Professional Photography in Linux, Part 2

Posted on Jul 31, 2012 in Blog, Linux | 62 Comments


Part 1 of the Linux photography workflow is here.

Step 4: Photo Management and RAW Editing

Software: Corel Aftershot Pro

Finally, we get to the fun stuff. Your monitor has been properly calibrated, you have downloaded all of your photos (that follow a proper naming convention), and all the necessary metadata is stored inside them. Now you can start viewing your work and deciding which photos will be edited. In comes Corel Aftershot Pro.

In a nutshell, Corel Aftershot Pro is a Lightroom replacement. It is a cross platform, color managed application that can perform non-destructive, multilayered editing of RAW photos (and JPEG, TIFF, etc.). It also a great photo manager that includes a very useful rating system.

A quick overview of Corel Aftershot Pro:


Unfortunately, Aftershot Pro doesn’t automatically find your monitor’s color profile in Linux (the Windows and Mac versions do). So before you begin, you need to setup Corel Aftershot Pro to use your system’s color profile (an .icc file you should have created this in Step 1). Go to File, Preferences, Color Management, and under Monitor Profile choose your ICC profile. Your ICC file is located in ~/.local/share/icc.

If you don’t know which ICC file is your active one, go to your System Settings, Color, highlight your active color profile, then click ‘View Details’ in the bottom right. From there you can see the file name. To make things easier, I copied the ICC file to a more convenient location and renamed it.

There are a lot of ways to go about sorting and editing in Aftershot Pro. I’ll explain the process that works for me.

  • Open your folder of images in the Browse Panel on the left (images will load a lot faster if you import the folder into your Aftershot Pro catalogue).
  • Hide the Browse Panel on the left and switch to ‘Image View’ by clicking the icon in the top right. Double click a photo, use the bracket keys to navigate, and start giving your photos a rating of 1-5 by using the corresponding number keys.
  • After you have rated all your images, use the ‘Filter’ button in the top left to show only the photos rated with 4 or 5 stars.
  • Switch to ‘Standard View’ (icon in top left), right click on an image in the Thumbnail Panel that you want to edit and choose Version, New Version from Master to make a copy.
  • With the new version active, click the ‘Open Layer Manager’ button in the top right, then click the ‘Adjust’ button in the layers window to create a new adjustment layer.
  • With the new adjustment layer active, begin making changes with the Tools Panel on the right such as exposure, recover highlights, etc.
  • Click ‘Adjust’ again to create another adjustment layer. With the new layer highlighted, make further adjustments such as color balance, etc.
  • Continue adding new adjustment layers and making changes as much as needed until your are happy with your image.
  • Right click on the image in the Thumbnail Panel and choose Edit with GIMP (or Ctrl+E). I have it set to export a 300dpi TIFF file in Adobe RGB, but you can set it how you want under File, Preferences, External Editor.

You can also edit all of your photos first, and then do a batch export in JPEG or TIFF format by using the Output section of the Browse Panel. If you do, I recommend that you first right click on the name of the option you want under Batch Export, and adjust the settings. Make sure JPEGs are set to 100% quality, the correct color profile is chosen (ie: Adobe RGB, Pro Photo RGB, etc.), and that it is embedded.

It’s important to check the output settings before doing a batch export in Aftershot Pro

However, Aftershot Pro isn’t free. At the time of writing, it is on sale for $59.99 USD. It regularly costs $99.99. I’ve purchased several licences myself and am very happy with the product.

Other Software Options:

For those looking for a free alternative, check out Darktable. I personally haven’t tried it in over a year, but it looks like it has come a long way.

Step 5: Editing and Export

Software: GIMP 2.8

So this is the big one, the Photoshop replacement.

I’ve worked in Photoshop almost daily for several years now. It is fundamental to my career as a photographer. I know the tools, the layout, and the settings like the back of my hand. All this makes using GIMP a serious uphill battle.

