I belong to a number of photography sites and facebook groups, and a common question asked relates to Adobe software tools that are useful to photographers. A frequent lament goes "I would love to have Photoshop and LightRoom, but they are so expensive."
I manage my photography workflow very well with Free Software (open source) tools that cost me nothing, and most of which are available across different operating systems, including GNU/Linux, Windows, and Mac.
Bataleur eagle in Kruger Park
Camera: EOS 7D
Lens: 400mm F5.6 prime
Shutter speed: 1/1000 sec
None of the software I use costs me anything, and all of it is of superb quality. I think photographers often don't understand the quality of Free Software (open source) these days. Hence this post. Hopefully, it will help someone save a few thousand Rands, money that is better spent on things such as bodies, lenses and flashes.
|Digikam in my preferred configuration. Note that it is highly configurable.|
For people looking for an alternative to expensive Adobe tools, I use Digikam and Gimp for workflow and editing. Together they are more-or-less equivalent to LightRoom and Photoshop.
Although I have a computer with Windows (which I dislike intensely) and the full Adobe suite, I totally prefer Digikam and Gimp, I choose them for reasons of quality of both the software and the underlying operating system, not price. I only have the Adobe tools because sometimes, for work, I receive files in Adobe proprietary formats and need to edit them. However, since both Digikam and Gimp work on Windows and Mac, you don't have to change operating systems to use them.
|Gimp in single window mode|
Here I will just show you the workflow that I used for the Bataleur Eagle image, just to show how these Frees Software tools are just as good and just as easy to use (if not easier) then their expensive proprietary cousins.
It was overcast, hence the high ISO. I exposed for the bird which washed out the sky. Then I found a bit of blue sky with cloud and shot it knowing I would need to replace the washed out sky.
I cropped the image and did a bit of denoise in Digikam. The colours of the bird did not stand out well, so I also pumped up the vibrance and added a bit of saturation in Digikam. I then saved the image, right clicked it in Digikam, and chose 'Open with Gimp". In Digikam, I also right clicked the album (folder) and chose open with File manager.
The washed out sky was easiest to remove using a Layer Mask, but the contrast was so high, it could probably even be done using area select with a slight feather. You can see the layer I used to create the layer mask (red arrow), as well as the layer mask applied (blue arrow) in the image below.
I then grabbed the dky image and added it a as a layer. I resized it down a bit to make it more realistic, since the original bird image was cropped a bit. The sky was too sharp to look realistic, so I duplicated the layer and applied a gaussian blur. Then I saved it, and resized it for upload (you can do that in Digikam, but I prefer to use a Nautilus filemanager plugin for resizing). After 2 seconds, Digikam had found the resized image, and I was then able to export it to Flickr (or Facebook, or any other social site) from Digicam's export dialogue. Digikam also allows you to write the title and tags to the image file, which is great if you are uploading to Flickr, because the title and tags get carried through to Flickr.
I have not gone into the details or provided a tutorial on this. If you decide to experiment with Digikam and Gimp, there are plenty of tutorials on how to use them, including some great videos on YouTube and Vimeo. So, off you go now, install them and see if you can save a few bucks to buy that new lens you want so badly.
Below is a brown snake eagle to finish up, which was done according to exactly the same workflow.
You can see more of my photos on http://flickr.com/photos/dkeats.
Here is the podcast from last week's radio programme on Radio Today. It was a rambling discussion about technology in the 21st Century with a focus on Free and Open, Free Culture, and Free Culture business models.
The presenter was Gillian Godsell, and the guest were me (Derek Keats), Derek Moore, Gina Proxenos, and Charley Lewis.
Radio Today broadcasts on 1485 AM in Johannesburg and nationally on DStv audio channel 869. Radio Today also streams on its website www.1485.org.za and on cell phones on 1485.mobi.
The photos that I mentioned are at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dkeats/
My Free and Open Educational Resources are on my YouTube channel, as is the Peter Gabriel video that I mentioned.
Lawrence Lessig's book on Free Culture http://www.free-culture.cc/freeculture.pdf
We need more South African kids coding if we are ever to move away from the periphery of the knowledge economy. Besides, it is the most fun you can have that is legal, and it is a form of fun you can carry throughout your life, right up to the last moment.
We need to make computer science wet in schools, right now it is drier than the Sahara.
I just finished reading Martin Hall's Times Higher Education article entitled "Mandela saw education as a powerful weapon for freedom". Martin wrote:
This prompted me to tweet that "#Mandela saw education as a powerful weapon for freedom, it's a shame that DBE doesn't see that freedom is a powerful weapon for education." Here DBE is the department of education, the government department responsible for education at school-level. Two months ago, this government department flouted government Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) policy by sending a Circular S9 stipulating that the curricula for Computer Applications Technology (CAT) and Information Technology (IT) could only be examined using non-free software (proprietary software). Here I am using the word "free" in its sense of freedom, not in the sense of absence of price. (Read back through my older posts in the education category to the right if you want more information on Circular S9).
Freedom does not stop with the right to vote. In a digital society, for that society to be free they must use, create, and promote free software. Without a preponderance of Free Software, no digital society is free. Indeed, we are subjected to many forms of software or digital colonisation. In the knowledge economy, without Free Software, we are largely relegated to the role of consumer, with a little bit of tinkering in pockets and around some edges.
As a component of the freedom that Madiba and others fought for, Digital Freedom is an end in its own right, but it is also a powerful weapon for education.Used correctly, a virtuous circle can be created in which freedom powers education and education powers freedom. Creating this virtuous circle is vitally important if we are going to have a free and democratic society in the digital age.
Freedom requires vigilance, and understanding as we move into new domains where it is contested, and new forces act to take it away. This past month or so, a number of us came together as FOSS businesses, activists, and concerned citizens to challenge the DBE on the contents of Circular S9. It seems that DBE listened.
We have just learned that the Circular S9 that mandated proprietary technologies exclusively for CAT and IT has been withdrawn. We do not yet know what will come in its place, or what action DBE will take. We can only hope that they begin to see that education and freedom are liked in both directions, and that it is time for them to take a leadership role in insuring that this synergy happens.
I hope humble pie is not too fattening......