Photography resource for going FOSS in Linux

The following is my opinion and personal use case about lots of different software for photography. What works for me might not work for you. Keep backups of your original RAW photos along with library/catalogs or whatever database you and your software created.

This is a collection of information I wish I knew when switching to alternative software.


If you've used a tool chain of Lightroom and Photoshop together then things are going to get more complicated but very do able once you've dedicated yourself to going all the way.
There are things I wish I knew about switching away from Adobe stuff so I hope the following helps out in preparing your photos/files for the big switch over.

Lets start with Lightroom.

There are quite a few choices and even more if you want simpler tools, but if you're being paid for your work then something more substantial will be required. As I personally only used Darktable that is what I'll be covering, but do know there are other choices!

As for choices there is quite a few, just keep in mind that some of these might only be for Linux distributions and might not have a Windows or macOS release.
Darktable - What I'll be mainly covering. At the time of writing this up they now have builds for just about any OS of your choice! Windows builds are fairly new at the time of writing this up.
Rawtherapee - Also a powerful tool much like Darktable/Lightroom.
digiKam - digiKam is a raw photo editor but I find it to be more useful as a photo library browser and metadata editor for large groups of pictures. It's what I use to navigate through my collection of reference pictures for doing art, kinda-sorta along the lines of Adobe Bridge.
Rawstudio - haven't used this one but looks to be a straight forward RAW editor.
Shotwell - If you need something simple and to the point for just cropping/rotate and adjusting exposure then Shotwell works nicely.

Most of these programs should be available in your package manager of choice if you're running Linux. Though I'd recommend grabbing an updated version from one of the following sources: Appimage, Flatpak, Snap package or PPA source if you're Ubuntu based.

Now to the Photoshop related stuff

For me personally I did everything in Lightroom, the few things Photoshop was used for was panoramics and HDR shots. I know other photographers really go all in with editing some of their photos which I'm confident is still possible.

GIMP - This is really the most straight forward alternative to Photoshop you can get. Keep in mind however you'll need to get G'MIC addon and possibly a few others to really fill it out in making it feature complete.

Hugin Panorama Photo Stitcher - This is what you'll be using to make panoramic shots.

Luminance HDR - A fully automated HDR program.

File Formats

Before dropping Adobe all together make sure you prep your library. If you've converted your entire library to DNG, then go and grab the original camera raws. While DNG is technically an 'open' file format it's still non-free and fairly proprietary to adobe (it's just a fancy TIFF anyway), so I hope you saved your originals. Next check your library for converted panoramic and HDR renders from either Lightroom or Photoshop, they will most likely be DNG or PSD, you'll need to convert that over to something universal like a TIFF file as for me Darktable would tell me the DNG file generated from panoramics was unreadable.

Lightroom Library

As for your Lightroom library itself, you won't be able to keep it going forward. I found it good practice to go back with Darktable and redo choice old photos I've already exported out of Lightroom with all the touch ups and get it as close as possible. But if you have way to many photos or don't want to loose what you have so far then go ahead and export your edited photos at full resolution. Just make sure to not apply the watermark to it just in case you want to print it out later for selling/show/hanging-on-the-wall.
This part can be a major pain in the ass but if you're doing new jobs at a relative pace then you'll have new material to work with all the time rather than having time to worry about old ones. Also with time you'll have a chance to refine your skills with the new software.

Next up, how do you sort your photos? Well I hope it's by folders as that's how Darktable really likes to do it.
Alright, thats just the way I like to do it

My photos are sorted by Year then a sub-folder for events in that year, I'd recommend using the Film Roll mode in collected images as the Folders view shows everything in that year recursively from every sub folder, I've yet to find a setting to show only the selected folder but filmroll works in that way to start with.
There still is filtering by camera, lens, ISO, mm and all that good stuff. About my only gripe is that I'm not able to apply star ranking or color label within the darktable tab and only applicable while in the lighttable tab.

More than just Darktable

If you're used to using HDR and Panoramic tools within Photoshop/Lightroom itself then you've got more ground to cover.
You'll need to use Hugin for Panoramics, and Luminance for HDR (Photomatix does offer a Linux client to their software but it's 1.0.2, very old at this point so I wouldn't bother). More on HDR shortly!


Hugin seems complex and manual but it's actually quite automated, there are times when a panoramic I'm trying to pull doesn't just "go" with the first attempt, giving a guide to hugin would eat up a lot of this post so I'd recommend grabbing the latest build from hugins site and fire up a YouTube search.
Bonus use! If you do artwork that doesn't fit on your scanner Hugin comes in handy to stitch scanned artwork together and I've never had to fuss with it, gets it perfect every time.


