Linux for Professional Photography

This is a guest post by professional photographer Scott Rowed, describing his experience in switching from Windows to Linux.

Does Linux have the tools for a professional photographer?

A few months ago I would have answered "no". After switching primarily to Linux I gradually migrated my computer activities away from Windows. While there are some good open source imaging tools in Linux, there always seemed to be some missing function, forcing me to boot into Windows for serious image editing.

I'd developed a complex workflow for Windows over the years. Irfanview for browsing the RAW files, Adobe Camera Raw and Nikon CaptureNX for converting the RAW images to JPEG or TIFF format. Noise Ninja for fixing images shot at high ISO. PTLens for correcting barrel distortion in architectural shots. PTGui for stitching panoramas and HDR (high dynamic range). And, of course, Photoshop for just about everything else.

When Bibble Labs recently came out with Bibble 5 Pro I decided to try it. Bibble runs on Linux, as well as Windows and Mac, and has a reputation of excellent quality. It's commercial software, not open source, but $200 is a fair price considering its features. (

But would it be enough to allow me to stay booted in Linux while maintaining an efficient, high-quality workflow? It soon became apparent that this was fast software with a wealth of image-editing features. Browsing, batch processing, asset management and color adjustments all function very well. In addition, the standard version of Noise Ninja is built in and you can upgrade to a registered version at extra cost.

While Bibble can be a key element in a Linux imaging workflow, it doesn't do everything I need. Two open source programs, however - Gimp and Hugin - fill in the gaps.( and

Gimp is a good image editor, although not quite on par with Photoshop. Most of the criticism I've read focuses on the lack of 16-bit editing and the fact that the interface requires Photoshop users to re-learn a number of functions. Editing with 16-bit files allows larger adjustments to color and dynamic range than possible with 8-bit files. In my own work I have seen posterization in Gimp when desaturating various colors and 16-bit files could possibly have prevented this, allowing for a smoother transition of tones. That said, however, it makes little sense to output a 16-bit TIFF file from the original RAW file, only to make large changes in color or tonal range in Photoshop. It's much better to make these changes directly from the RAW file, which has even more room for adjustment.

One of the advantages of RAW files is that they have much wider dynamic range than processed JPEG's or TIFF's. You can salvage detail in blown highlights and bring up shadow detail that would otherwise be too dark or completely black. Bibble does this exceptionally well.

Okay, the Linux workflow works well for normal shooting. But what about more difficult tasks? Does it do everything I'd expect from a Windows or Mac workflow? Is it efficient, and more importantly, is the quality of output just as good?

Interior architectural photography, an important part of my work, is technically demanding as ambient light varies wildly in both brightness and color. I frequently change tungsten or fluorescent lights to daylight balanced bulbs, shoot different exposures to capture the full range of highlights and shadows, add supplemental lighting as needed, or even wait for dusk. Sometimes it's useful to "paint with light" - taking several shots while lighting different regions of a large room in stages.

Linux handles this complex workflow well. Editing the RAW files in Bibble I can adjust the color temperature, highlight and shadow detail and other controls. For more difficult shots I may have to create two or three TIFF files from the same RAW file, or even use different RAW files shot with varying exposures. The output files can then be combined using layers and masks in Gimp, or HDR (high dynamic range) software. For HDR I've had good success with Enfuse in Hugin.

A pleasant surprise in Bibble is the inclusion of geometric correction for barrel distortion, eliminating the need for PTLens. This correction is not needed for most photography but is essential for architectural images to avoid vertical lines along the side from bowing out like the sides of a barrel.

Software is unable to automatically detect barrel distortion, so lenses have to be manually calibrated, with the numbers entered into a database. Bibble as well as PTLens, read the EXIF information from the image to see what lens was used and at what zoom setting, then refer to the database to make corrections. Bibble currently has 350 lenses in their database, and add more as customers send in images for calibration. My "workhorse" lenses for architectural shooting, the Nikkor 14-24 f2.8G ED and the Nikkor 24-70 f2.8G ED are both calibrated.

When these corrected images are opened in Gimp I apply the perspective correction tool to make the vertical lines vertical, correcting for the camera pitched slightly up or down. When shooting I'm careful to keep the camera level laterally, using the built-in level in my Nikon D3.

For sheer efficiency, my Linux workflow is signicantly faster than the hodgepodge of programs I'd evolved using Windows. In fairness, however, a Windows or Mac setup with Bibble or Adobe Lightroom would also work well.

What about output quality? To test this I went back to some RAW files I'd processed with Windows and compared the output. The conclusion? The differences were very minor and simply the result of using different parameters in the processing. The Bibble files were initially sharper with more detail, but after applying additional sharpening, the Windows-processed images were almost par. The main difference in the end was slightly smoother shadows areas in the Linux file which I attribute to a small application of Noise Ninja in Bibble.

