Revisiting “Darktable” – Part 2

I am not afraid to tell you, with my list of attributes it was not easy finding the right software package that fit them all. However software development companies have strategy sessions and customer feed back venues for just this purpose to develop their software to be the most applicable and versatile tool for the user available on the market. So do not be afraid to make a list of your desired software attributes.

Finding the software specifics:

Lightroom: Yes, to all but editing, and a drawback for investment. However, investment is not a bad thing, because it gives some assurance to customer support and software development.

Darktable: Yes, to all but editing. GPL and free downloadable installation. Good for starting, but how versatile is it really being free?

Aperture: Yes to all but editing and sharing to personal web albums. Is paying less than half for Aperture worth lacking the workflow to web sales? Not for me as workflow is very important.

Finding software to fit your situational requirements is research intensive, ending with all hope in an ideal solution. The start of the research period is difficult because no description of the program is the same as I search it. So the best form of research is to take the tact of searching “similar program to” the program with which you are familiar.

I have used and was familiar with Adobe Lightroom, so searching for similar programs was not easy to find, but I was familiar with the aspects of the program I sought. If my research ended with no other results, my opportunity to invest into Adobe Lightroom was a primary option for business workflow. Having found Darktable by interest from a recommendation I search it through the developer’s website “darktable.org” and found it very informative.

It is also beneficial to make informative contacts within your market description in or outside your market area. This is how I found out about the Mac software “Aperture”. Using resources for information and helping them by giving useful information is a great support in business and among hobbyists.

Service is important whether payment is rendered or with “gratis” consider its worth in relationship gained more than capital. Business is built and is maintained on relationship not spontaneously occurring capital gain.

Revisiting “Darktable”

In a post last year, we discussed software packages for photography workflow and one of them is named “Darktable”.

I am always on the hunt for software and hardware that will give me optimal performance with minimal effort to help me through an intense product workflow. After looking into other software packages for my specific criterion, I came down to two options. Let me walk you through my list and then we will discuss the process to get here.

This is a list of basics that are crucial  to portrait, scenery and still life photography:

  1. Editing power for spot removal, elemental selection tools and layering work. This ability must either be a part of the software package or ability for integration with an editing program. [These things are important for manipulate and image without also misrepresenting anything within the photo.]
  2. RAW adjustment ability for exposure, white balance, contrast, color pushing and pulling, Tonal adjustments, etcetera.
  3. Cropping photos in batch files to certain common print sizes and digital device resolution.
  4. Quality assurance is a particularly important part. No customer wants a picture that is unfocused or has poor quality. So the program should accurately read and adjust the printing quality of a photo in dot per inch (DPI).
  5. Upload batches of files to personal web albums and other public albums on commercial websites or social media for advertising.
  6. Intuitive Workflow through the program is a great help while not “necessary”, is better to have functions and menus organized and accessible without multiple steps.

Software packages like Lightroom, Darktable and Aperture will not contain as powerful manipulation processes as Photoshop, GIMP or Corel Paintshop Professional. That is why I said it should at-least be capable of import/export integration with the manipulation software.

Now that I have explained my list of software package attributes I wanted, I will discuss Lightroom, Darktable and Aperture in our second blog post this Friday.

Inkscape and Darktable

In our discussion of Darktable in “Post-Production Software 3” I briefly mentioned watermarks and proceeded to move on. I am grateful to announce that I have successfully added a watermark to Darktable and now able to discuss the details with you!

It really is as simple as Darktable makes it out to  be in the resources section.

Having downloaded and installed “Inkscape”. I was able to import the image I created as my studio watermark and saved it off as an “SVG” file. Now that the “SVG” file is created, it can be moved to the watermark folder. The “watermark” folder may not be in the given file location listed in Darktable’s user manual. I did some searches and had each folder list its content until I found the “watermark” folder. Making sure to catalog the folder location I moved the “SVG” file into it and started the Darktable program to make sure it saw the file for watermarking. (If you place the watermarking file in the “watermark” folder while the program is running, use the reload button to the right of the watermark menu.)

