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.

Post-Production Software – Part 2

GIMP – GNU Image Manipulation Program

First I would like to be clear; I do own and use other software besides these three free programs I have mentioned. I also have used the installations of other programs on my friends computers. I am not writing these posts from a prejudiced point of view that “free software is every bit as good as chargeable software”.

My premise is this: “each piece of software has its strengths and weaknesses”. Strengths and weaknesses which we can use to our benefit! It is my desire to share with you, my reader, the ways that I have found to use these programs in tandem or independently to achieve my desired outcome for each photograph and their functionality of mass file alterations.

GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is designed to create an image or manipulate an image already created. That is to say, any changes made to an image are saved to the original file and thus over-writing any previous data. So long as the user is aware of this there will be no problems in making your own image progression by changing the file-name (even one character difference is enough to distinguish between files).

Capabilities: Layers, Channels, Gradients, Patterns, Image history, Document history, Wide variety of Tools, Paths and the ability to edit every function of the program or write new scripts in PERL for customized performance. This is a rather brief description of the program capabilities but we can go into these specifics at a later time.

Strengths: GIMP is a wonderful program for the artist working on individual pieces of art or “fine corrections” on specific parts of an art piece. It is a powerful GNU GPL (General Public License) software making it available for tweaking by studious users. All of the Tool Brushes can be copied or new Brushes made to suit your specific purposes.

Weaknesses: For many users not being a file organizer is a turn off. (Thus it is listed as a weakness of the software. I personal still use GIMP for this purpose.) Scripts for complicated processing are minimal (i.e. HDR creation, Panorama stitching and Automatic Watermarking.) It would benefit from better RAW Camera Data reading and manipulation.

These are my professional critiques. For personal uses, this program has always exceeded my desires and performance requirements. It is a solid, fully developed piece of software that is well worth your time to learn and use!

NEXT:… Post-Production Software – Part 3 (Darktable)

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”!