There is one Windows program I'm happy to keep - Irfanview - which fortunately runs flawlessly under Wine. (

When browsing and culling a folder of RAW files (in my case Nikon NEF) Irfanview is exceptionally fast as it reads the embedded JPEG preview rather than interpreting the RAW data. The preview file is a full resolution file, but compressed with "basic" JPEG quality. When you shoot RAW files and review the images on the camera's LCD, it's the preview files you're looking at.

Irfanview is also fast and intuitive for batch functions such as resizing images and IPTC captioning.

For the first time since switching mostly to Linux almost two years ago, I can do all my image editing in Linux without compromise, even for the most complex professional jobs.

More like this

Linux software converts many Raw photographs but can someone tell me if it will pick up MRW.s still RAW or those processed by Psp ultimate 2 & 3 now Jepg. Also Sony Raw, still RAW,or proccessed by Psp 3 ultimate also now Jepg. I like what I hear and learn of Linux but don't know enough about their Photo' Editing ware. Can someone please help?

By Mary Hassall (not verified) on 01 May 2012 #permalink

Photosoftware on Linux has been getting very professional.

Digikam is the best preview, sorting organizing software and automated conversions from raw to jpeg(not perfect but pretty good)

I used to work with UFRAW and then Gimp to finish my pictures.

Now I use darktable it is an amazing tool looks and feels a bit like Lightroom. There are only layers missing or local adjustments other that that my whole process is using mainly Linux

Thought new Linux users reading this article should know that Bible was stopped and the developers released a new product under their new owner, Corel. The new product is just a new version of Bible and is still available for Linux. It is called After Shot Pro.

Very interesting post. I would love to switch to Linux, but I absolutely must be able to use the most recent version of Adobe Creative Suite. (And no, it doesn't all work on Wine.)

Why the fucking fuck does Adobe refuse to port their fucking shit to Linux? It can't possibly be difficult, since the shit already has been ported to the Mac OS, which is also Unix-based.

I wonder the same thing. I would dive into Linux, but love my pirated Adobe products too much.
Scott's workflow sounds a bit tortuous to me, both in Windows and Linux. I am sure his reasons are sound, but I am making do with fewer programs. Perhaps because he has not used the newest Adobe products? Most manufacturers RAW files are natively supported in ACR and there is even a windows plugin that lets the Windows image viewer view the RAW files from Canon...I never use it, except to know a little faster which thumbnail to click on (I always shoot both JPEG and RAW (hence have no use for Irfanview to view RAW files). I definitely use Irfanview for very minor editing jobs because it boots up very quickly and supports many image file types.
I am using Adobe CS4 and find it's RAW conversion to be nice and smooth.

Have you tried using UFRaw for RAW image processing?

Many thanks for this guest post! As I'm not a professional, I use my simple Canon A590IS for photos. CHDK allows for a few added features that I enjoy playing with.

I use Hugin to correct barrel distortion, etc. when I need to. It's an excellent program.

I have rawstudio v1.2 to manage the RAW files, but haven't taken time to play with it.

From FAQ:

When can we see 16-bit per channel support (or better)? For some industries, especially photography, 24-bit colour depths (8 bits per channel) are a real barrier to entry. Once again, it's GEGL to the rescue. Work on integrating GEGL into GIMP will begin after 2.4 is released. Once that work is completed, GIMP will support 16 bits per channel. If you need such support now and can't wait, cinepaint and krita support 16 bits per channel now. It should be noted that for publishing to the web, the current GIMP release is good enough.

Re: Adobe
Adobe continues to have extreme difficulties with Linux. 64-bit programs also seem to present problems for them, no matter what the platform.

So, tonight, a famous astronomer who shall remain nameless unless she choses to reveal her identity had a problem: Her windows computer tried to update the driver for her wireless, but since there was no working wireless connection, it messed up during the wirelless driver update, leaving the computer worthless just before a panel discussion.

With an assist from blogger Lousy Canuck ( who happened to be in the vicinity, she booted the windows computer into Linux.

It just worked.


Rajan: Have you tried using UFRaw for RAW image processing? I have and I do. I'm not a pro, but I think they are good (and by "they" I mean it ... they are both the same basic software, command line vs. GUI)

Physioprof: Is there any way you can tell us something about what you are doing? All I know is that you rely on Adobe Creative Suite. But if we had a better idea of what parts of it, what functionality, etc., it may be easier to advise.

