Color Enhancement

Portrait Photography in Linux - An Extensive Guide

Right now Windows and Mac dominate the professional photography world. That does not mean though that Linux does not have the tools available for professional photography.

While most photography software is designed to run on Windows or Macs, there are a lot of great software that runs on Linux. The purpose of this guide is to show what tools are available to someone wanting to do photography using only Linux tools.

This guide has the following sections:
  • Tips for portrait photography (has nothing to do with Linux, but still important)
  • Organizing photos in Linux
  • Software in Linux for RAW photo editing
  • RAW photo editing tutorial
  • Post Processing (beyond RAW editing)
  • Creating a watermark for your photos
  • Adding watermarks in batch to all your photos
I have tried to include everything you could possibly need to know for doing a portrait photo shoot from start to finish using only tools available in Linux.

Before we dive into this, I want to offer a brief disclaimer:
I am not a professional photographer. I am not trying to be, and I won't pretend to be. What I am however is a geek (obviously) who loves Linux and open source software I want to use that software to help me with my hobby of photography. Whether or not you find this guide useful or not may depend on the skill level you already have. If you look at my photos (just scroll up or down, I have them posted throughout this guide) you can decide if you like the quality or not. If it is something you think you can do already, then you may not need (or want) to read this guide. If however you think you may want to attain the quality you see, then this guide may end up being very helpful for you. I welcome any criticism, correction or critique you may have. Feel free to leave any comment (if it is about my mom though, I will probably delete it!

Alright! Let's begin!

Tips for portrait photography

There is only so much that a piece of software can do for you. If you don't have decent pictures to begin with, it is difficult or impossible to get the results you might be hoping for. Before you begin learning about software, it is important to increase your skills with the camera.

Click here to go to the section: 10 Tips for Portrait Photography

Organizing photos in Linux

Picasa Photo Manager
Oh if only people could be just a bit more organized. Maybe I am just an organisation freak, but it drives me crazy when people don't know where any photos on their computer are because they lack the organizational skills. Maybe this in not you, but perhaps you might find some of these tips useful. This will focus mostly on the wonderful photo manager Picasa.

Click here to go to the section: Organizing Your Photos

Software in Linux for RAW photo editing

RAW photo edited in RawTherapee
Linux has many different options for editing RAW photos. The software I will discus are:

  • UFRaw
  • Darkroom
  • Raw Studio
  • RawTherapee
Not all RAW editors are created equal.

Click here to go to the section: Best software in Linux for RAW photo editing

RAW photo editing tutorial

This RAW photo was edited using RawTherapee with a saved editing profile.  This section will show you how to create and save an editing profile as well as how to edit RAW photos in batch.
This section used RawTherapee to show you many different options for RAW photo editing.

Click here to go to the section: Raw Photo Editing Tutorial

Additional Post-Processing Work

Post processing work done in the Gimp
In many cases, you may not need to do any additional work that has been done in RawTherapee. If you find however that there are some additional edits you would like to make to your photo, you can use the Gimp to do some more post-processing. The Gimp will allow you to apply different filters, add a vignette, enhance colors and do many other edits to your photo.

Click here for some color enhancing techniques: Enhancing the colors of your photos with the Gimp
Click here for to other techniques in Gimp: Add vibrancy and a vignette to your photo using Gimp

Creating a watermark for your photos

Watermark created using Inkscape
Using Inkscape you can easily create a watermark file that can be used for all your photos.

Click here to go to the section: Creating a watermark for your photos using Inkscape

Adding watermarks in batch to all your photos

Watermark added in batch using DigiKam
Using DigiKam, you can easily add watermarks to all your photos in one step.

Click here to go to the section: Adding watermarks in batch to all your photos

Final Thoughts

Hopefully this guide has been some help to understand the tools available to you in Linux. Even though my photography work has much to be improved, I feel that there are sufficient tools in Linux that if I wanted to be a professional photographer (and had the skills to be), I could be, using only tools available in Linux. It might take a bit more work or practice, but the tools available are certainly high quality. Gimp, RawTherapee and Inkscape are some of my favorite programs and I feel they compare favorably to their closed source (and very expensive) counterparts.

About McKay


  1. nice thanks for sharing!

  2. Nice. You have chosen some good tools and they are worth the effort to learn. I prefer Digikam for organizational stuff over Picasa (my favorite on a windows box). Picasa use to rely on wine to run and I think it still does. digikam I believe gives me a little more flexibility.

    For RAW processing or post processing including watermarking there is a new project that is very much worth the effort in exploring. Darktable is a fast moving project that has a lot of talent behind it. Mostly geeky serious photographers with high levels of programming skills. It's a non-destructive editor so your original RAW files aren't touched.

    Gimp is also a favorite but as soon as you open a .jpg it converts it to 8 bit. Not bad in and of itself but if you want to maintain the depth and breath of 16 bit for larger prints.... well it's not quite there yet..

    Some other fun programs to play with are Hugin Panoramic and qtptfsgui now called Luminance HDR.

    It's great to see all these tools available and the quality they produce.