Once your watermark is in place, you can change its position or check the box next to “blend” and change the layering modes as well as the opacity of the watermark.

One caution in using “Inkscape” for creating watermarks. When working with layers, be sure to merge all of your layers properly or you will come out with a blank box for text. For

example, below is an example of my mess-up. Watermarking the photo is no problem, however, I was hoping to display my website URL while claiming the intellectual rights of my photograph.

As you can see in the lower right hand side there is a short, white rectangle which was supposed to contain my website URL. I cannot win them all, I guess! This is a good illustration though of learning from mistakes instead of letting the mess-up dictate my choices and attitudes. Each mess-up is an opportunity to learn something new!

Post-Production Software – Part 4

MyPaint is a program designed for the creation of digital art or artistic expression on a digital image in .PNG; . JPEG or .ORA (Open Raster images). Do not worry if you do not understand the “Open Raster” terminology for a file format. This .ORA format will largely only be used by or applicable to professional artists.

For those that do use the Open Raster format, you will be interested to know that you can transfer .ORA images between GIMP and MyPaint.

MyPaint does not as much occur in the daily workflow of a photographer, unless there is a special ordered image to be styled or retouched as a painting.

Parents, this is a wonderful and inexpensive alternative to getting an artistic interpretation of your child’s professional portrait. Using one of your favorite photographs of you child, import the photo in .JPEG (.JPG is the same format) into MyPaint and use the different brushes for your desired effect.

Copyright of Foetoss Light 2012

I took a photo I had taken, imported it into MyPaint and used different brush style to compliment or fit the texture of the surface being altered. Now it has a feel or photograph and hand painting.

Artistically inclined users will find MyPaint intuitive. Be sure to look around the menus. There are many hot keys listed next to the operation in the menu. (The menus being “File”, “Edit” and so on.)

Capabilities: Layers, Brush Styles, Quick Tool Selection, Paper Texture, Single Key Hot-Keys and Quick Working Surface Positioning.

Strengths: The software is very attentive to each detail, including mouse cursor position, touch-pad scrolling and touch-pad selection. These three touch-pad specific things will affect your work by rotating your work surface, zoom in or out or move your work surface in the opposite direction of your mouse cursor’s position. Quite a surprise if you are not expecting the help.

MyPaint is a “light” program meaning that it is quick to respond and resourceful in its operations so as not to require large amounts of CPU time and Swap space. (Those are technical terms for “thinking power” = CPU time and “temporary memory” = Swap space.)

Weaknesses: While I have a hard time saying this, it is true. MyPaint devotes 75% of its power and ability to graphics pads like the Wacom tablets. It is still possible to use the program (MyPaint) without a graphics tablet, but it is not as fluid or convenient. This is not to make a case against the program. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to make a program as effective with both graphics tablet and touch-pad.

This is a strong program also young in the market as Darktable. MyPaint is currently on version 1.0. While I have not found bugs in MyPaint, I must confess I do not have the time or experience in the program that I would like.

Each program has its own capabilities, strengths and weaknesses just as we will choose them based on our use for the program’s applicable service.

Post-Production Software – Part 3

Darktable – Non-Destructive, Data Protective, Photo Developmental Software

Design and Purpose: Darktable is designed to use the RAW Camera Data for dynamic photo editing without destroying the RAW Data. In doing so it provides some amazing capability for the photographer to use in post-production.

The purpose of a work flow program, such as Darktable, is to put the “final touches” on all photos in one album with minimal effort and time. For more personal touches on individual photos, there are presets to speed up those process. Creating your own presets is a great benefit considering each photographer has their own style and each uniquely set their camera settings. Presets will implement all effects on a photo that have been saved in the preset file.

Each Module that offers “presets” in the workflow will have a “preset” icon to access and use a different preset or make a new one! Hovering over items in the Darktable user interface will display a “mouse flag” with the name of the icons operation, such as “preset”. Review the Darktable website for more resources.