However, after learning my way around GIMP a little, I’ve realized the tools and layout aren’t all that different from Photoshop. It’s just that I have such an established workflow in Photoshop that uses a lot of keyboard shortcuts and familiar techniques, that switching to GIMP feels like it has a steeper learning curve than it really does.

It’s easy to change GIMP’s Keyboard Shortcuts from the Edit menu

So to make the transition easier, I’ve listed the changes I made to GIMP’s keyboard shortcuts to mimic the ones I frequently use in Photoshop. They can all be changed from: Edit, Keyboard Shortcuts.

Keyboard Shortcuts to Change:

Under the View
Zoom 1:1 => Ctrl+Alt+0
Zoom Fit Image in Window => Ctrl+0
Zoom In: => Ctrl + =
Zoom Out: => Ctrl + –

Under Selection:
None (deselect in PS) => Ctrl+D

Under Tools:
Increase Brush Size More => ]
Decrease Bruch Size More => [
Paintbrush => B

Under Layers:
Duplicate Layer => Ctrl+J

Also, from the main menu bar enable:

View => Navigation Window
View => Snap to Guides
View => Snap to Grid
View => Snap to Canvas Edge

Before I get started editing, once again the first thing that I need to address is color management.

To make sure GIMP is displaying your colors correctly, go to Edit, Preferences, Color Management. Make sure ‘Mode of Operation’ is set to ‘Color Managed Display’. Under ‘Monitor Profile’ make sure the ‘Try and use the system monitor profile’ box is checked. If the term “try to use” doesn’t sound certain enough to you, navigate to and choose your monitor’s color profile from the drop down menu.

GIMP’s color management is set from the Preferences menu

From here, you can also choose a color profile for the working space. I shoot my photos in Adobe RGB because it has a wider gamut of colors than SRGB. This is great for print work. But, if I am preparing photos for the web, I will set it to SRGB so my images will be converted to web safe colors.

Now you should be ready to go. Take advantage of all the great tools GIMP has to offer and edit away! If you followed my process in Step 4, you should have an open TIFF file in GIMP. My workflow continues as so:

  • Start adding layers and making changes, like Heal, Clone, using Layer Maks, Blend Modes, etc.
  • Save your work as a XCF file (GIMP’s native format). This is a “Working” format. It stores all of your layers and allows you to go back and make further changes without losing quality in the process.
  • When you are done, go to File, Export, and choose the format you want to convert to, ie: JPEG, PNG, etc. This is a “Delivery” format that is easy for clients to use.

That should be it. All the software and setup a professional photographer needs to go from memory card to finished photos done entirely in Linux.

More on GIMP

Most likely, the first thing a professional photographer will notice when trying to edit in GIMP is the lack of non-destructive adjustment layers. From what I have read, the ground work for this has been laid out, and is planned for the next release via GEGL. I get around this by using the adjustment layers in Corel Aftershot Pro, then exporting to GIMP to do further editing.

To add more function to GIMP (like ‘Save for web’ and ‘content aware fill’), you can install the GIMP Plugin Registry via the Ubuntu Software Centre (or Synaptic if you like to keep things fast and old school). Be sure to also install the add-on: ICC color profiles.

The Content Aware fill replacement is called Resynthesizer. After installing the plugin, you can then find it under Filter, Maps, Resynthesizer. There is some great information about it here and here.

There is also a video demonstration of resynthesizer:

Unfortunately, I never got it to work properly. I’ll keep playing around with it before I make any final judgment.

Conclusion: Linux for Professional Photographers

So can a professional photographer switch to Linux full time? For me, the short answer is, “almost”.

I would say I am about 90% there. What is holding me back is my lack of experience in GIMP, or possibly, GIMP’s lack of certain tools. But I need to spend more time reading manuals, tutorials, and working in GIMP before I can give a definite answer.

Specifically, I need to test several tools to see if they can match the Quick Select tool, Patch tool, and Refine Edge feature that I frequently use in Photoshop.

Also, the brush tool is unacceptably slow in GIMP 2.8 when color management is turned on. Color management isn’t something a professional can turn off. Since I use brushes extensively to do selective editing on layer masks, this is a major drawback for me.