I have to admit that I have not considered using Linux before. Like others the love affair with Adobe products is hard to leave for other independent programs that may not work as well. However the Linux system is way more secure when compared to Windows from my understanding so it may be worth the switch for the security.

I think the Gimp FAQ is out of date. It's at 2.6 now, has GEGL integration (I think the GEGL library have to be installed separately in the *buntus, but it's in the repository) so 16 bit should be there now.

By Equisetum (not verified) on 02 Jul 2010 #permalink

Chalk me up as another Adobe based windows victim. I use linux, enjoy it, but my primary workhorse is windows based because I feel tied to photoshop (yes I know and use GIMP, but it's still not comparable), illustrator (to which I've found nothing, on any platform, comparable), and recently lightroom (which is one of those tools I never knew I needed until I used it). Ok, that's not entirely true, I'm also a bit tied in due to various engineering packages (pleased that EAGLE is on linux, but solidworks, inventor, deskproto, etc notsomuch). That and maybe foobar2000.

The one that makes me really really sad though is that I cannot make my car-pc linux. Tunerpro is already a big enough POS, running that under WINE is a major fuckup. Right now it's the only thing that supports my engine management system.

So basically, I'm down to having one toy netbook running ubuntu. And if I ever finish it my set-top music player will probably be linux running MPD; which at least has some good android clients to control it. (ok my phone is linux too, sort of).


If you have applications that absolutely must run on Microsoft but lust (justly) after Linux's better security:

Set up a Linux host and install Virtualbox with a Microsoft client OS. Not suitable for twitch gaming, but does nicely for just about everything else. The client doesn't have to have outside network access (you can share files between the host and client) and you can also back up the client as often as you like (it's just file copy) so it's a snap to revert to a clean snapshot.

By D. C. Sessions (not verified) on 02 Jul 2010 #permalink

@Rajan. Yes, I've tried UFRaw but it didn't seem to support the functions I need. For example, as far as I could determine, it doesn't include shadow and highlight recovery, a feature I consider essential to my work. If I were determined to stay with free software I'd look seriously into RawTherapee, which does include this feature as well as what looks like a good IPTC editor.

For initial browsing and culling of raw images I mentioned Irfanview, but Bibble is also excellent for this, with some advantages. With Irfanview, for example, when you want to zoom in for a 100% view with Ctrl-H, it zooms in on the top left of the image rather than the centre. This is irritating as it means you then have to scroll to the main part of the image and this is quite slow, at least under Wine. Bibble is faster for this. Also with Bibble, while you're browsing through the images you can very quickly save a final output file, often just with pasting the settings from a previous image (Ctrl-C to copy the settings, Ctrl-V to paste).

@Sean. No I haven't used the latest Photoshop (CS5), but have done plenty of work with CS3 and ACR. And yes, the results are nice and smooth, pretty much on par with Bibble. Not really sure what you mean by a tortuous workflow as it is much faster and more efficient than my previous workflow under Windows. Keep in mind that with Bibble, for most images, you don't even need an image editor after. I deliberately chose to focus on architectural images as they are the most complex and need corrections for both barrel distortion, perspective and frequently HDR. These are not needed for most images, but I wanted to show that Linux has the tools for complex jobs, not just the easy ones.

Are there features you find ACR that are not in Bibble?

By Scott Rowed (not verified) on 02 Jul 2010 #permalink

Re: Adobe
Adobe continues to have extreme difficulties with Linux. 64-bit programs also seem to present problems for them, no matter what the platform.

What is this supposed to mean? What "extreme difficulties" is Adobe having with Linux? What have they tried to do in Linux?

More on RawTherapee. I've done some more experimentation and found this to be quite a good program, full of useful features and producing excellent output.

I haven't been able to get the Version 3.0 Alpha to work on my computer, but 2.4.1 works well once you get used to the interface. Reading the manual is rather useful too, especially the part on keyboard shortcuts, otherwise it can be difficult to even figure out how to open a folder or file.

It's not as fast as Bibble for browsing and loading raw files, but it has a wealth of tools and functions for pros including a âlocal contrastâ function, which improves many images. Prior to this I'd been applying local contrast by using the unsharp mask with relatively high settings for âradiusâ and low for âamountâ.

On the few images I've tried, it's produced excellent skin tones, remniscent of Nikon Capture NX. For high ISO speeds, the noise reduction is not as good as Bibble's use of Noise Ninja, however.

Its development plans include auomatic correction for chromatic aberration, which would be really welcome. Nikon Capture has it, and JPEG's straight from Nikon SLR's have automatically been corrected for CA. It's such a good feature I don't know why all raw converters don't have it.

