Category Archives: Photography

Why Young Creatives Should Use Linux Instead of Mac or Windows

The tutorials I’ve made on YouTube about Audacity are by far the most popular of all of my videos. I started to wonder why this was? I realized the answer was pretty simple. It’s free software that is pretty good at what it does and runs on every platform. This is why Audacity is very popular among young creative musicians. This got me thinking about how these people are only using about 1% of the amazing open source software they could be using if the were all using Linux instead of Windows or Mac OS.

If you’re a teenager and want to setup a computer to become a YouTuber, Music Producer, Film Maker, Photographer, Graphic Designer, or all of those things, doing so with Mac or Windows is going to cost you an arm and a leg. It is hardly worth spending $3000 on a Macbook, then another $3000 on software when making money in the creative landscape can be challenging, especially when you are first starting out. A much better option would be spending $500 to $1200 on a PC then install a Linux distro geared towards creativity like  Ubuntustudio. You could even spend far less than this. I personally use a 10 year old Macbook running Ubuntu and KXstudio that I purchased for $150.

If you’re a young music producer, there’s a ton of great programs on the Linux platform. There’s several DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) like Ardour, Qtractor, Rosegarden, and LMMS. There’s high end mastering tools like Jamin, and of course Audacity. There’s the Jack Audio Connection Kit, that allows you to interconnect nearly every piece of audio software into one gigantic modular audio workstation, there’s thousands of plugins, software synths, and FX all available for free on Linux.

But it’s not just about audio, Linux has become incredibly powerful as a full multimedia workstation. For photography there’s full RAW development capabilities with Darktable, and Digikam, photo editing programs like GIMP and Fotoxx. For Graphics there’s Inkscape and Blender, and for video editing there Kdenlive and Openshot. 

This is all just the tip of the iceberg too! There’s always new and exciting software being developed for Linux, there’s a huge user support group online, and there’s more and more of us who use it for everything every day!

To me there’s also ethical reasons to use Linux as apposed to the other two. Mac is one of the worst companies when it comes to planned obsolescence. Every time they release a new OS, suddenly computers they made just 4 years ago are completely useless (if you’re using Mac OS). There’s no more security updates, no updated web browsers, software companies all play along and drop support forcing you to purchase software and hardware updates. This is not only unneeded, it is incredibly wasteful. It is completely insane that we live in such a society that normalizes throwing away a computer after only 5 years of use when the only reason is corporate software developers decided they want you to buy a new one.

If you’re a young creative person, I urge you to consider what I am saying here. You can spend a lot less money, make the money you DO spend last longer, and help the environment as well has have all the tools you need for complete creative expression if you switch 100% to Linux.

RAW Photography and Linux

Funny Fish Heads

As an audio guy, I always heard people talking about RAW photography format, but I didn’t really know much about it. An old co-worker of mine would constantly tell me it was better, but he really couldn’t express it in a meaningful way that made sense to me, so honestly I never really thought much of it.

Recently though I installed a hack on my Canon Powershot that enabled me to shoot in RAW and I wanted to learn more about it. I started reading online and playing with software in Linux and one program quickly came up as what seemed like a great one for RAW photography processing…. Darktable.

So first off, what is RAW? To explain this simply and from an audio engineer’s point of view, imagine your camera lens was a microphone. Now imagine that your camera body is an fx chain that processes what goes into the microphone then converts it to an MP3 before it writes it to memory. Would you want to record sound this way? I wouldn’t. But this is exactly how most cameras record images. You take a picture, the camera lens captures the image and the camera takes color information, exposure compensation, sharpening data, or whatever else gets determined at the time, applies that to the image data, then compresses all of that into a .jpg file which has all of this data permanently stored in the file and unchangeable except for post-processing.

90% of the time, this is just fine for most people. Because the camera was intelligently designed to figure out most of the important work to optimize the image to make it look it’s best according to the settings used at the time the image was captured. But for a serious photographer, or just for anyone who likes having insane amounts of control over all of their creative work, RAW is a much better option. When you shoot in RAW your lens captures the image data, and the camera still captures the processing data, but instead of writing it together into a .jpg file, the image data is stored purely without any processing or compression applied to it and the processing information is stored in a header of the RAW data.

Now back to Darktable.

Darktable is a photo management program for processing RAW images. When you open a RAW file in Darktable, many times you’ll already see a processing history on the image in the left pane of the software. This is because Darktable reads the header information from the RAW file that your camera wrote and applies it to the image data. The major difference here is you can turn it off and see what it looks like without any of that applied. You can decide to use it or not, and you can tweak, add to it, change it, or just discard it all together if you like.

There are many other tools for Linux for working with RAW images. Digikam has RAW processing features, though in my opinion Darktable seems to work much better and is faster. Gimp also has the ability to work with RAW, but not out of the box. You need to install the UFRaw plugin, but once you do, then you have access to a lot of processing tools for RAW images that are quite good. The major difference between this approach instead of using Darktable, is all of the RAW processing is done in the importing process of Gimp. This may be good or bad depending on your needs. Gimp has a more robust set of editing features more similar to Photoshop, where Darktable has a lot of RAW processing features with endless undos and a very nice photo management system.

My conclusion and personal workflow at least at this moment is Darktable as my organizer and main RAW processor, and Gimp for special and more in-depth editing. You could look at it like: Gimp=Photoshop and Darktable=Lightroom.

I hope you found this article helpful and please ask questions if you have any. I will be making some video tutorials on these subjects in the near future as well.