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. Chakravarthi Suchindran
    October 31, 2013

    hi. i have had a linux RAW workflow for a long time now, and key software i used were and are bibble pro (now aftershot) and lightcrafts lightzone. do try out lightzone. it is now opensource and stable. packages are available as debs, rpms and source.

    • rileybphoto
      November 3, 2013

      Thanks for your comment.
      I actually tried to download Lightzone a while ago, but after I singed up there were no download links. There was some issue at the time. I’ll try again sometime.

  2. Mark Lockyear
    June 10, 2013

    I’ve just searched for professional photography software for linux to see if there is anything out there I have missed, and your site came up and made for a very interesting read. I much prefer linux to other OS (currently on Ubuntu 13.04 with Gnome 3.6). I use gThumb as my starting point, and it can also import photos from your camera/memory card using similar features to Rapid Photo Downloader (i.e. changing the filename with date, sequence, event_name etc) but it can also add tags at the same time. For RAW editing I have tried Raw Therapee, Darktable and Aftershot pro. Aftershot, for me, was the best of the bunch – easy to use, fast, very powerful and full featured. Other linux software I sometimes use are Luminance and Hugins Panorama creator (which is excellent). For final editing though, I have yet to find something better than Photoshop (I use Elements v10 running under Wine). I would like to use Gimp, but it’s too awkward, and it won’t let me use Topaz plugins. For me, a decent photo editor that will work with Topaz (and other) plugins is what Linux needs to complete the set. Anyway, good article, thanks for taking the time to write it.

    • rileybphoto
      June 13, 2013

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I’ve been trying out other RAW photo editors in Linux too, like darktable and UFRaw. Currently Aftershot Pro is my preference, but I want to create a complete open source photography workflow in Linux so I can one day roll my own distribution.

      The more I use GIMP, the more I am impressed with it. It’s much more impressive than I gave it credit for in the beginning. Something that really helped me adapt to GIMP was to easily switch all the keyboard shortcuts to match Photoshop. Info here:

      You are right, there is nothing as good as Photoshop. But since they are going completely to the cloud, and I don’t plan on buying any more Mac/Windows computers, I’ll have to make the open source programs work for me.

      • B.S.
        June 17, 2013

        Don’t waste your time with rolling your own distribution – you’ll never keep up. It’s just a distraction from your main thing, whatever that is. Let others focus on what they’re interested in, such as various fiddly bits along the way. Not to say don’t use a distro’s tools to automate new installs. But then … new versions come out so fast …

        • rileybphoto
          June 18, 2013

          I don’t think it will ever be a proper distro. More like my custom setup made available for others.

  3. Gregory Chang
    April 7, 2013

    very good, I am waiting for raw support in gthumb, I agree we are almost there… Gimp is an amazing tool.

  4. Gregory Chang
    April 7, 2013

    very good, I am waiting for raw support in gthumb, I agree we are almost there… Gimp is an amazing tool.

  5. Gregory Chang
    April 7, 2013

    very good, I am waiting for raw support in gthumb, I agree we are almost there… Gimp is an amazing tool.

  6. Paul Valley
    January 17, 2013

    Great I’m just starting out this was very helpful one book you might find useful is Gimp 2.6 for photographers V2.8 by the same author is coming out soon

    • rileybphoto
      January 19, 2013

      Awesome, I’m glad I could help! Thanks for the tip about the book. I’ll check it out.

  7. Magnus Berg
    January 10, 2013

    I have started to like AfterShot Pro quite a lot. It’s easier to get god results with ASP than with RawTherapee that I had use a lot before. But right now, after reading Ras Algethi’s tips I tried Dark Table for half an hour and think that it’s real good (possibly better than ASP) as soon as I get used to it’s quite different interface. And DT updates the preview of the picture faster than ASP and miles faster than RT.

    • rileybphoto
      January 12, 2013

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      I definitely plan to seriously test darktable when I get some free time. Unlike Aftershot Pro, it is open source and has a proper 64bit version.

  8. smudge
    December 5, 2012

    Thanks Riley, interesting blog, you didn’t mention that gimp only works at 8bits per channel, does that affect image quality?

    • rileybphoto
      December 9, 2012

      Thanks. Yes GIMP is currently limited to 8 bits per channel (which is fine for JPEGs posted on the web). High bit depth editing will be in the next version. I edit 16 bits/channel TIFFs in Corel Aftershot Pro for higher quality.

  9. AwesomeRobot
    November 11, 2012

    Gah, if only Adobe would support Linux.

  10. Ladislav Ezr
    September 24, 2012

    Just one fast question, have you ever tried RawTherapee? If so, could you share your settings (especially for denoising)? :)

    • rileybphoto
      September 24, 2012

      I don’t use RawTherapee. But if I did, I would be happy to share my settings.

  11. aikiwolfie
    August 4, 2012

    Very well written. This is how you go about selecting your software. Find stuff that does the job you want it to do and test it thoroughly so you don’t get burned. I hope you get to 100% soon. Good luck.

    • rileybphoto
      August 5, 2012

      Thanks. I hope I get to 100% too :)

  12. Ras Algethi
    August 3, 2012

    Can i suggest to you a far more better software than Corel Aftershot pro? It’s Dark Table, fully open source, available ONLY for linux, still in hard development but already fully operative, with a good set of plugins…

    • Omar Spence
      November 17, 2013

      I’ve tried darktable at least twice and was unimpressed, the results were noisy and the interface fairly difficult to use. Rawstudio has worked the best for me so far, with beautiful results. Noise removal is best done in GIMP and asset management is best done in DigiKam.

      • rileybphoto
        November 19, 2013

        There is a lot that I love about darktable, but I definitely have my issues with it (to be discussed in a future article).

        Asset management is really important for me, but I haven’t tried DigiKam in years. I’ve been a GTK app user for a long time, so installing all the QT dependencies has kept me away.

        • Omar Spence
          November 23, 2013

          I tried to install Corel Aftershot Pro, but I have not been able to get it to work on Linux Mint 15 Cinamon x64. Which distro do you use?

          • rileybphoto
            November 24, 2013

            I am currently running elementary OS, but I’ve also installed in under regular Ubuntu and Ubuntu Gnome Edition. I never had any problems.

            You could check Corel’s forums. Another Mint user many have already figured it out.

          • Ivan Lenko
            January 2, 2014

            Hi guys, I am running Open Suse 12.3 and Corel After Shot Pro works well. I too find Gimp quite tricky to use sometimes, so the Virtual machine (Win7) with Corel comes handy. :)

          • rileybphoto
            January 8, 2014

            Are you running 32bit or 64bit Open Suse? After some recent updates, elementary doesn’t want to run 32bit applications (like Aftershot Pro) in the 64bit operating system… It’s too bad. I am going to have to switch to a different distro now.

          • Ivan Lenko
            January 12, 2014

            Hi, I am running 32bit, for some reason 64bit installation get stuck (Dell XPS 15z). Have recently installed OpeSuse 13.1 (32bit), really like it, support is great and you can find loads of info on forum if you need any help.