Bibble has the edge for speed in browsing and opening files, geometric lens corrections and noise reduction, but RawTherapee certainly looks promising.

By Scott Rowed (not verified) on 02 Jul 2010 #permalink

Equisetum @8:

I think the Gimp FAQ is out of date. It's at 2.6 now, has GEGL integration (I think the GEGL library have to be installed separately in the *buntus, but it's in the repository) so 16 bit should be there now.

True, the FAQ very up-to-date, but GEGL support is in there. Unfortunately, it's not there for dealing with images having higher bit-depth. It is there for using higher bit-depth when performing certain functions. See the Under the Hood section of the GIMP 2.6 Release Notes for a bit more info.

Comrade PhysioProf @12:

What is this supposed to mean? What "extreme difficulties" is Adobe having with Linux? What have they tried to do in Linux?

Adobe's acquisition of Macromedia left them with at least one project that presents problems, particularly for Linux. The Flash plugin for Linux has been problematic from the beginning. A 64-bit "alpha" version has been available, but was recently removed due to a "big new update" promised by Adobe.

D. C. Sessions @10:

Set up a Linux host and install Virtualbox with a Microsoft client OS. Not suitable for twitch gaming, but does nicely for just about everything else.

I heartily second this recommendation! One of my hobbies is creating 3D building models for Google Earth. The tool I use is Google's SketchUp application. Like so many others, it's not available in a Linux version. It will run using WINE, but not very well. Using a VirtualBox installation in Ubuntu with a Windows 7 guest operating system allows me to continue one hobby without sacrificing another.

Thanks for the info on Flash for Linux. For my own purposes, that doesn't mean fuck-all. The absolute deal-breakers for me are Adobe InDesign, Adobe Acrobat, and Adobe Illustrator.

@Scott, I will try Bibble and see how it stacks up! I am always looking for nice and easy ways to make my photos look better. I have used RawTherapee and found it to be unstable, resource-hungry, and subpar as compared with Canon DPP (which is a good converter in itself). Maybe the later versions are better, but I was a bit soured on the experience. The only positive thing about it was native support for CHDK-hacked PowerShot files (which I have a lot of, but am no longer producing much).

I suggest having a look at the GPL Rawstudio. I'm told the GUI has at least a superficial similarity to Adobe Lightroom (which I've never used).

Most important for me, it integrates the LensFun library for correcting lens distortion.

I'm still new the game of raw processing, but so far it seems to work well for images from my Panasonic GF1 (though I'm still working on the lens callibration).

Have you tried lightzone?

I haven't tried Bibble pro 5 yet. Bibble pro 4 didn't run nicely for me under Linux.

@Comrade PhysioProf

I believe they were refereing to the problems Adobe has with Flash on Linux. x32 version is caught up on Linux but the x64 version doesn't get many updates.

In reading Mr. Laden's material, I note he does not mention how he calibrated and profiled his monitor and/or printer under Linux. I would be interested to know how he addresses color management, which is a real problem under Linux, because even with the relevant virtual tools in a virtualization environment, the monitor cannot be calibrated and profiled in or through the virtual instance. Printer calibration and profiling through the virtual instance is possible. I would like to know if Mr. Laden uses Argyll or something like it and what success he is having with it. Also, I would like to know if he is using a RIP to control his printer, or just conventional Linux printing approaches.

By Ben Teifeld (not verified) on 06 Jul 2010 #permalink

I have used GIMP on Linux since 2000, but for the last two years I have used Bibble. Now I mostly run Mac, and Bibble works for me here as well. I still need to pull some of Bibble generated TIFF files into GIMP, mainly for cloning purposes. But generally, I am very happy. More so because I am 100% Windows free at home now.

Ben Teifeld: Please not that I am not the author of this post, but hopefully the author will address your question.

I will say it might be helpful for you to clarify what you mean by "the virtual instance." Is this running Linux in a virtual machine on Windows?

I 'm happy to see commercial programs becoming available on Linux and hope Sibelius Music Publishing will fall into line.

Why, though, all the foul language? Poor English of any merely confuses content and is most offensive. Early computer programmers were aware of the need for good language construction; it seems that modern (MS?) bloatware is causing a general fall in standards of linguistic behaviour. I thought the site was moderated to exclude such content. If moderation is not enforced, we can only hope to encourage legislation.

To clarify, I was speaking of using a virtual Windows instance under Linux, in order to be consistent with the focus of the article: how to accomplish photographic/graphic arts work under Linux.

By Ben Teifeld (not verified) on 06 Jul 2010 #permalink

Greg, I am assuming you are asking whether I have calibrated/profiled a monitor successfully through a Windows instance running on a Mac, or a Linux instance running under Windows or Mac.

