I am a longtime Adobe® user, going back to before Photoshop™ 7, 2001ish. I have been in love with that software. I didn’t get into digital photography until 2005, but before that, I was scanning my negatives and photos and just doing minor edits in PS.
Fast forward to about 2008, still a loyal Adobe Photoshop™ user, Adobe® released Lightroom™ and I jumped in with both feet.
With these two programs, I was now a professional. I dabbled with other programs over the years and in 2010, I tried to jump to Linux and use open source software. I just ended up buying another hard drive and dual booting into Windows 7 and running Photoshop™ and Lightroom™ from there.
You get the gist.
I’m a dyed-in-the-wool, Linux Hippie, but I just could not get off of Lightroom™. It’s a great program, but it has some serious usability flaws. As a recovering IT guy, I was never happy with the memory leaks and lack of network support for the database and on and on.
The current COVID-19 situation left me with some time on my hands. I was backing up and moving files around, I added a new USB 3 drive, built a catalog in Lightroom™ and moved some images to it. Then I unplugged the drive and when I plugged it in again, Windows assigned it a new freakin’ drive letter. UGH. Then I realized that Windows buried the drive utility deep inside the OS. Since I haven’t been in the IT game in several years, I was left frustrated for a few minutes.
It was at this point I decided I’m ditching Windows. NO, I did not even entertain the idea of going to a Mac. Apple can kiss my ass. They use tried-and-true anti-consumer tactics on their own customers. So they are no better than Microsoft.
My move had to be back to Linux. I tried several flavors of Linux over the last a few years, I really like Linux Mint these days, but I wasn’t sold completely. Their most popular version is built on Ubuntu, which I like, but I’ve had stability issues with on my Lenovo laptop. Then I saw that they have Debian version. The out-of-the-box install has the Cinnamon desktop environment. Which I really like. I’ve been running that on my laptop for months.
The average user probably can’t tell the difference between the Ubuntu and the Debian version, especially because Ubuntu is built on the testing branch of Debian’s code base. The differences are under the hood, and Debian is very stable.
Do you need to use Adobe® to be a pro?
Short answer, No way. The final image is what is important. Unless you’re working in a corporate studio or a studio that shares files with a dozen other people, then you probably need Adobe® and $100K worth of Mac Pros.
I double dog dare anyone to say that they can tell the difference between an image created with Photoshop™, On1, and GIMP.
The Command Line can seem scary.
sudo apt install gimp
Terminal is not for everyone, but I’m very comfortable in the CLI (command-line interface). Being able to install and remove software with a line of code is quite nice. You can get a lot done in there. You don’t need Terminal to use a modern Linux desktop though. However, if you want to go to Linux, then it wouldn’t hurt to get the hang of some command line functions.
The software is what’s important.
This was my biggest concern, but once I prepared myself for the workflow change, I was all in.
So I had been testing different Lightroom-like programs. I needed a good balance between usability and functionality. The two programs I have been trying are Darktable and Raw Therapee. It seems that a lot of photographers prefer Raw Therapee, because it seems to be a little more user friendly, but I like Darktable better. The learning curve is a little steeper, but I think the tools are better baked and more granular.
Both these programs are great for navigating folders, USB drives, and network drives. Like Lightroom™, they are not very good at searching for images. When you have large RAW and TIF files, all three can get bogged down.
One of my biggest gripes with Lightroom™ was managing multiple drives and tens if thousands of images. The only way to organize them is to break up large groups of images into multiple catalogs, which creates separate databases. I really hated that.
You don’t have to do that with any of the major editors, Like On1 and CaptureOne. The same goes for Darktable and Raw Therapee.
However when you have a couple of hundred thousand images over multiple drives, I have recently re-discovered XnView. This is going to be a lifesaver in the long run. It’s light and fast and pulls up a nice preview and is easy to search by folder or even keyword, and camera…. Whatever you want.
I’ve found Raw Therapee and Darktable both to be very capable programs on Linux. I’ll be sticking with Darktable for time being, since changes are written to an XML sidecar files, changes are made to that and I can take with me to another program.
I’m not writing this to tell anyone to ditch their software. I just want people to know, you don’t have to stay with a particular software if you really don’t like it.
I can’t in good conscience tell people to that Linux is better than Windows, except Linux is better than Windows…for me.
Pick your tools and with patience, you may be surprised with what else is out there.
Photographer, videographer, and lover of all things analog.