Every once in a while, I’m left with just a laptop running linux (Red Hat Enterprise v7 specifically) and I need to do a quick bit of editing on a photograph. Historically the only feasible option has been to fire up GIMP and puzzle through the dialogs to try and get something usable.Â While I am a big fan of open source software, and especially long-established programs like GIMP, it is just too difficult for me to use. I like the Photoshop toolkeys and layout. I know there are people who [a]Â have no trouble with GIMP [b] have installed skins and whatnot for easier use [c] both a and b. I’m not one of them.Â I want my image workflow to “just work” and GIMP just doesn’t.
ButÂ Darktable does! For someone like me who is used to Lighroom, darktable provides a similar interface and workflow as usual. Very helpful when some simple edits and corrections need to be done.Â How do you go from the starting image on the left to the finished on the right?
Click Read MoreÂ and let’s dig in to the process of taking a RAW image from capture to finished output.
Below is an image straight off the camera (Canon 5dmk2 , 100mm f/2.8 USM) after importing into Darkroom andÂ switching to the “darkroom” tab. If you are familiar with Lightroom, you’ll see most of the same workflow as what’s in the “develop” tab therein.
By going to the darkroom tab and choosing the White Balance utility (you may have to select it from the “more modules” dropdown), you can update the white balance in much the same way as in Lightroom.
Now we have the white balance corrected, now we can work on our levels. One benefit that I found in darktable over my (admittedly old) Lightroom is the ability to split out and update the levels through setting exposure, black point, etc by each red green and blue channel. You can see in the image above that the histogramÂ box shows all three channels with a white mix. If you mouseover the box, you will see ways to disable individual channels to edit only one. In the image below you see only the red channel. At that point you can then correct by dragging the values inside the box (same as Lightroom) for each channel to have a nice spread of red green and blue.
At this pointÂ we have a balanced and exposure corrected image. All that’s left now is some spot healing.
Which, unfortunately, is where darktable really falls down. There is a spot-brush which will clone, but no healing. In the develop tab you can choose the “spot removal” tool which can clean up some, but frankly it is not great. Or even good. Very difficult to get it to work for healing.
However, with practice and patience acceptable results can be achieved and the image is now ready for export! Under the lighttable tab at the bottom is the export function. Export and share the finished image!
On the whole I found darktable to be very full-featured. The healing lack is difficult to get around (and if anyone knows how to get better/easier results please drop me a line) but other than that it’s a definite win of a product. And, of course, the price can’t be beat. Download your copy for Linux or OS X and try it out!
The finished image: