read them as well.

I usually add tags to my images, like Camera I used, location, if there are people in the pictures then I usually add their names, so I can easily search for them in the future. Here you can see the tagging/caption filtering screen:


You can also use digiKam’s built in image editor for basic image manipulation.  It has many useful, but basic features. You can always right click on an image, and open it in another application such as GIMP.  Another great feature of digiKam, that you can do non-destructive editing.  Since I mostly work with jpg files, I open the image in the editor and then save the final image in a new version which is usually the same filename with an _v1 at the end of the file name.  This way you still have the original, if you wish to do further editing to it in the future.

Once you add all your tags, and Copyright information, you can use the built in tools to export your images to many online services, such as flickr, SmugMug, Facebook, and many more.

Another great feature of digiKam, is the batch processing.  Where you can select multiple files, and apply settings, resize, save in a different format, add watermark, if you want or even batch edit exif information of images.


You simply select the change you want to apply, add it to the assigned tools, and then run the batch.  I use this frequently to export re-sized images, and rename the files as well.

Sharing is made simple as well, and there are many services that can be shared to like facebook, SmugMug, Picasa Web (photo’s on google), and Flickr to name a few.  It’s pretty convenient, since you can resize the image on the fly, so you won’t have multiple sizes, hanging around your hard drive.


digiKam, can also open/view RAW files, and the basic settings work fine for me, but for RAW images I like to use a separate application called Darktable.  I am still learning it so I can’t call myself an expert, but it fits my needs, for white balance correction, some sharpening, contrast, saturation, and exposure correction.  It can do more powerful processing such as masking, that I am still learning to use.

A few before and After images using digiKam, basic editing tools on .jpg images:




Since edits are non-destructive, you can also check on what you did with the image in the Versioning screen:


As you can see, I used the Auto Levels, and Noise Reduction filter to get the final image

In the end if you are into photography, and are using Linux, you shouldn’t worry about not having applications that can handle your RAW images, or do basic Tagging, and organizing.  Paid software such as lightroom, and photoshop will probably always be top notch, and be used in the professional world, but for the rest of us, there are Open Source alternatives, that can achieve similar results.etc

My Contact information:

Blog: My Photoblog

Thank you Omar, it is something new for me too, am I write in saying it seems a lot like Lightroom, so for people who can’t afford Lightroom, this is something alternative they could use.  Great idea.  I am going to put Omar’s images into a gallery so you can see bigger versions of them, make it easier to see all the small details.

  1. Well written and informative post. Have yet to try the digiKam package, but since it’s Open Source and runs on Mac OS X, Windows and Linux, it may be a good Lightroom alternative. Many thanks.

    September 26, 2014
    • Thank you, jargontalk

      September 26, 2014
    • I used it while I had my Linux computer. When changing to Mac, I started searching for it, but unfortunately I only found the sources. For a very long time Macports were unable to get installed. 2 weeks ago, I finally got it installed and the compile went well (although a slightly outdated version), but it crashes with every start right aber selecting the photo folder 😦

      September 26, 2014
      • Unfortunately that’s the side effect of Open source applications. Sometimes they lose priority, or the programmer simply stops supporting, or porting the app to a given OS. I had a version on linux that kept crashing if I click on F4 to edit, but if I use the context menu it worked fine, it was fixed in a later version

        September 26, 2014
  2. Ann #

    Great post! It’s wonderful to see reviews of Linux software. My PC is dual boot with Ubuntu and Win7, but Linux is so much safer that I prefer to use it when I don’t specifically need a Windows app.

    I had no idea that Digikam had so many features – I will have to apt-get it right away and try it out. I have been using a package called RawTherapee for raw processing and I like using it, but I think I will give Darktable a try and see what features it has.

    Thanks again for this post – it has a lot of helpful information!

    September 26, 2014
    • Hi Ann,
      RawTherapee, and Darktable are also great opensource alternatives if you are doing RAW processing. I use Digikam mostly for organizing, tagging, and sorting, and some minor editing.

      September 26, 2014
  3. Thanks – I’m always interested in how other people work. I’ve been using P/S since v2.5, so I’m kind of set in my ways, however I will pass this along to people who want an alternative.

    September 26, 2014
    • Photoshop is the defacto software for image manipulation no doubt, but if you are not making a living from photography it’s hard to justify the price tag when it’s just a hobby, which is my case, glad you liked the post

      September 26, 2014
      • Exactly why I liked the post – so many people who want to get more serious about their imaging just cannot afford to jump into the Adobe software.

        September 26, 2014
  4. Useful post. I have used GIMP which is also free but doesn’t look so fully featured as Digikam.

    September 26, 2014
    • The GIMP is more for image manipulation, while Digikam can be used for sorting, tagging, and sharing with other services, kind of for ogranizing your photo library

      September 26, 2014
  5. Adrianna #

    Your article has educated me. If you are looking for a software to send pictures to someone then take a look at Binfer.

    September 26, 2014
    • Glad you liked it Adrianna

      September 26, 2014
  6. thx, great post!
    … using gimp … it’s not perfect … ubuntu server14.4 and Mint17 …

    September 26, 2014
    • Some opensource applications have a steeper learning curve, than paid applications. Though I think that once you are over the learning curve, they do prove powerfull and usefull, glad you like the post

      September 26, 2014
  7. Meho #

    I tried Photoshop/Lightroom bundle lately and I am now appreciating Lightroom. But I am sticking to GIMP. I appreciate so much this software. One thing missing : 16bits support! But it is coming soon on 2.9 update.

    Thank for sharing this!

    September 26, 2014
    • Glad you liked it, cheers

      September 26, 2014
  8. victorhphotos #

    It is good to know that there are some alternatives out there for editing software although I have already a workflow on Lightroom that it is working fine with me but since I have a Ubuntu partition on my deskto I will try and see how it goes. Thanks for the excellent post.

    September 26, 2014
    • Glad you like the post

      September 26, 2014
  9. It’s good for people to know there are other editing solutions out there. The software that has been highlighted looks like a good alternative for Lumix systems.
    Personally though, for a person wanting to do some heavy editing you need software with the power behind it. 16bit editing has been the norm many years especially since raw processing became easier and now in the last 2 years the opening up of 32 bit editing means you need something with power.
    In saying that if you have found a comfortable editing platform that is working for you and you are getting great results then it doesn’t matter really.

    September 26, 2014
  10. This looks interesting!

    September 26, 2014
  11. Glad to get the opportunity to post here, and yes Leanne, this would be an alternative to Lightroom, to be honest, I think I only used Lightroom in beta, and it’s first version for a few weeks. I then switched full time to using Linux at home. I’ve tried many photo organizing/editing software on linux, I believe digKam is the most mature, and has the best feature set so far. I’m glad that many find this post and information useful

    September 26, 2014
  12. Great post, something new for me to try. I am always in search of new free programs, will try it for my next AfterBeforeFriday entry. Thank you for the info!

    September 26, 2014
    • Gald you liked it, cheers

      September 26, 2014
  13. I’m afraid Omar lost me for a minute or two (in blog time, that’s a lot) when he said, “Clearly the second one is a keeper, where the first will be deleted.” I stared and stared, and thought, no wonder I don’t throw out anything! Whatever was clear to him, was NOT clear to me. However, the rest of the article was perfectly clear to me, and since I have problems sometimes working with Photoshop, I may give it a try. I think what I never realized before I started blogging was just how much time it takes AFTER you take the pictures. And I thought WRITING was hard work! 🙂 Thanks for sharing this, Leanne! 🙂

    September 26, 2014
    • Well, if the images are viewed on full screen, the second image (the one on the right) the bee is sharper than the one before it (on the left) that’s what I meant 🙂

      September 26, 2014
      • My eyes are blurry enough that I couldn’t see it. I thought maybe there was a little more flower showing in the second picture. YIKES! Thank goodness for auto focus in my case! 🙂

        September 27, 2014
  14. warrenjwalker #

    Very interesting post about working with digital photographs on Linux. I am also a Linux enthusiast, and I can vouch from personal experience that Dark Table is a very powerful application. However, it has many advanced features that remain a mystery to me because I never took the time to finish reading the manual. Some of the photographs on my blog were edited using Dark Table.

    I tried digiKam briefly, but never stuck with it. Not because it had any sort of issues (though it may), but because I discovered Dark Table.

    There is also another open-source RAW editing application called RawTherapee. I used it for a while as well, and found it to be quite solid and reliable. Like Dark Table, it also has many advanced features that I know nothing about. However, it does use a considerable amount of CPU power compared to other, similar, applications.

    Thanks for the post 🙂

    – Jake

    September 26, 2014
    • Glad you like it, and I’m also learning Darktable at the time 🙂

      September 26, 2014
  15. For me there’s no alternative to Photoshop and Lightroom.

    September 26, 2014
  16. Too much computing. Not enough photographing. Keep the whole thing simple. 🙂

    September 26, 2014
    • Come on Ray, whether we like it not, the computer is an important part of photography now, just as the darkroom used to be. You wouldn’t tell someone to stop spending time in the darkroom.

      September 27, 2014
  17. i’m a lightroom fan all the way… have been using it solely for 6 years now. i only open photoshop if i have some heavy manipulating to do…

    September 26, 2014
  18. Very informative post! I’m pretty much a photoshop & Lightroom user, but I’ve always had an interest in open-source. Nice to see this as an alternative.

    September 27, 2014
    • Glad you like it, cheers

      September 27, 2014
  19. This is wonderful – my biggest problem is keeping track of where images are, rating them, and batch processing. This seems like it might solve quite a few of my issues… thank you!

    September 30, 2014
    • Glad you liked it, I hope it covers your needs, cheers

      September 30, 2014
  20. Nice article :). I wouldn’t say digiKam is a full fledge Lightroom alternative. To me, digiKam really is a photo library organizer, primarily. And as Omar said, it provides “basic editing”. Under Linux, I would say I use a combination of three software for my pictures: Darktable (RAW processing), The GIMP (Photo editing à la Photoshop), and F-Spot (Photo organizer). Trouble is, for me, that F-Spot is not in a very good shape right now (project needs to be revived, main developer cannot devote himself to it fully. A risk, with any Software). But migrating a library of more than 23k pictures into an alternative (digiKam or shotwell) is unfortunately not really easy… Open Source is great. As long as the software keeps being used by the community :).

    October 1, 2014
    • Thanks, I was an F-Spot user myself, but due to the lack of development, I moved to digiKam, I didn’t do a migration, I simply re-built my library, which took approx 2days, I have >35k of RAW and JPG images. And at the time my photo’s were on a network drive. I’ve since moved it locally, and re-built the library again 🙂 As you mention this is one of the risks with Open source software, but I am hoping that since digiKam is the main photo management software for the KDE Desktop, it will be kept alive. Cheers

      October 2, 2014
      • Yeah, I am trying to give a hand to the F-Spot dev, help rebuild it and get it back on track. It used to be the default on Gnome, so who knows… Fingers crossed… :D.

        October 2, 2014

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