Looking at Rawstudio

Rawstudio is another program that reads Raw files and is able to manipulate them, and it has a different set of features. Rawstudio also makes use of dcraw and  has support for file browsing and ranking.

But lets look at my list.

  • Raw support: Rawstudio supports the same raw formats as UFRaw since they are build on the same program, dcraw. Normal JPEG files are not opened.
  • White balance and colour correction: Both white balance and colour correction are present in the menu on the left. White balance can be changed using Warmth/tint. Besides the sliders, the white balance is also controlled by clicking in the image, but this can be very annoying since I often find the colours change when I don’t want to.
  • Lens correction: In the version that is installed by Ubuntu 10.04 there is no lens correction support, but in the development versions there should be support for lens correction.
  • Tools for straightening, cropping and perspective correction: Perspective corrections is not available, but straightening and cropping are. Cropping works as you expect by just making a selection using your mouse, there is no way to make a crop using your keyboard. Straightening works very nice when you have straight lines in your photo. When the straighten tool is selected you have to draw a line that is used to straighten to photo. In the photo that is active in the screen shot, I would draw a line across the horizon. When you don’t have a horizontal or vertical straight line in your image, it would be difficult to straighten a photo, since there is no other way of straightening. A nice feature is that you are able to uncrop and unstraighten.
  • Export options: Rawstudio makes it possible to export photos to different formats. You can export a single picture or you can do a batch process. When exporting you can give size constraints, so you can export an image with a specific size or scale. You can also export to Gimp to make more specific changes to the photo.
  • Non destructive editing: All changes made within Rawstudio are non destructive.
  • Easy and clean interface: The interface is pretty straight forward. Some options are difficult to find because they are not in the tool tab but in the main and context menus. Personally I wouldn’t have put the Open and Export tabs on the same side of the Tools tab, but I would have placed them somewhere else. (not sure where though.)
  • Photo browsing: Rawstudio has support for photo browsing, but when there are a lot of photos in a directory or when you look to photos recursively, Rawstudio will not respond that well. Looking at the blog, this should have been solved in the version that is coming in the future.
  • Simple ranking system: Rawstudio has a ranking system. When browsing the photos, you can give them a priority (1 to 3) or delete the photo by pressing Delete. The photo is not deleted directly but marked as deleted and you are able to view them. By selecting a different tab you can show the photos with the same priority.
  • Multiple versions of a photo: Rawstudio makes it possible to change the colours and other setting in three different versions. You can show these versions side by side. Straightening and cropping are done on all versions.
  • Adding copyright notice: It is not possible to add a copyright notice to photos.

I did work with Rawstudio for a few months until it stopped working. It did crash a lot of times and I started using a daily build. After some time it became clear that Rawstudio was just to slow to work with, opening a directory with 200 photos took just too much time without any sign of what was going on. Exporting a lot of pictures did not work reliably and Rawstudio crashed several times. At that point I decided to look for another solution. Hopefully the new version will be a lot better than the current one.

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Looking at UFRaw

UFRaw is the first tool I will discuss in my search for a set of programs that will help with my post processing needs. UFRaw allows you to open a raw photo and apply different corrections to it. UFRaw tries to use other libraries where possible, and just provide an interface for a lot of functions.  For reading raw files it uses a modified version of dcraw, which is basically the leading open source project for reading the most raw formats (as far as I know at least…). And it uses Lensfun for lens corrections. After manipulation you have the possibility to export the image to different formats and to gimp or cinepaint.

Looking to the list in my previous post I come to the following result:

  • RAW Support: UFRaw is written espacially with raw support in mind and can’t open normal JPEG files.
  • White balance and colour correction: White balance can easily be changed using the sliders and by using presets. It is possible to do some colour correction, but for me it was harder to find.
  • Lens correction: There is lens correction in UFRaw. They use the library lensfun for this, but this is only available since version 0.17. The current versions of Ubuntu only deliver UFRaw version 0.16 and an older lensfun version which is not supported by UFRaw. So I can’t really tell how well lens correction is working.
  • Tools for Straightening, Cropping and Perspective correction: UFRaw has the tools for straigthening (rotating) and cropping image. Cropping you can do by using the controls in the tabs, or by (when the Crop and Rotate tab is active) use the mouse to drag the borders to other places. Rotating (or straightening) can only be done by the slider, and this is not very useful in my opinion.
    Perspective correction is not available, but there are plans to try and get support for that as well.
  • Export options: UFRaw can export to different formats, jpeg, tiff, png and ppm. It is not possible to resize on export.
  • Non destructive editing: All changes made in UFRaw are non destructive. You can save an ID file which contains all the changes so that you can open the file later again to make other changes as well.
  • Easy and clean interface: I don’t really like the interface of UFRaw. It is difficult to see what each tab is for and you have to use the tooltips to see what a button or slider is used for, but even then it is not always clear to me what it is for. Of course this has also partially to do with my lack of understanding Post Processing.
  • Photo browsing: There is no photo browsing option in UFRaw and as far as I understand, there will be non in the near future, unless someone provide an easy library for it.
  • Simple ranking system: UFRaw doesn’t have a ranking system.
  • Multiple versions of a photo: UFRaw doesn’t have support for multiple versions of a photo, you have to do it yourself.
  • Adding copyright notice: There is no such option in UFRaw.

