Photography workflow on Ubuntu

During the week I spotted a great blog post from Riley Brandt, a photographer at the University of Calgary. Riley currently uses a Mac for his photography work, but is keen to switch to using Ubuntu. I’ve been using Ubuntu for my photography work for, well, since forever. That’s not to say it’s always been easy. A tour of the archives of this blog will show the pain I’ve experienced over the years! Riley wrote a two part blog post about his nascent photography workflow on Linux. It was pleasing to see how much Riley’s workflow mirrors mine:

  1. Monitor profiling and calibration. GNOME Colour Manager works really well with my i1 and Colorhug colorimeters. There are some differences in the results of calibration between the two devices though that I would like to understand better.
  2. Download photos. I just click and drag the images from the compact flash cards! I don’t rename the images, though I can see why it might be useful for some people.
  3. Embedding metadata. Unfortunately gthumb doesn’t seem to support the RAW images from my Canon camera and won’t show the IPTC fields. (You can’t use Canon’s EOS Utility under Linux to set the fields directly on the camera either.) For my wedding photography, not being able to add the metadata is not a big problem though.
  4. Photo management, RAW editing. I also use AfterShot Pro. Yes, it’s proprietary but it’s good, not expensive and one licence covers you for a number of machines. It also stores all the image settings as XMP sidecar files, so you can easily move to another piece of software.
  5. Advanced editing. The GIMP really is very powerful, although the pace of development is still slower than us frustrated photographers would like! I don’t do a lot of detailed editing in my workflow, but when I do I use the GIMP.

But it’s great to see other professional photographers giving Ubuntu a try as a creative platform. It’s still not perfect, but it gets better with each release. I have tested my key applications on Ubuntu 12.10 and will be upgrading my work machine soon.

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    7 Responses to Photography workflow on Ubuntu

    1. Simos says:

      For photo importing, you can use the default in Ubuntu 12.10 (Shotwell), and it works with RAW images as well.

      To edit RAW images, you can use Darktable.

      Dariusz Duma has an amazing PPA with more photography packages. See

    2. Tony says:

      Thanks Simos. Last time I tried Shotwell about a year ago it was a long way from being an effective Lightroom replacement. It didn’t have any bulk workflow features. Darktable was unstable and fairly featureless too, but then I tried that even longer ago. You can read my blog posts about them in the archives!

    3. Laurent says:

      Tony, I’m not a professional photographer. And I’m a Canon user. The windows packages that come with camera are outstanding and are free. Searching on the internet I found how to update them to last versions. But sometimes your computer or your windows crashes. And you would like to do the work. Because on all computers which I use I have Linux installed, I wanted to find the similar software packages for certain tasks. And when you talk about photography you find a big offer, which makes the choice quite difficult. I’ve not decided on what is the best, yet.
      But besides Darktable, my list contains: Image Magic, Rawstudio, Rawtherapee. These are powerful editors and they are available in Ubuntu and all its derivatives.
      You may find also very useful the discussions on the ubuntuforum, on the Art & Design section.

    4. Franck says:


      how would Darktable compare to AfterShot Pro ? I’ve been using it a bit, as well as Aperture on a Mac, and I must tell I like Darktable much. But I’m no professional. What do you think of Darktable ?

    5. Mackenzie says:

      I use Digikam for RAW editing. Not saying I’m very good at it yet, though! I haven’t learned all the levels magic yet (and while my boyfriend is familiar with RAW, he’s an iPhoto user).

    6. Tony says:

      Hi Franck, the last time I tried Darktable I didn’t have a good experience. You can read about it here: It might be much better these days, I’m glad to hear you like it.

    7. Tony says:

      Hi Mackenzie, I did try Digikam a while ago, but it was very slow and didn’t allow me to edit large numbers of images quickly. It was OK for single images though.

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