    Best, Mark Garrow (Scunizi)

  3. there are also some good commercial tools for raw processing and workflow available on linux. i use bibble labs "bibble pro" and lightcrafts "lightzone". both are excellent tools. cs

  4. Hey thanks for the suggestions! I looked at darktable and am very impressed so far! It was easy to install and has some unique features. I think after the next time I take photos I will do an evaluation of darktable as well and update my posts.

    I did read about bibble pro and lightzone; they seem to be quite good.

  5. Let me just add that Bibble is available for Linux, and is an excellent tool for processing raw images.

  6. Thanks for the tip wolf! Great to know what software is available!

  7. To each his own, however Bibble and Lightzone, while interesting, and not without pros, offers no great advantage for their paid, tier limits.

    In my very extensive testing, you may save time by focusing on Gimp, it's many plug-in and tutorials and when raw is really better, getting used to ufraw, before Gimp.

    DigiKam is the most excellent fully featured organizer; better than what Lr (Adobe Lightroom) does and without the "catalog" hell. However, DigiKam does suffer the KDE crap and all too often doesn't have matched and corrected libraries (parts) for your preferred distribution, and if you are running Gnome. That's a major shame; as usually, your desktop manager (GUI) matters not.

    You might just use Picasa; which with Linux, runs without WINE issues, transparently and independently, from any other WINE needs that you may have. if you have basic organizing needs. Picasa has it's own Raw developer, too; if your not as into the technical side of photography. Sometime Raw is potentially best, and sometimes the JPEG is potentially best (time), and it highly depends on the camera, and situation (and output goals).

    Do not let ufraw scare you, if you want to do Raw. Once you get used to it, you'll only need to change but a few controls and you may make and/or use other curves.

    Do not let Gimp scare you, if you are new to photography. The only reason there's a lot, to the Gimp, is because it can do a lot. This is a very good thing. It's no more difficult than anything else. Plug-ins make long processes, just one step. See FX-Foundry plug-ins.

    About the hardest thing one has to do, with a distribution like Ubuntu, is (occasionally) enter a "Persoanl Package Archive" (PPA) Internet location for the programs and parts you wish. This is a cut and paste affair. Then they are automatically integrated without you comprehensive upgrade system. You can even, just check the programs you wish, and they are installed correctly, for you. If that's too much for you, you're not a photographer. :)

    Also, you dyed in the wool, old-school PS'ers out there, have no excuse; for not trying these free things. If you are a good photographer, you'll be looking to reduce costs and increase abilities. These things ELIMINATE software costs, and better stay out of your creative way. if they did cost double, they would still be better. However, if you're dead set; on getting more and more locked-in (like Lr Catalogs) and having slower Raw function for newer cameras, then it's your party. I suspect your clients don't care!

  8. Digikam is my favorite app. A few of the features I love is the light room is very usefull tool to select and rate the pictures you like by comparing them at different zoom levels.

    There guides to composition has really helped my increase the impact of my photos. I don't need to be happy only with the rule of thirds.

    Also their meta data templates make add customized metadata very simple. Apart from cool features like remote capture of cameras.

    I would not recommend GIMP unless you are ok with 8 bit processing and don't mind the horrendous interface with multiple windows open.

  9. Great comments! I think enough people have given DigiKam high enough praises that I will have to try it out some more.

  10. Hey Anonymous, you should not have been anonymous as those were great comments about Gimp, will have to check out ufraw, sounds interesting.

    While I am 100% Linux at home today, back in the day I started using Graphics image packages when PaintShop Pro had become as fully capable as PhotoShop. Considering it cost over 400% less it was PaintShop Pro for me. When Corel attempted to force me to update my operating system in order to use the new version, it was Gimp ONLY for me from that point forward. I would have paid for PaintShop Pro because I was use to it, but nothing in this world could get me to pay hard earned money for Windows ever again.

    At SCaLE 9x (#SCaLE9x hastag on twitter) in Los Angeles, Feb 25-27, 2011 I was able to catch Akkana Peck's session on Writing GIMP scripts and plugins. Amazing the number of scripting languages that one can use to enhance their work with GIMP. Whether you use Script-fu, Python or C (there are many other choices) you can literally write your own Plug-Ins for flexibility. For Python fans, well that is GIMP's native language. I was impressed that I could leverage the power of the C language (Linux native language) to write plug-ins for GIMP.

    And if you are new to Linux and Gimp, no worries, you certainly do not have to program plug-ins to make the most of Gimp...but isn't nice to know that you can create something unique (plug-in) and add it to Gimp to make your life better! Welcome to Linux, open source and FOSS...its not about cost to most of us, its about flexibility and freedom. You will find it here!

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  12. Thanks for the welcome... I really need to get out and get some more shots... and this site always motivates me to do so!

  13. Great shots!!! The couple looks awesome. Really exceptional work. Thanks for sharing.:)

  14. Thanks for the compliment! That means a lot coming from you. I went to your website and love your work!

  15. Linux is also good. I find linux more flexible when it comes to photo editing but so far I don't have the Linux "vibes". I feel very uncomfortable maybe because of the graphics and also how the interface is. but i gotta agree that linux is freakin awesome!

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