I did make mention of LuminanceHDR but personally if you want an HDR that looks super clean and not the hyper crazy psychedelic look some HDR photos have you'll want to make it by hand! However if you dig that look in your photos then I'm sure Luminance will get you there!

I'll admit for the longest time I've only used automated software to make HDR images and with my HDR software choices being limited with the move to penguin land I actually stopped making them for a while.
Now the following is completely obtainable in Photoshop, just on my end I never put in the effort to try it by hand as the automated process was "good enough". With that said

Here are some examples of what I mean. The first one is an HDR merge from Photoshop that I took my time making. Second image is from LuminanceHDR and finally the third one is done by hand in GIMP.

By no means is this a pure example of "see this is better than everything ever", but more of a realistic example that automation can't really give you everything. Actually going in and doing a nice clean realistic HDR by hand gave me an image I was much happier with. The sky isn't a blurry mess and the colors are more proper and accurate and there is depth in places I felt were washed out. By no means is this perfect but much happier with the result!

If you're used to the easy click next button thing Lightroom provides Hugin and Luminance will be a bit of a shock in learning curve as the tools give you options and control over everything. While before even if you didn't fully grasp how an HDR image worked or what problems barrel distortion does when making a panoramic, you'd be able to click a few buttons and it would do it for you, and for the most part the fully auto did quite well. With these bits of software you'll need to know a bit further going in. Then there is learning the GUI and layout of tools, which keep in mind all of this software is made by small teams of mostly programmers and programmers are not UI designers, where as Adobe most likely has a team just for that.

Film & Color Filters

Now that I've scared everyone off lets get even more interesting! With Lightroom you'd be able to shove in a bunch of plugins or some really fancy film emulation stuff (like VSCO). For the most part if you just need some split-toning done it's built into Darktable, but if you want something fancy such as film emulation there are some steps.
First off install gimp from your repo, then also install G'MIC ( gimp-gmic in Ubuntu repos)
For other Operating Systems or just a more up to date one for Linux, just grab the G'MIC plugin from here.
When you load up a photo into GIMP, go into Filters then at the bottom G'MIC should be there, with this new window go into Film Emulation and just start clicking away. One of my personal favorites is Instant[pro] -> Polaroid 690-.


There is a feature of Darktable that I feel is underlooked. The watermarking.
In Darktable you can build a SVG vector file with text variables to define what you want on the watermark, and every time you export a photo it will apply whatever metadata you want on it.
Here is an example of what my SVG file looks like (added red so you can see it)

This SVG is a simple vector, a grey shadow box with a beveled edge to match my business cards along with the same font, and my website clearly at the bottom. Now there is some nonsense at the top. What that text is telling Darktable is to grab the camera model name from the EXIF (metadata) from the image and replace the $(EXIF.MODEL) with the name. The $(IMAGE.EXIF) grabs the basic information about the photo, shutter speed, aperture, focal length and ISO.
Now every time you export a photo with Darktable and have the watermark module enabled, it will print this out.

Now if you want to edit a pre-made SVG and you've installed Darktable from your local repository of software then the built-in SVGs should be located in /usr/share/darktable/watermarks
Copy the SVG to /home/username/.config/darktable/watermarks
I would advise you don't edit the SVGs in the /usr/share area as you'd need root permissions to edit it and you just shouldn't.
Here is the link again if you want the variable names the watermark SVG.

Photoshop hotkeys...

Finally I'd like to make note of Photoshop itself, personally I've been using it less and less with my photos as Lightroom gave me pretty much everything I ever needed and I never did massive touch up's on photos. However GIMP does have good healing and fill aware tools for such things. Also if you're used to the single window of PS you'll go nuts with the multiwindow GIMP starts with by default, go to Windows -> Single Window Mode to feel more at home.
All of the hotkeys can be thrown right out as GIMP for the most part uses different keys for just about everything. There are themes and hotkey replacements to make GIMP act more along the lines of Photoshop.
As someone who tried to do it, just don't.
It's not worth it as a lot of the times the tools you're expecting for one thing don't operate quite the same. If you hit a hotkey you know does something in Photoshop but not in GIMP it's actually kind of frustrating. Do yourself the favor and start from scratch on this one, I wasted a lot of hours on doing just that.
It will also make like easier in the long run with looking up guides/tutorials and they throw default hotkeys and now you've got to figure out what the Photoshop version is.
Last thing to keep in mind, GIMP does NOT have a shape tool (though it does have a pen tool), there isn't any layer styles, so things like drop shadows, bevels and stroke are now in places like Edit->Stroke Selection & Filters->Lights and Shadows->Drop Shadow. For the most part you'll find these functions as filters.