The answer is no, because it is impossible to calibrate and/or profile a monitor using current virtualization software like Parallels, VMware(any variation), or Virtualbox. The reason is that each one of these virtualization environments provides a simulated video card that does not include a simulation of the color LUT functionality. As a result, any adjustments which the ICC profile demands cannot be implemented.

By Ben Teifeld (not verified) on 06 Jul 2010 #permalink

Hi Greg,

Have you tried digikam ? It is a photo management application that reads embedded jpegs in raw files so preview is very fast. It also has 16 bit editing. It is primarily a photo managment software with raw conversion but not a fully featured photo editor. you should be able to replace Irfanview with digikam. other extras like tagging, geo location, export to flickr, fb etc are also great.

FYI Krita supports 16 bit editing.

Thanks so much Greg, for your very informative blog!

I am in the exact same situation U were in at the beginning.
I really want to be free of "Windows" and thanks to my brother Allan, who is somewhat of a computer guru, and who, by the way, referred me to your blog, was responsible for turning me on to Linux.
I love the whole idea, and concept of open source computing that Linux offers, not to mention the added security, community input, intuitive design............., etc, etc,.......
I spent a good 3 + years of "intense" self tutoring in Photoshop and think it is probably the best developed image altering and enhancing program out there!

"Lightroom" is also great.]

I'm looking for a comparable program for Linux.

The biggest problem I encountered with Linux was finding an App.that addresses conversion from Raw, to tiff, To jpeg.

Sincerely, Wayne

By Wayne Belyea (not verified) on 06 Jul 2010 #permalink

A program similar to lightroom is digikam.
At least for pictures organization. It quite powerfull to import/export pictures to sites like flickr and the like.

By Rafael Rios (not verified) on 06 Jul 2010 #permalink

@Ben. Re: calibration. I haven't used a Spyder or similar monitor calibration device under either Linux or Windows. This is for a couple of reasons. First I'm able to get a reasonably accurate monitor calibrating by eye, using MacBeth charts, gray scales and images with clean skin tones. This requires some adjustment to the curves in the monitor software, in my case the Nvidia X Server settings. Is this as accurate as using a Spyder? Probably not, but for my shooting I'm striving for an aesthetically pleasing result more than exact color. If I were shooting catalogs of clothing or paints, where exact matches are expected, I would need a hardware-calibrated monitor.

This approach has served me well, maybe because I have a decent eye for subtle color casts, probably helped by years of using dichroic enlarger heads and cc filters in slide duplicating and color printing.

This article suggests that if you don't have access to a Linux compatible calibration device, you can create the ICC profile in Windows, then use it in Linux. That may not work under Wine or Virtual Box.

I'd also be interested in hearing feedback on someone using Argyll.

By Scott Rowed (not verified) on 06 Jul 2010 #permalink

A couple of quick points:

I appreciate this post! I've been using a Linux distros since
the first release of Slackware (think early-mid 90's). I am a
published author (Linux and other technical books), so I am an
advocate of the GNU/Linux OS and the various distros. I am also
a semi-pro photographer (it's not my primary income).

One thing I'd like to correct - the references to a "workflow"
on a GNU/Linux distro or MS Windows ... there is really no
"workflow" associated to an operating system or OS distro. I do
realize I'm being a techno-weenie dweeb, but an operating system
really has no bearing on a workflow, except that we might be
discussing the available tools that run natively on some OS.

The second point I'd like to make is in response to those who
quote, "I can not live without "Adobe CSxx".


I've been "Windows-free" for many years. I've been using
LightZone and Bibble for quite a long time, in addition to
some other tools, such as the GIMP. (None of my computers
use a MS Windows operating system).

I'm not being rude, but if you "can't live without Adobe CSxxx",
then you've bought into Adobe's marketing hype or can't work
outside the "Adobe Box".

Scott: Thank you for your reply and explanation, I appreciated it very much.

MJT: Could you please tell us what you do for color management under Linux- how do you profile your monitor(s), printer(s), and scanner(s), as well as what color management tools do you use?

By Ben Teifeld (not verified) on 06 Jul 2010 #permalink

Re - Colour calibration.

There appears to be quite a concern about a good Linux based colour calibration app. out there.
At the moment, I am using "dispcalGui" by Argyll, CMS & Python.
I find it is quite good although I am still learning how to use it due to it's somewhat complex nature.
Lots of options.
I'm using it with the Spyder Pro 3 and find the calibrations it makes are superior to the base Spyder software.
U may have to play with the gamma setting which is usually at a setting between 2.2 & 2.5.
I also have not figured out yet, how to get a constant variable ambient reading as in the original software.
No problem getting the initial reading. Just haven't figured out how to get the constant variable yet, although it is supposed to be available.


