Revisiting Free Software for Photo management and editing.

Discussion in 'Image Processing' started by kyteflyer, Feb 8, 2015.

  1. I've been caught up in the gotta have Photoshop thing for a while, caved in and bought the subscription, changed my mind, got a refund, and had to rethink. Stay with the old, or look at something different.

    In the end, I just began to cast about for two programs
    1) something to manage the photographs.
    2) Something fairly decent for editing. I know I am not going to get anything *as* powerful as Photoshop, but there are a few things that come very close.

    First: The Manager.

    Requirement: It must be able to look in a set of folders defined by me, and also be able to automatically recognise changes and additions to those folders without having conniptions. That immediately lets out any app which maintains its own database. So, iPhoto, Aperture, Lightroom are all no longer an option. I do not use these apps for editing, *only* for managing. I have downloaded trials of ACDSee Pro and Aftershot Pro. Aftershot Pro seems to maintain an own database: strike. ACDSee Pro seemed to be something worth a second look. But it kept crashing at a certain point when looking at my 2013 folder so it struck out too.

    So I have moved to something very simple. Well, two things really. The first is Mac only and costs around $12. The second is cross platform and is free.

    1) Unbound: Its also available for iPhone and iPad at small cost. There doesn't seem to be a sync option between them but no big deal.
    2) XNViewMP for Windows, Mac and Linux: This has become very attractive to me, for one reason: You can determine which apps you want to be able to call from XNView. right clicking on a photo will bring up a list, and that list is editable. You can have as many or as few as you want to have immediately available from inside the app. Unbound just seems to make arbitrary decisions, but at least you can choose "Other" and then get that app of choice running

    Secondly, which editor.

    We all have bought a dozen or more plugin suites to go with Photoshop, but what to do if we decide to dump photoshop? Well, the good news is that many of those plugins also have standalone apps. This includes the Nik, Topaz and DXO plugins and probably many more I don't know about. They can be listed individually from XNView, or you could choose to run Photoshop if you want, and just play with them inside that.

    For me, having decided to leave Photoshop alone for now and go looking for alternatives... I had already bought both Acorn, and Pixelmator, for Mac. Both of these are very good editors in their own right, but in spite of the preference of the mac community for Pixelmator, I find Acorn to be much more powerful and more photoshop-like.

    The one that surprises me most at the moment, is The Gimp. We all know of it, some of us have used it in the past, and gone back to Photoshop. right now, though, it seems to me that gimp has come a long way since the last time I was using it. Perhaps I am just more used to knowing what it is I want from a Photo editor (Levels, curves, various other). The most interesting addition for me, however, is the addition of a plugin called (and I don't know why) G'MiC. Its a suite of plugin tools and includes some of those we all want... film emulations. I have already become besotted with the emulation of Kodak Chrome slide film. Now, I do not know if its in the standard Windows or Linux downloads, I chose to get Simone's distro for mac, which includes it and some others. You may have to hit the registry and do a search.

    Its worth taking another look, if you, like me, just have decided to abandon the Adobe ecosystem.

    So, for me, the current decision is
    1) XNViewMP for management of photos
    2) The Gimp as main editor, as well as all those lovely plugins, should I want them, which remain available via XNView.
    • Like Like x 4
  2. Two edits on the same wave

    First, a simple one with Photoshop

    Second, using Kodak Chrome plugin (in G'MiC) in Gimp

    Subtle difference but I liked it :)
    • Like Like x 2
  3. bartjeej

    bartjeej Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Nov 12, 2010
    Thanks Sue! I've been using the Gimp for years (I use it besides lightroom and/or snapseed to compensate for anything those programs lack) but I only had a few film simulations using only curves that I made based on petteri sulonen's work ( The G'MiC package sounds interesting!

    [Edit] speaking of free software, microsoft just posted a significant update to its ICE panorama stitcher!
  4. Windows only :)
  5. SnapDawg

    SnapDawg Rorschach Test Pilot

    Apr 18, 2014
    Canary Islands
    - snip -
  6. But, none of those are free. I was just looking for free, and the XNview/Gimp combo is as powerful as anything else out there, I reckon.
  7. MoonMind

    MoonMind All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Dec 29, 2013
    I've recently grown fond of Darktable, but it's GNU/Linux only. It has curves natively, though, and helps a lot with RAW development. Pulling up shadow details works amazingly well - I'd say it's (at the very least) a recommendable pre-processor for GIMP if you're a GNU/Linux user. In fact, I usually do all my editing directly in Darktable. If only it had one-click WB - I'm still struggling with that, it's so very convenient in LR (which I can't use). Guess I'll have to look at Fotoxx next specifically for that - though, again, GNU/Linux only ... Maybe someone else finds a use for it, anyway :)

    I think it's always worth exploring the free and open source options - you'll often be pleasantly surprised, and maybe save a considerable amount of money. If, however, you already immersed yourself into some app ecosystem or other, you might not find this equally satisfying.