Closing Details

Hopefully the above information is helpful to you or at least interesting.
There are plenty of other places to find out about photography using open source software. Here are some extra links:

PIXLS.US List of Software -
FOSSPhotography subreddit -


Fixing the Steam Controller udev rules after Linux Mint 18.1 upgrade.

This might apply to other distros of Linux but after upgrading Linux Mint from 18 to 18.1 my Steam Controller stopped working properly in games. Here are the steps I took to fix it. Firstly unplug the steam controller and/or the wireless device.

After the 18.1 upgrade I found that Mint removed a package named steam-devices, so go ahead and open a terminal to reinstall this.

$ sudo apt install steam-devices

Installing this will rewrite your udev rules so we need to fix that up, but thats ok as of 11/22/16 the udev rules needed to be updated anyway.

Open the udev file for the steam controller, if you're using mint you most likely have xed as a text editor, if you don't just drop in whatever you want; gedit, ect. If using a terminal editor like nano or vim replace gksudo with sudo (gksudo is just for GUI programs).

$ gksudo xed /lib/udev/rules.d/99-steam-controller-perms.rules

Then copy the following and paste it in, replacing any text (if any) that exist in that file.

# This rule is needed for basic functionality of the controller in Steam and keyboard/mouse emulation
SUBSYSTEM=="usb", ATTRS{idVendor}=="28de", MODE="0666"

# This rule is necessary for gamepad emulation; make sure the user playing steam is in the "games" group, it should be by default.
KERNEL=="uinput", MODE="0660", GROUP="games", OPTIONS+="static_node=uinput"

# Valve HID devices over USB hidraw
KERNEL=="hidraw*", ATTRS{idVendor}=="28de", MODE="0666"

# Valve HID devices over bluetooth hidraw
KERNEL=="hidraw*", KERNELS=="*28DE:*", MODE="0666"

# DualShock 4 over USB hidraw
KERNEL=="hidraw*", ATTRS{idVendor}=="054c", ATTRS{idProduct}=="05c4", MODE="0666"

# DualShock 4 wireless adapter over USB hidraw
KERNEL=="hidraw*", ATTRS{idVendor}=="054c", ATTRS{idProduct}=="0ba0", MODE="0666"

# DualShock 4 Slim over USB hidraw
KERNEL=="hidraw*", ATTRS{idVendor}=="054c", ATTRS{idProduct}=="09cc", MODE="0666"

# DualShock 4 over bluetooth hidraw
KERNEL=="hidraw*", KERNELS=="*054C:05C4*", MODE="0666"

# DualShock 4 Slim over bluetooth hidraw
KERNEL=="hidraw*", KERNELS=="*054C:09CC*", MODE="0666"

Save and close the file, now we need to reload the udev files, in the terminal type in:

$ sudo udevadm control --reload
$ udevadm trigger

That should be it, you can now plug the controller or wireless dongle.
Any updates to the udev rules should be posted at:

My source for most of this information is from here is the post about it.

Update Dec 27th: Thanks to /u/pizza-dude for reminding me to use gksudo with GUI related programs in sudo.
Update Jan 24 2017: Changed the group to "games" something most users are already apart of to begin with. Found this bug out when trying to game on my laptop.


Full Migration from Windows to Linux - Report #2 Software

What makes or breaks a platform? Software.

What gets people to use your software? Marketing.

Something I've noticed among every group of people, even ones that have some difficulty using a computer. They know the term "Photoshop" and at times it's not even directly related as the program itself in the name, it's now a term or lingo to call something Photoshoped. Pretty sure that there are some out there that use the term without knowing about the software in the first place.

So with that in mind...I'm an adobe junkie, been using Photoshop, Lightroom & Premiere sense the early 2000's moving away from that much to learn a new chunk of software is hard, hell a new workflow. That sounds harder!

But I've made a move and started using Kdenlive on Linux Mint 17.3 to edit videos of my sister and I playing video games (not original sure, but we have fun doing it). The first thing I tried was to simply load in the recorded video plus audio from the mic and dive face first into editing it and attempting to do all the same things I do with my editing style with Premiere. This includes just simple stuff as fading from and to black, audio dips in keyframe moments (when coughing) splicing the video when cuts are needed and fading into other video (example on a video here) and laying video over other video in a lower corner. Simple things sure but I found all of these things and more within Kdenlive, even a few things I wish Premiere had but I guess that isn't a problem any more! As for diving in face first you'll just waste time, find someone who has put up a tutorial (I found this guy who goes into some nice detail but do look at several videos). Even if you know how non-linear video editing works in practice the software is an entirely different tool even if it's doing the same thing.
There are different video editors for linux as well such as OpenShot and Flowblade, in the end you'll have to try them out to see which works best for you.