By Wayne Belyea (not verified) on 09 Jul 2010 #permalink

Re - Photoshop withdrawals

Just to sympathize with the Photoshop junkies out there.... I am one and still have some withdrawal symptoms that I'm trying to overcome.
Admittedly, I am a recent convert to Linux. I just got tired of the "Windows" blah, blah, blah and security issues.
The reason I did not go with Mac is because of the expense and is still a proprietary system.
Again, I love and am sold on the idea of open source!
However, there are still some significant advantages that Photoshop has, at this time, to anything Linux has to offer.
Such as..........It is a highly developed and mature application that has the advantage of many years of development with valuable input from some of the worlds preeminent professionals.
It has the cooperation and partnership with some of the leading graphic design and photography related companies in the world. (Hence, plug-ins up the yin-yang).
When I was running Windows, I was able to utilize a very efficient work flow.
I used basically 3 programs for virtually all my needs,...... Nikon's Capture NX, Adobe Lightroom, & Photoshop with all the Nik plugins.
I found it fast, very efficient and intuitive.
This is very important! Especially in a professional "Time is Money".
Personally, I find that if I have to use more than 3 foundational programs, my work flow becomes somewhat cumbersome and laborious. The efficiency, speed and therefore productivity, enjoyment and satisfaction, suffer!
I tried the 15 day trial version of "Bibble 5" (wish it was a 30 day), and found it to be generally very good and a step in the right direction!
It reminded me of "Lightroom" somewhat.
Maybe, I just have'nt been able to find it but one of the things so far, that I miss the most, is a program that along with hopefully many other things gives me the ability to convert Raw files to tiff to jpg with the same quality as Photoshop did. With 32 bit or preferably, 64 bit capability.
I'm sold on Linux! Just need some sophisticated, photographic joy!
Can anyone help?
Would be much appreciated!


By Wayne Belyea (not verified) on 09 Jul 2010 #permalink

Scott: Curses upon you for writing this. You pre-empted an article I was going to write after my journey of developing a photographic workflow on Linux. Replace "Bibble" with "Lightzone" and you have what I was going to write.

Having cursed you, thank you for writing that, it is great to have a professional state that it is possible to use Linux for photo work as opposed to me who occasionally needs to do it on the side to compliment other graphics work. (And enjoys it as a hobby too.)

I used ArgyllCMS to calibrate my monitor. It is very user unfriendly. Severe pain to understand the manual. However, it works. And well. I thought the results to be better than software from the manufacturer (Eye One) as I went nuts and told Argyll to do the best quality tests. Takes a long time, but it gives very good results.

My experience was with the command line version and there now exists a GUI for Argyll. Perhaps that will help the ease of understanding/use.

The Linux Photography Blog is the best guide for colour calibration on Linux. (, see Table of Contents, Colour Management).

Foxxfoot: I sympathize you and agree in principle about overall productivity and all. Despite that, I use more applications in Linux to do the same things and freely admit that things like colour calibration were more time consuming yet keep using GNU/Linux. Why? Anger management is the answer. With Windows there was always something that needed to be addressed that had nothing to do with the programme or the work. Frequently it was something so extraordinarily stupid (e.g. new update that harmed the system in a way a that a first year computer science student would know how to avoid it) or unethical (e.g. installer for an app or filter or somesuch changing my settings without permission or adding spyware) that it made me distracted with subconscious anger.

Despite the added steps and inconveniences, I use Linux because it makes me more productive simply because I don't feel like I am using Windows.

Obviously, that is just me though, and obviously your need for using Linux can be expressed more rationally. For someone like yourself who found Bibble 5 a step in the right direction I suggest looking at Lightzone and keeping in touch with the developments in Linux. One other reason I keep using Linux is because I know things will get better. I have seen them get better and I see where we are headed in the near future. My fundamental concerns about other systems do not appear to be improving, but when I test, express feedback, help others, etc, Linux photo related software gets better.

-ArgyllCMS to get me set-up with calibration.

-Lightzone to make big overall changes and for conversion to TIFF or JPEG. Did the free Bibble test, liked it.
-GIMP for actual painting, manipulation, etc of images
-Cinepaint to check afterwards to make sure everything is good colour wise.

-Organized directories for digital asset photo management, although there are people who swear by Digikam. ( almost convinced me. Might still try it.)

-Photoprint to print with 100% confidence that my printer is colour aware and in-step with everything else. Created by a bad-ass programmer too. Alternatively, do not print your photos, or send the electronic files to a print shop.