I really like UFRaw and the concepts where it’s build upon, using existing libraries instead of reinventing the wheel. The integration with Gimp is very useful. The biggest drawback I have is that the user interface is not really easy to use. You really need to have some knowledge about post processing terminology to do some of the more advanced things that UFRaw provides, and which I don’t understand yet. Another drawback is, but it is not really the fault of UFRaw and it’s maintainers, that my distribution of choice still hasn’t updated to a newer version, so I still don’t have lens corrections.

Combined with other programs like gthumb and Gimp, it is possible to get a complete workflow toolkit, but using multiple programs isn’t making the post processing process a lot harder than is necessary.

My search for post processing software on Ubuntu

Since 2007 I hardly use Windows as my operating system. I only use Windows at work and occasionally when I want to play a game that can’t be easily run on Ubuntu. Other things like, reading email, viewing websites, listen to music or store my photos can easily be done with Ubuntu as well.

One of the things I really like about Ubuntu, or many other Linux distributions, is the way they present software that is ready to install in just a few clicks. The package manager of Ubuntu is really easy to use and you can easily find the software you want to try.

For organizing and post processing photos you have a lot of choices. In fact there is so much choice, that it is not easy to select the right software or combination of software. Some programs are only for organizing, some only for post processing, while others don’t support RAW.

For over a year I am trying to find a good combination of software, but I didn’t do that with a well thought idea of what I wanted the software to be able to do for me. So in this post I will list  features I need in the software and some feature that would be nice to have.

The required features:

  • RAW support
    Most of the photographs I take are in RAW format and the software should support this.
  • White balance and Colour corrections
    Since I shoot in RAW, white balance and colour corrections should be made, but if possible this should also be done for JPG photos.
  • Lens corrections
    My current lens has a little bit of vignette and perhaps a little bit of distortion (I thought I saw some, but I am not sure yet…) and I don’t want to push a lot of buttons to get rid of it…
  • Tools for Straightening, Cropping and Perspective correction
    I found that I mostly do this kind of corrections on my photos and I just want to do it without the need of loading the image in Gimp.
  • Export options
    I want to easily export the photos to JPEG, typically for the web and for normal use (showing / printing / sending to family and friends). This means that it would be nice to be able to resize the photo at export and have different exporting ‘profiles’.

The ‘would be nice’ features:

  • Non destructive editing
    When I am editing, especially when I trying to correct a perspective, I don’t know exactly how for I should go with the correction, and want to be able to change is a little bit when the result is not satisfying. This is only possible when the correction is done in a non destructive way.
  • Easy and clean interface
    I don’t want to spend time to search for options every time I need one. Editing tools should be easy to use, preferable with the mouse.
  • Photo browsing
    It would be nice to browse through my photos when I am going to edit, making the software a complete work flow tool. At this point I don’t want nor need a cataloguing system.
  • Simple ranking system
    I want to be able easily discard and hide photos I don’t want to use, but I don’t want to delete them from my computer.
  • Multiple versions of a photo
    Sometimes it is fun to play with a photo, have a correct coloured version and a black and white photo and perhaps even a photo to try different techniques and settings. Most of the time this means multiple copies of the editing, but I would like to be able to make a copy in the software.
  • Adding copyright notice
    When I place a photo on the web I want to have a visible copyright notice in my photo. I don’t want to add this copyright text over and over again, this could be automated by the export process.

I don’t care whether I have one program to do this all, or that I need multiple programs for my work flow. The greatest criteria for multiple programs is that they should work together and that I don’t need to use a lot of time processing my photos.

Although I prefer to get free (as in money) programs, I will also look at commercial software like Bibble Pro 5.

When I find (a set of) program(s) that don’t fully have the ‘would be nice’ features or when the required features are to complex and the program provide plugin or scripting support, I don’t really mind to create a plugin or script to make things easier. What I don’t want is to write yet another program to do the work flow for me.

In the coming months I will evaluate different programs according to the features that are listed in this post.