But everything else is there. The ingest, the tagging, the photo management, and raw editing.

I’ve dreamed of being able to do my job as a photographer in Linux for a long time (since Ubuntu 7.04), but have always had to keep around OS X or Windows for Adobe software. For the first time I feel like professional photography in Linux is a real possibility.

I am looking forward to editing further photoshoots in Linux and learning my way around GIMP (despite its absolutely horrible name).

Return to Part 1: Steps 1 – 3


  1. Bob K.
    August 2, 2012

    Unfortunately some of the best professional plugins, like NIK ColorEfex Pro, SilverEfex Pro, Viveza 2, Topaz, etcc are not compatible with Linux. Also Photomatix Pro is also not compatible with Linux. It will take allot more for me to completely switch to Linux for my workflow. It is also apparent to me that most of these commercial companies are not in the least bit interested in porting their apps to Linux. Even Corel is not planning on porting Paintshop Pro to Linux. Aftershot, was already ported, so it costed them nothing. Will see how well they embrace Windows 8. Maybe that will get them thinking. Since major game developers are starting to rethink their strategy, and are looking to Linux. Valve is a good example. But I will not hold my breath. As for 3D shops using Linux. Yes they are, but professional photographers are still stuck in Apple and Microsoft’s ecosystem.

    • Davide Anastasia
      August 16, 2012

      Well, you can use Luminance HDR instead of Photomatix Pro!

      • Bob K.
        August 23, 2012

        Photomatix Pro is allot easier to use and way superior in my opinion to Luminance HDR. Photomatix Pro has allot more options, and produces better results. I’ve tried them both, and never really cared for my results in Luminance HDR, compared to the commercial products.

  2. rileybphoto
    August 2, 2012

    Thanks for the info. PPAs are definitely the way to go.

  3. DBE
    August 2, 2012

    Interesting article, as I have also been looking for a complete photographic workflow under Linux. I would recommend a look at Darktable as an open source replacement for AfterShot — the PPA will install a stable version easily under 12.04. A complete workflow however includes creating the final print (using correct .icc profiles for various papers), and I would be curious to know your thoughts on this.

    • Bob K.
      August 2, 2012

      The more Linux users we have that use Aftershot Pro, the better. That may send a signal to Corel to port Paintshop Pro, Painter, and the rest of their apps to Linux. Aftershot Pro works great on Ubuntu.

      • Bob K.
        August 2, 2012

        Just because something costs money, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use it on Linux!. This attitude gives Linux users a bad reputation as cheap skates. And this is one reason Adobe is not interested. They mentioned this on their forums, when discussing Linux. Linux isn’t about Free as in money.

    • Omar Spence
      June 17, 2014

      Darktable is terrible, rawtherapee is much better

  4. random
    August 2, 2012

    seriously, gimp? How do you use cmyk to publish on newspapers?

    • karbon
      August 2, 2012

      This article is about professional photography .. no DTP ;)

    • rileybphoto
      August 2, 2012

      As @357a20e8c56e69d6f9734d23ef9517e8:disqus mentioned below, this article is about the photography side, not publishing. But it is a good question.

      I can say that I worked for a weekly newspaper for two years, and still have my work published in newspapers regularly, and this is never an issue. I only submit high resolution files in Adobe RGB, and the newspaper does the conversion to suit their needs. In fact, I have been asked several times to not submit images in CMYK.

  5. Gianfranco
    August 2, 2012

    Glad to see pros exploring and even moving to Linux. Keep up the good job. Ciao! :)

    • rileybphoto
      August 2, 2012


  6. thijs van severen
    August 2, 2012

    it’s great to hear a professional photographer’s opinion on the usability of linux :-)
    lately i have been trying out several apps to do some foto stitching (panorama creation) and also HDR and i although you are doing something completely different i still found it very interesting to read
    just a question:
    if you compare your mac workflow and this workflow, is the mac workflow more smooth ? i mean, do you need the same number of apps to get to your end result like you need under linux ?
    also do you feel like you can achieve the same quality under linux than what you get under mac ?
    and finally: have you tested darktable? how does it compare to lightroom ?

    great post !