I never thought of Photoshop as primarily a converter and although I never scrutinized for this specifically, it never once occurred to me that Photoshop was better or worse at RAW to JPEG conversation than Cinepaint or Lightzone.

Not that I know first hand, but surely something as bare-bones and hardcore as Imagemagick does a good job doing such conversions.

For the record, Lightzone is available on Linux, but is a multi-platform commercial programme not FOSS.

Greg: Apologies for the length of my comment, especially as it is my first visit here.

What I would give for Photogenics to be updated to work on current Linux versions...


"While Bibble can be a key element in a Linux imaging workflow, it doesn’t do everything I need."

This just after:

"Irfanview for browsing the RAW files, Adobe Camera Raw and Nikon CaptureNX for converting the RAW images to JPEG or TIFF format. Noise Ninja for fixing images shot at high ISO. PTLens for correcting barrel distortion in architectural shots. PTGui for stitching panoramas and HDR (high dynamic range). And, of course, Photoshop for just about everything else."

I guess Photoshop doesn't do everything you need either!

Not actually a put-down, since UNIX lives by "one tool, one purpose" and that workflow on highly articulate and complex projects like professional imaging is a HUGE investment in one specific tooset and will need to be dropped moving to a new platform.

Just found it highly amusing that you weren't apparently reading your own blog...


@Davros. Re: LightZone. I'd tried this some time ago, but decided to give it another shot after reading your post. I was able to get some good raw conversions, but it seems pretty sluggish compared to Bibble on my computer. For example it was taking about 45 seconds to save a jpeg from the raw, and during this time it wouldn't let me move onto the next image to start editing. Bibble, on the other hand, takes anywhere from 1 to 10 seconds (depending on whether Noise Ninja is used) and you don't even have to wait for it as you can just move onto the next image right away by pressing the ] key to browse forward.

With Bibble you can browse through a folder of raw files very quickly, almost as fast as you can press the [ or ] keys (for back and forward). When you get to a bad image, press DEL and move onto the next image. When you get to one you want to convert to jpeg, just press Ctrl-V to paste the settings (assuming you've used Ctrl-C to copy the settings from a previous shot in the set), make any further adjustments, then Ctrl-S, Enter to save it. Working with a large folder of raw files, the speed of Bibble makes a big difference. If you're just working with a few shots, I'd be okay with LightZone or RawTherapee.

BTW, I couldn't find any corrections for chromatic aberration in LightZone. Do you know if it does this?

By Scott Rowed (not verified) on 10 Jul 2010 #permalink

Interesting looking product. How is it better than fspot? (I can think of a couple of ways it could be better, but I'll be you have a more accurate description than I do)

Maybe you should try digikam.
I use it to skim and classify my shots as I could do with lightroom, and it can do fast display of RAW images, so one can decide what to keep and what to trash. Since I shot a lot, I find very useful the lighttable function.
I then use it to do some basic editing of my RAW images. It can remove noise with a tool similar to noise ninja, and also apply lens correction, always in 16 bits. It has also some tools to work on large image batches.

I use digikam for almost everything, and when I need something more I use gimp, hugin and imagemagick. As a faster (because it starts faster than digikam, that needs to load its database) image viewer I use gwenview, and I'm happy with it.

Even more, the digikam developers and the community is really vibrant and active, so there's a lot of possibilities to get help and to get new useful features is they're not yet available.


as stated above, you should take a look at digiKam. It is really the open source equivalent to Lightroom, some features are very advanced. And new convenient features come as facial recognition, reverse geolocation, etc.

Is it just me, or does this article seem like a reflection on how useful certain software packages are for photography, rather than how useful linux itself is for photography?

I work at a newspaper, and one of the big things keeping us tied to Photoshop instead of switching to GIMP is the fact that GIMP does not have CMYK export (there is a plug-in that can do it, but it isn't very good). For those not aware, CMYK is a color separation scheme that is an alternative to RGB, and is used to separate the colors from photographs into cyan, magenta, yellow and black so the photos can be properly reproduced on the press.

In my position, I am more of the website guy (and pretty much only need RGB), so GIMP works fine for me (my image editor of choice, actually, both at work on Windows and at home on Linux). But unfortunately it is pretty much worthless in the editorial and advertising departments.

Gimp, Krita-does have CMYK support, Inkscape, Scribus, Blender...lots of options.

By FreeBooteR (not verified) on 15 Jul 2010 #permalink

Inkhorn, it may be just you. The article is about the viability of using a Linux operating system on which to build your photo work flow.

