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#title Linux and Photography Article by Shay Stephens

There is a wealth of information out there about editing photographs on Windows and Mac platforms, but not so much about Linux. So I hope to rectify that here with information that may be beneficial to the Linux based photographer or those simply contemplating a move to Linux.

As a wedding photographer coming from a long and heavy Windows background, I wasn't very fluent or capable with Linux when I first started investigating it last year. I tried out a lot of versions until I came to Ubuntu Linux. Ubuntu was the first version of Linux that worked on both my desktop and laptop, and that sealed the deal for me. I then began dual booting between Ubuntu and Windows XP. And little by little, I started moving more and more work over to Ubuntu until one day late December 2006 when I installed a new sound card in my desktop, Windows decided *it* didn't like that, and told me I had to get permission from Microsoft to keep using my computer. Well I got tired of doing that all the time, and can't really afford the unreliability this introduces into my computer, so I denied Windows' demand, and instead backed up all my data before the 3-day shut-off date expired. The switchover was complete, and I have not looked back since.

My sparkly new Linux computer now runs a semi-different lineup of software than it did with Windows, instead of Adobe Bridge for editing RAW files, I use Bibble Pro 4.9.5, instead of running Nero to burn CD's and DVD's, I use a program called K3b. There are a few Windows based programs I still need to run for lack of better Linux based alternatives. Some notable examples being Photoshop 7, MemoriesOnTV, and Star Wars Jedi Knight II*. All of which I am happy to report are working very well in a program called Wine. The makers of Wine describe the program as a Windows compatibility layer that makes the Windows based program you want to run think it is running in Windows. Wine still isn't at the 1.0 level of completeness, but it is close enough now that Photoshop 7 and many other Windows based programs run very well.

Finding a RAW editor - Bibble

The first task for me when I made the switch in operating systems was to find a RAW editor I could use. Right now that editor is Bibble Pro 4.9.5 from Bibble Labs. It took me a little bit of time to get used to the interface and ways of accomplishing tasks (coming from an Adobe background), but I have been able to ultimately do all my RAW work with Bibble as efficiently as I did with Adobe Bridge. The nice thing about Bibble is that it runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms so you really have the most freedom to use whatever system you want. If you think you may want to switch operating systems, you can start using Bibble now on Windows to get familiar with it, then when you make the switch, you are light years ahead of the learning curve when you use Bibble in Linux.

Some of the program highlights in addition to standard RAW editing are spot healing and patching, Noise Ninja, lens distortion correction, vignette control, and B&W conversions (shown in screen shot).


The Bibble support forums are very helpful too and there are various how-to's, documentation, and videos to help out the newcomer to Bibble. Don't be shy about signing up to the forum, they will treat you well.

The Noise Ninja capability in Bibble is limited if you don't have a Noise Ninja license, but if you do have one, or purchase the Home Standalone version, then all the features open up for use. Just be aware to use Noise Ninja sparingly, it will really slow things down if you apply Noise Ninja to every photo in the folder you are working on.

The development of Bibble is very active and useful features are being added all the time. The price is affordable too, currently $129.95 for the Pro version and $69.95 for the lite version.

The alternative - LightZone

Another interesting RAW editing program that just entered my radar is LightZone, it has a very unique interface that combines the idea of the zone system and correction layers. It can also do spot healing and cloning. It is lacking a few key features for me, but they say the next update or two will likely take care of that. LightZone feels easy and intuitive to use once you become familiar with the tools that are available. The interface as you can see has a simple layout and doesn't get in the way. And yet, a photographer can stack up a very complicated set of adjustments and corrections to each photo. Many users will be able to use it as is right now for all their needs.


If I were to try and describe LightZone in one word it would be "organic". It is one of those programs that just feels like it is not so technical and mechanized but more analog, fuzzy, and natural. Not in a bad way mind you, but more like the results you get have more of a hand crafted look and feel to them as if you were creating the images in a darkroom by hand. Beware, once you try the program you may get hooked by it!

The Linux version was offered at no cost, but now costs 99,95$ like Windows or Mac versions.

When it comes to creating slide shows in Linux, no native Linux applications really stand up and say "Use me!". So the one I am using right now is a Windows based program called MemoriesOnTV 3.1.8 from CodeJam. It has recently started working via Wine and I am creating some very nice slide shows with it.


MemoriesOnTV is also in active development, so it pays to check their website every now and again to see if there are any updates. Bug fixes and the occasional added feature find their way into most update, the latest being "clipshows" and "multiple slides".

The basics of the program are simple and pretty straight forward, you add the photos you want, then apply music and transitions as desired, then render the video. There are a lot of options and customizations allowed, so you can tailor the slide show to be as simple and elegant as you want or as flashy and glitzy as your eyes can handle. MemoriesOnTV can be purchased from the CodeJam website and runs $79.99 for the pro version and $49.99 for the home version.


Using K3b to burn discs

You can generate a disk image with MemoriesOnTV and use K3b to burn it to a DVD. If you are using a separate DVD authoring program, you can have MemoriesOnTV just generate mpg files instead. I use a DVD authoring program called 'Q' DVD-Author, so I opt for the mpg file generation. 'Q' DVD-Author is a bit finicky to use, so I am not yet recommending it to the average Joe. Although if you want complete control of the DVD menu structure and layout, it is your best bet and well worth the effort to learn to use it.

K3b the CD/DVD burning program just recently made the 1.0 level (congratulations to them) and it is the only Linux burning program that I know of that offers data verification, something I personally can't live without. K3b really is the best Linux based burning program I have used and has been a great replacement for the Windows based Nero which was my main burning application in Windows. Interestingly, there is a Linux version of Nero called NeroLinux, but it hasn't worked as well as K3b for me and certainly doesn't look as nice as K3b. NeroLinux looks like a throwback to the stone-age of computing (10 years ago!), I know that is petty, but there it is. If you are not as petty as I am and want to use NeroLinux despite its ugly face, you can do so without charge if you already have a Nero license. Just enter your key into NeroLinux and away you go. If you don't have a key, you can buy one for $19.99 from the NeroLinux webpage.

Photoshop on Linux?

I mentioned using Photoshop 7 via Wine. There are Linux alternatives to Photoshop 7 such as Gimp, Krita, etc, but the text layout capability is currently very primitive in those programs. So when I need to create DVD box art, photo books, etc, I still need to rely on Photoshop 7 to get it done efficiently.

For everyday photo editing, Gimp, Krita, and the others do a very good job, and the upcoming version of Gimp, 2.4 will have a healing brush and other great tools you may be used to from Photoshop. I am currently using Gimp to batch process my full size images into web sized versions that I can upload to my website. If you have previously been using the scripting capability of Photoshop, you will enjoy the ability to create scripting in Gimp too as the automation capabilities really shine when under scripting control. More about that though in a later article. Until then, check out the Resource Repository for links to the companies and products mentioned in the article.

If you have questions or comments you can send them to me here: http://www.shaystephens.com/contact.php

First published in FullCircle magazine issue #3 under Creative Commons ShareAlike v3 Licence


Photos/LinuxAndPhotography (last edited 2015-03-30 18:06:47 by knome)