The video editor was the first thing I looked for to replace the windows end of things and after uploading the finished video it felt fairly easy that it was edited, rendered and uploaded all within some other software that I've never used before.
It's been a long time sense I've had to learn and use new software so this has brought back some old excitement to me from when I was learning all of this stuff back in the early days of windows about the only thing missing is the huge amounts of time I found myself with back in the 90s.

As things are going along now I've actually learned quite a bit more than the video editor but I'm slow to write this stuff. But the above is what I found and felt during all of that. Now to get into stuff that might actually be more useful.

I've been looking into a lot of different software to replace just about everything I do and as the name of some chunk of software is the first tricky step (at least it was for me) I figured sharing everything I found would be helpful to other trying to make a switch.

The left side will be the windows software to be replaced, the right side will have the replacement.
This is my personal list of what I found works for me.

  • Photoshop - GIMP + MyPaint
  • Lightroom - Darktable
  • Adobe Bridge - Shotwell
  • Adobe Audition - Audacity
  • Premiere - Kdenlive
  • Sketchbook - Krita
  • Winamp - Clementine
  • Imgburn - Brasero
  • Illustrator - Inkscape
  • cuetools - Flacon
  • Indesign - Scribus
  • ZBrush - Blender

With Photoshop and Sketchbook it's actually split between GIMP, Krita and MyPaint. With these different tools they are more powerful in the regards of what I'm after in the end.
There was also quite a few tools I used in windows that were already packaged for Linux such as Hexchat, Handbrake and Steam but thats another subject.

Now not everything either works out of the box or just in a different package ready to go. There are two programs I was nail biting over as they are less work-ish but can be seen as work however bring me great joy. FL Studio and Hammer (map making tool for source engine games). But there is good news everbody! They work just fine in WINE, FL studio took installing quite a bit of extras from WineTricks but I loaded up a huge demo project and plays just fine. Hammer was the one I was really freaking over but it ran and compiled a map just fine, the only thing I wasn't able to get going was running CSGO to let hammer see all of the resources but thats because I'm doing all of this testing on a Thinkpad X220 laptop with an Intel GPU and WINE makes fun of the Mesa drivers, however on my main machine with a Nvidia GPU I'm quite sure it will run perfectly fine but even if it doesn't I'll just have to manually tell hammer where to do everything.

I'm sure in time there will be different programs I try or even shift to and with that I'll do my best to post progress on it as I haven't seen very many people document this kind of shift and even as I write this there are other things coming to mind about what kinds of programs that can run on the penguin. Firefox and Chrome for example, sure anyone just loading up about any distro of Linux will see that Firefox or Chrome(ium) is loaded up but it's there and almost taken for granted.

Now for a change of pace. Originally I was going to go with Linux Mint and call it a day but I've been using the same semi-bland looking OS sense the age of time and while Mint is much prettier than windows I wanted some major eye-candy but it still needed to be highly functional. At one point I almost went for Debian and pump it full of themes but I'm lazy and I like PPAs that ubuntu based distro can use. With that I've found that Kubuntu is what calls to me, currently I'm using 15.10 and that has KDE Plasma 5.4.2, I've changed the overall look to Breeze Dark and oh my it sure is pretty.

Yeah I'm a sucker for 75% grey-blues with minimalists look to it. Down the road I'm sure that it will be changed to something more green with simple icons but thats an easy change for when I'm really settled in. There was a part of me that just wanted to load in Ubuntu and roll with it but KDE has everything I need along with that very familiar shart button in the lower left. And I can't get used to the window buttons being on the left, always feels like I'm borrowing another persons computer. One thing to note however is that by default single click acts as a double click when opening files and folders, I tried very very hard for a week to get used to it. Just Can't Do It. However it's an easily changeable setting in the mouse options, along with acceleration for whatever reason is a thing on by default as well.

Currently my plan is to install 15.10 on my main machine then roll it over to 16.04 in April, it seems Linux Mint can't do that sort of self upgrade yet though they did mention version 18 should be able to handle that. I will say for anyone migrating from windows, Linux Mint really is the easiest way to go as it even uses nearly all of the hotkeys I was used to, where as with KDE 5 I'm having to manually put in stuff like Meta+L to lock the desktop when I get up, or even just hit the Meta key for bringing up the shart menu to start typing in a name of something (which I use a lot rather than icon hunting with the mouse, though again this works in Linux Mint out of the box!)

This is everything I've discovered so far, once more things get moving there will be more updates to come. Hope this was helpful or just interesting.