Capabilities: Non-destructive photo embellishments/editing, Complete workflow processing, Retouching tool, Water marking automation, Module presets, Film strip review and Customized panel of users favorite tools.

Strengths: Much of the Darktable program is able to be customized with the user’s specific information. Once a watermark is created it can be implemented into the software’s user interface by saving it in Darktable’s watermark specific folder. Please refer to Darktable’s user manual section 4.41. Darktable has good documentation on their website for most of the program.

Weaknesses: As with many start-up software builds there are problems in some areas. In my installation of Darktable I have not been able to create a HDR image, even though I follow a tutorial to the letter. Now, please understand this does not guarantee the problem to be a software problem! Even though my computer meets the system requirements for Darktable, I know that I am working a less than optimal set of hardware for peak performance. I write this as a program weakness so as to make you are aware, nothing is guaranteed to work out of the box. I am working with Darktable bug reporting team as I learn more about my system’s actions and the response from Darktable.

I have installed Darktable on a MacBook Pro, running Snow Leopard (still within the system requirements of Darktable’s build for Macintosh computers) and Darktable will not open. This bug has been reported by other Mac users and is currently being resolved.

I called Darktable a “start-up”, and I do not mean that in a disrespectful way. The newest version release of Darktable is 1.0 and for MAC osX 0.9.2. The programmers have done a great deal of hard work! Congratulations to them for their accomplishments! The fact being which they readily admit is there are going to be some hang-ups here and there. So as a network of users and programmers let us all work together to make the program better!

Post-Production Software

Where do I start? Where can I find good software which will not require me to file for chapter 11 bankruptcy? Now, I am exaggerating and being very sarcastic. Let me be clear. All of the software which is sold by companies like Adobe, Corel, Sony, Canon & Nikon, cost a bit more than most of us would spend on a whim. They are well priced to cover the cost of production, packaging and shipping as well as hopefully a proper amount of profit.

All of that production, shipping and profit adds up to a lot of money for private users and even small businesses. So is there effectively operative software that is free?

Here are a few free programs of which I know to operate well at basic level.

Now, GIMP and “Darktable” I know have versions which will run on Windows and Linux operating systems, but “MyPaint” I have only found for Linux distributions.

You can read about these programs on sourceforge.net or on their own websites and they will provide links from which to download the software.

I would like to give you a brief overview of each program from the photographer’s point of view which will not be included in the information to be found on sourceforge.net.

GIMP is an image manipulation program. In fact, “Image Manipulation Program” are the last three-quarters of the program name. GIMP is an abbreviation for “Gnome Image Manipulation Program.” It operates with simple tools to edit, create and manipulate digital graphics files. It saves the completed files in several formats such as .PNG .GIF .BMP and its own native format .XCF. The .JPEG format is proprietary so it requires the download of the .JPEG package to save images in this format, but it is still free and completely possible to enable. GIMP is not a program that is hard to learn or void of tutorial lessons on any topic you may desire to read.

Do not fear, we will get into more specifics of each program in future posts.

“Darktable”: I only recently downloaded and installed “Darktable” on my computer, so I will be learning “on the fly” and sharing it with you. If you know about the functionality of “Adobe LightRoom” you will take up “Darktable” quickly and with a great amount of skill. I will describe though the basics of its operations without the predication of our prior experience with “Adobe LightRoom”. “Darktable” is a program that is designed to make working with a group of photos from a shoot and streamline the process of post-production, maximizing your time without compromising the quality of the photo. How does that work? Please be patient and we will discuss that in-depth in a future post.

“MyPaint” is a program designed for the digital artist who uses digital equipment like Graphics Tablets. “MyPaint” is designed not so much for editing images as creating them. “MyPaint” does not require a Graphics Tablet, but its capabilities are certainly optimized by using a Graphics Tablet.

Please “tune-in” Friday for Part 2 of “Post-Production Software”!