Part 2 of the Linux photography workflow is here.
Can a professional photographer really work in Linux?
I edited all of my images from a photoshoot in Ubuntu 12.04 to determine if it is possible for a professional photographer to create a workflow entirely in Linux.
It required both open source and closed source software, but I was able to do it all with native Linux applications. There is no dual booting, no WINE, and no virtual machines used in this workflow.
Step 1: Monitor Color Calibration
Software: Gnome Color Manager, or dispcalGUI
The first step in a professional photography workflow is to calibrate your monitor’s color with a device called a colourimeter. This is mandatory because the colors on your screen need to be accurate. Seriously, this is crucial. Don’t skip this step.
For those unfamiliar with color managed workflows, there is a ton of great information here.
How to calibrate your monitor in Linux:
Method 1, Quick and Easy
If you are using Ubuntu 12.04, this is super easy. Just plug in your colorimeter and the calibration screen opens up. Click the ‘Calibrate’ button and follow the steps on the screen. That’s it. There is no need to install drivers or software.
The Datacolor Spyder 3 Pro works out of the box in Ubuntu 12.04
If the screen doesn’t automatically pop up, go to your System Settings, choose Color, then click the Calibrate button in the bottom right. Keep in mind that if your colorimeter is not plugged in, the Calibrate button will not be clickable. So plug in your device first.
This should work with most colorimeters. My Datacolor Spyder 3 Pro worked no problem. If your colorimeter doesn’t work out of the box, try Method 2. And if you want to avoid compatibility issues all together, buy a ColorHug :) It’s an open source display colorimeter.
How to calibrate your monitor in Linux:
Method 2, Advanced Settings
If you are not running Ubuntu 12.04, have an unsupported colorimeter, or you just want more features like ambient light measurement, install dispcalGUI. Just follow their quick start guide and you’ll be calibrating in a few minutes.
Please keep in mind that with either method you use, the color profile you create will only be good for a short time. As monitors age, their color changes. So you need to recalibrate about once a month to maintain accurate colors.
Step 2: Download Photos, aka Ingest
Software: Rapid Photo Downloader
I was so happy when I finally discovered Rapid Photo Downloader to download and rename my photos.
Rapid Photo Downloader is a Linux replacement for PhotoMechanic’s ingest and rename feature
A fundamental part of my workflow in OS X/Windows is a program called PhotoMechanic. It downloads all my photos very quickly, renames them, embeds important metadata, and is a fantastic color managed image viewer that includes a rating system. Rapid Photo Downloader will take care of the downloading and renaming.
While my photographs are being downloaded to my computer (aka ingest), the photos must be renamed to fit the naming conventions of my archiving system. For example, Date-YYMMDD_Event_Name_Sequential_Number.file-type, ie:
This becomes incredibly import when managing large photo/asset archives like I do at work. Rapid Photo Downloader is the only Linux program I have found that does this properly.
My typical settings for renaming photos in Rapid Photo Downloader
I often dump multiple memory cards full of photos to the same folder, so I use the Downloads Today renaming feature, or the Stored Number feature which can be set to any number I choose in Preferences => Rename Options.
Rapid Photo Downloader can also automatically create backups to a destination of your choice during the download, and has many other great features. There is and older version in the Ubuntu 12.04 repositories, or you can download the latest version via PPA.
Step 3: Embedding Metadata
Because my photos are often published in various newspapers, magazines, and websites, there is important metadata that needs to be embedded in the photographs.
This isn’t the EXIF metadata that includes camera information like shutter speed, aperture, and iso. It’s the IPTC metadata like keywords, description, copyright information, and photographer credit, etc. This information needs to be embedded inside each photo so people working at the various news outlets know the “who, what, where, and why” of the shot.
An example of important IPTC metadata stored inside a photo (as seen in Photoshop)
Along with the IPTC and EXIF metadata, I also need to include keywords so the photos are easily searchable in the large archives I keep. These can also be referred to as tags.
I do all this in gThumb, which is available in the Ubuntu repositories or via PPA. Simply launch the application, navigate to your folder of images in the directory tree in the left panel, select all the images, click the ‘Comment’ button (or Ctrl+M, or Edit => Comment), type in all your information in the General and Other tabs, then click ‘save’.
I use gThumb to embed IPTC information like description, copyright, photo credit, and keywords
Now all the photos have the proper metadata embedded inside, and people running Photoshop and other programs will be able to read it.
Other Software Options:
For KDE users (or Gnome users who don’t mind installing a bunch of KDE dependencies), digiKam is also a great option to complete several of the functions I mention here. If KDE is your cup of tea, check it out.