Yeah, apparently CMYK support for GIMP is 'rudimentary' ... but, it is important to note that this means very little to most users. If you don't KNOW for certain that CMYK is needed, than it probably isn't. e.g., if your printer has CMYK cartridges, this does NOT mean you need CMYK separation, and in fact, your printer and driver most likely can't use it anyway (even though the cartridges are CMYK).

Regarding Darkbox: I like it, but I hate the fact that (apparently) I can't configure the size of the damn typeface it uses for its buttons and stuff. I can't read tiny white tipe on black background, thus the software is pretty useless for me.

Regarding Fast Photo Downloaer: I used it once and it worked very nicely. The second time I used it it choked and did all kinds of bad stuff. So I'm not sure if I like it or not. Well, I like it in principle, but I'm not sure if will really work for me yet ... maybe my problem was with the particular sd card I was using. Need to look into it further. But I like the idea.

Scott: I think you misunderstood me. It was not my meaning that if you were using Lightzone instead of Bibble I would agree with the assessment and I furthermore think Lightzone is noticeably better than Bibble. I meant that Lightzone and Bibble are interchangeable in the overall context of using Linux for photography work and that what I was preparing to write was identical in meaning, and would have been identical in specifics if Lightzone was cited.

I tested Bibble a bit and liked it. Only thing stopping me from buying it is a lack of needing it due to already owning a copy of Lightzone. Although I love the zone part of Lightzone I was not trying to promote it over Bibble.

Also, my comments were meant to say that Lightzone, along with several other options, outputted excellent file quality of RAW images saved as something else. Not endorsing it specifically but addressing someone who seemed to think that Linux lacked such abilities.

I forgot about Bibble's speed. The one speed test I did for fun was impressive, the effort the developers put into multi-threading and taking advantage of multicore CPUs, etc is great. However, your guess is correct, I normally work on small batches of images when RAW files come into play so I was not thinking of it much when I used the trial version.

Sorry, I am pretty sure Lightzone does not have Chromatic Aberration features. This is something that would be very rare for me to be concerned about, and I think Raw Therapee was what I used to solve the problem the one and only time I needed to address it. Maybe I will buy Bibble 5 down the road just in case. :-)

Inkhorn: Citing software packages useful for photography that run on Linux is what we were promised. The title of the article is "Linux for Professional Photography" and the conventional wisdom is that Linux cannot be used for pro photography. So by telling us what photography software runs on Linux the article tells how Linux can be used for professional photography. I understand if you would like to read a technical article about some aspect of how Linux handles imaging that makes it suited to programming photo software and I would read that for sure, too. However, I, and I think most of us, knew that this article would not be it. It would be about what software is available on Linux and is capable of pro photo work. (A how, not why, article.) Why did I expect that? Well, even before the article itself starts, the line "This is a guest post by professional photographer..." appears which sets the tone that a user, not a developer, would be doing the writing.

Corfy: Do not give up forever. Please keep checking in with GIMP. Now that the GEGL code has been integrated into GIMP the foundations have been laid for better colour handling. CMYK, and better depths and better profile management will be coming down the pipeline. Also, remember that there are CMYK capable graphics software on Linux. Others cited examples like Krita. For desktop publishing there is Scribus and the commercial Pagestream. I expect you will have what you need on Linux eventually.

Foxxfoot: Thanks for that. Most of those lists are becoming obvious to me, nothing new on them, but that one lead me to learn about some unexpected great stuff. Thanks.

NP, Davros;

I appreciate the Linux community and intend to share possible in-sightes & help whenever I can.
I found the comments on that site to be interesting as well.


By wayne Belyea (not verified) on 19 Jul 2010 #permalink

There's no better tool for photographers on Linux then DigiKam!

By anonymous (not verified) on 21 Jul 2010 #permalink

Thanks anonymous.......
Have not tried it yet, will do so......


By Wayne Belyea (not verified) on 31 Jul 2010 #permalink

BTW, Thank you Greg, for this blog!
I think it is important as well as relevant!


By Wayne Belyea (not verified) on 31 Jul 2010 #permalink

Hi All,
First of all ... great blog entry. As a Linux enthusiast I like to see Linux get more promoted. Also, I'm a photographer and I've been using Linux for more then 7 years now. Currently I'm using a Ubuntu desktop and the applications GIMP, Geeqie, Hugin, qtpfsgui and UFraw. And I'm loving it!

Because of my joint interests in Linux and Photography I decided to start a website dedicated to these issues. Here I try give as much information as possible (reviews and news). I hope you don't mind that I'm hereby promoting my website. If so, just delete my comment. I think my website can contribute to all the photographers out there wanting to use Linux and Open Source software.

Thanks Nedo,
Ditto, Greg.........Nice idea!

By Wayne Belyea (not verified) on 07 Aug 2010 #permalink