    • rileybphoto
      August 2, 2012


      As for workflow comparison, my worklfow is currently faster/smoother on the Mac/Windows side. This is due to my familiarity with Photoshop, but also because of Photo Mechanic. I need three different programs in Linux to replace the ingest, metadata tagging, and image managment that I do in Photo Mechanic. So yeah, definitely slower in Linux.

      This was my first real experience with a full workflow in Linux, and I think I got slightly better quality when I edited the same images with Adobe software. Again, this could be my inexperience with the tools in Linux.

      I haven’t really tested Darktable extensively. And when I did, it was an earlier version. So I can’t say how it compares to Lightroom.

  7. Skand Hurkat
    August 1, 2012

    In case you wish to try Darktable, I would recommend that you try it from Pascal’s PPA (, as the version on the Ubuntu repository is rather old. Same thing for Luminance HDR (qtpfsgui), though I could not find a PPA.

  8. micha
    August 1, 2012

    the only thing I miss is the cutting tool or crop tool frome PS. Because it is possible to rotate and cut at the same time. If you have to edit 200- 300 images quickly, it makes a difference, if you can do it in one step (XnView makes it a little bit like PS)

    • rileybphoto
      August 1, 2012

      Do you mean the “straighten” feature in CS5? Yes, very helpful. A real time saver.
      There is a rotate and crop feature in Aftershot Pro.

      • micha
        August 2, 2012

        yes and no: i mean the normal crop tool.

  9. Tethys .
    August 1, 2012

    Nice article. I should point out, though, that Resynthesizer isn’t exactly a Content Aware Fill replacement. It’s more the other way around, since Resynthesizer predates Adobe’s offering by a few years.

    • rileybphoto
      August 1, 2012

      I think you are right. I remember seeing the year 2009 mentioned somewhere in regards to the resynthesizer. Then I started trying to remember when Photoshop CS5 came out… Nice to see the open source community beat Adobe to the punch :)

    • Skand Hurkat
      August 1, 2012

      This is true. The resynthesizer was a project by P Harrison, a PhD student at the University of Monash. Check out his website here:

      Oh, and BTW, I’ve got a blog where I try to show that Free and Open Source Software can do almost anything that a photographer will need. Check it out at The only snag is that I’m not a (pro) photographer.

  10. Timo Schneemann
    August 1, 2012

    Great and very interessting article! Thank you very much.

    • rileybphoto
      August 1, 2012

      Thanks! I am glad you liked it. I put a lot of work into the article.

  11. jcy
    August 1, 2012

    what would be the advantage of running this linux setup over an OS X setup?

    • Arturo Bory
      August 1, 2012

      a LOT cheaper

    • rileybphoto
      August 1, 2012

      That I get to use my favourite operating system and don’t have to pay for a second computer. Also, I don’t like to support Apple and think OS X is a mess.

  12. ChojinDSL
    August 1, 2012

    I was just wondering if you’ve tried tools such as Digikam or Rawstudio? Both allow you to non-destructively edit Photos, and digikam in particular has a multitude of functions for managing a photo library.
    I’m wondering if either of those tools would eliminate the need for Corel Aftershot Pro. Since I don’t quite see a must have feature there which isn’t provided by digikam or rawstudio anyways.

    • rileybphoto
      August 1, 2012

      I haven’t tried Digikam in about a year and a half. At the time, it was very foreign to me (I am a gnome user). It felt cluttered and confusing, but that was probably because I am not a KDE user and didn’t stick with it long enough. But you might be right, it could probably eliminate a few steps.

      What makes Aftershot Pro appealing to me is that it is cross platform. I can use it on my Mac at work, then come home and use it in Linux for my personal work.

      • yegorich
        August 2, 2012

        In theory Digikam can be used in WIndows. So it is at least half cross-platform.