  8. Darktable is on Mac too :) Its not bad, but a long way to go before it catches the linux version. If I were on Linux, I think I'd be happy enough with Shotwell, too, just for managing/viewing. Looking at Fotoxx now, also. Never know whats hidden there, there might be a mac version :) (no Mac, but I think XNView/Gimp covers all that, anyway)

    Absolutely. I've been pretty much dependent on Photoshop since my switch from Windows to Mac in 2003. I used to use Paintshop Pro when it was Jasc owned. Never since Corel bought it, even in a VM.

    Free is good.
  9. SnapDawg

    SnapDawg Rorschach Test Pilot

    Apr 18, 2014
    Canary Islands
    My apologies, Sue. I really should look for a better place to sleep.:rolleyes:
  10. LOL! No need to apologise at all!!!
  11. I think the best file management tool is your brain! Providing you create files with names that mean something then you can't go wrong. I name mine by Year and month. Inside each month I'm going to as from now (ish) name folders by location/events.

    Gimp is actually a pretty decent bit of software once you get the hang of it. Adobe products are so easy to use that anything else seems clunky but as said, once you get the hang of Gimp it's all you really need!

    I would love to go the whole hog an run a linux system but I would miss the Adobe software and plug ins too much :smile:
  12. What I realised I would miss is PS and dealing with some of the lens issues I get with my Tamron (PF ahoy!)... Can Gimp sort that? I haven't seen where it could (yet! theres so much of it...)
  13. MoonMind

    MoonMind All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Dec 29, 2013
    About GIMP I don't know, but Darktable has a whole array of lens corrections, as does RawTherapee. I have issues with library management with that - had that not happened soon after I had discovered it, it might have become my first choice - plus it's available for all major platforms. But Darktable does a fine job, mostly (no one-click WB, though).

    I intended to use RawTherapee and Darktable as a replacement for LR only and do the real post processing in GIMP, but found Darktable so proficient that I stopped using GIMP except for "lossless" resizing (it's got the best engine to do that and great options for viewing pictures via button presses). Darktable, on the other hand, offers layers and all kinds of neat stuff built in; shadow detail recovery is easy and efficient, and there are curves :)

    Still, I think I should try RAW processing with GIMP ...

  14. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY

    In a desperate pinch, there is always Picasa -- rudimentary but free.

    Cheers, Jock
  15. tonyturley

    tonyturley Hall of Famer

    Nov 24, 2014
    Scott Depot, WV, USA
    I use RT on Ubuntu 14.04, then GIMP for final editing. I used Fotoxx for a long time before switching to GIMP. Fotoxx did a good job, but crashed a lot on my old, tired PC. Maybe I should revisit it now that I've custom built a modern, 64 bit machine. I also have Darktable installed, but have done very little with it. I need to carve out some time to sit down and play with it.

  16. Biro

    Biro Hall of Famer

    Aug 7, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    I've been using Aperture and iPhoto and I'll at least give the new Photo app a try before moving on to anything else. But I can imagine a post-Apple future for myself. I keep waiting for more hardware options with Ubuntu. If it happens, I'll be looking at a number of photo processing and managing options.
  17. Thanks, Jock, I hate Picasa for mac
  18. What I'm hearing about is that Aperture users are going to be greatly disappointed.

    I don't know whether I can switch to Ubuntu (or in my case Lubuntu because its Gnome UI is more pleasant than Unity) I've tried when I still had the netbook, and I didn't mind it, but I can't see myself giving up my iPhone and that means OSX or Windows. Damnation!

    IF I was to switch to Ubuntu, it would have to be Shotwell/XNViewMP plus Gimp which would be fine. But theres so much more.

    Darktable isn't a go for me. I remember why I dumped it last time (apart from it not being enough for me). Every time I accessed a new folder, it dropped XMP sidecar files in there and I do not want to see them.
  19. Biro

    Biro Hall of Famer

    Aug 7, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    Sue, it is exactly the phone situation that holds me up on Ubuntu/Lubuntu. I keep hearing that phones using it as a native OS are on the way. I've yet to see them.