Photographers – buy equipment not software

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This morning I was playing around in DarkTable, improving my skills at using its awesome capability. I used a photo of a Half-collared Kingfisher that was in deep shadow, and accidentally shot at ISO6400 because I had forgotten to change my settings from when i was taking eagles in flight in bright sunlight. Because of this the image was very very noisy. I used Profiled denoise to reduce the noise, a bit of equalizer to sharpen the softened areas and restore a bit of pop beyond what was present in the original, then did a bit of a lowpass filter with an overlay method to reduce the darkness around the eye and restore some texture to the whites.

Half collared kingfisher

Half collared kingfisher accidentally shot at ISO6400 and processed with Darktable

It occurred to me then to wonder how many people who take photos have any idea that such tools for photographers exist and that they are free – free as in freedom as well as free as in price.

My photography workflow has evolved over the past couple of years. I have gone from shooting only JPG to shooting mainly RAW, but I still have hundreds of thousands of photos that are only available in JPG. Therefore, I need tools that work with both JPG and RAW. The following tools are the ones that fit my workflow:

Software tool About Platform Price
Operating system – Ubuntu GNU/Linux Ubuntu is a Free and open source operating system for computers. It is one of the distributions of GNU/Linux, and is based on the Debian architecture. It is extremely easy to use, and can be installed easily or run from a flash memory stick if you just want to try it out. Proprietary equivalent: Widows, MacOS GNU/Linux $ 0.00
Rapid Photo Downloader Rapid Photo Downloader for Linux is written by a photographer for professional and amateur photographers. Its goal is to be the best photo and video downloader for the Linux Desktop. It is free software, released under the GNU GPL license. It has a few tools but its main purpose is to get your photos out of your camera and onto  your computer and to automate organising them. GNU/Linux $ 0.00
Digikam to manage hundreds of thousands of images Manage all my photos and their metadata and tags, including tags for machine learning software, etc. It is quick for managing files in JPG format, but it supports all major image file format, though a bit limited when it comes to RAW processing. Still an awesome tool with amazing functionality, including geotagging, uploading to websites, and an enormouse number of filters. You actually don’t need Rapid Photo Downloader with Digikam, but I prefer RPD’s speed. The Digikam community is pure awesomeness. GNU/Linux
MacOS, Windows
darktable for serious RAW processing darktable is an open source photography workflow application and raw developer. A virtual lighttable and darkroom for photographers. It manages your digital negatives in a database, lets you view them through a zoomable lighttable and enables you to develop raw images and enhance them. I use darktable for raw image processing as well as improving those old existing JPGs beyond what Digikam offers. Use it as a Digikam “Plugin” (Open With Darktable) or on its own. GNU/Linux
MacOS,  Windows beta available
GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) GIMP is a free and open-source raster graphics editor used for image retouching and editing, free-form drawing, converting between different image formats, and more specialised tasks. When I need pixel level editing or some peculiar method that really requires serious manual editing power. For photos I mainly use it as a Digikam “Plugin” (Open With GIMP). GNU/Linux
MacOS, Windows
Total cost of all software —- $ 0.00

So if you are a serious professional or amateur photographer, there is noting stopping you from getting top quality photo processing tools at no cost. Every penny saved is a penny to spend on equipment. After all, we all want more equipment, not more software.


Cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus, at Pilanesberg National Park, processed as described.