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 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 – 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)