Digital Photography on Linux

Avi Alkalay

Linux, Open Standards consultant :: IT and Software Architect
IBM Linux Impact Team ::


Revision History
Revision 2006-07-20 20 Jul 2006 avi
Document started

1. Introduction
2. Working With Digital Photos on Linux
2.1. Tools You Will Need
2.2. Renaming, Organizing and Backing Up the Masters
2.3. Orientation and Rotating Photos
2.4. Retouching Photos
2.5. Understanding and Manipulating EXIF
2.6. Understand Printing and Prepare Your Photos
2.7. Digitaly Archive Your Photos
1. About this Document

1. Introduction

Current Linux distributions provide powerful tools out of the box to let you correctly process your digital photos from the renaming, retouching, preparing for printing on standard sizes, handling JPEG's EXIF metadata, tagging and archiving, etc. All in batch.

This guide will show you how to leverage all this power, will teach you some Gimp techniques to retouch your pictures, and make your friends envy the final details your printed pictures will have.

2. Working With Digital Photos on Linux

We will propose a methodology and some good practices for working with digital photos in an organized way. So generaly speaking, this is what should be done when your digital camera meets your Linux desktop:

  1. Create a folder and transfer your photo files from camera.
  2. Rename all files in a sequence and with a prefix more related to their content. For example, your camera generated files with names like dsc04533.jpg, dsc04534.jpg, dsc04535.jpg, and you will rename them to something like Paris-001-00.jpg, Paris-002-00.jpg, Paris-003-00.jpg.
  3. Make a backup in some subdirectory before you start retouching and editing your photos, so you'll always have your original masters if some day you discover a new retouching technique.
  4. Edit your photos, rotate them, remove "devil" red eyes, create new files from details of their originals, edit contrast and brightnes, histogram, and efectively use Gimp so they'll look better.
  5. Optimize your files for faster downloads.
  6. Recover the EXIF header of the edited images with the metadata from the backup.
  7. Have fun with your family and friends whatching the photos on the screen.
  8. Take the chance that everybody is together to embbed comments and descriptions in the picture files.
  9. Also take the chance to select the best photos you'll ship for printing.
  10. Prepare your photos in batch for printing in standard sizes, including tags with your comments and date and time they were taken.
  11. Prepare your edited and original pictures for archiving.

2.1. Tools You Will Need

Get your desktop ready with some usefull tools to work with digital photos.


This is the GNU response for popular programs as Adobe Photoshop.

Gimp will let you do very advanced color manipulations and general editings in your pictures. Install it from your distribution CD.

Kuickshow or gThumb

These are simple and practical tools from the KDE and Gnome world, probably already installed on your system, that let you slideshow, navigate and make simple editions in your pictures, like rotating, fixing brightness and contrast, and other simple color balances.

Kuickshow, from KDE, is a bit more smart, practical, productive and straight forward than gThumb: while the last demands a lot of interaction with dialogs and toolbars, Kuickshow provides easy to remember shortcuts to navigate, rotate, make simple fixes as brightness, contrast and gamma, and finaly save it. On the other hand, gThumb has some powerfull features as tagging photos with categories, creating catalogs, etc.

Kuickshow is set as the default image viewer in my desktop, and some of its shortcuts include:

  • Page Up and Page Down will automatically show the next and previous image in the folder, without asking any question.
  • b and Shift-b increases and decreases brighteness of the image.
  • c and Shift-c increases and decreases contrast of the image. Generaly, you should increase and decrease the contrast almost everytime you increase or decrease brightness.
  • g and Shift-g increases and decreases gamma of the image.
  • 9, 8, 7 rotate image 90, 180 and 270 degress respectively.
  • m maximizes image on the screen.
  • o zoom image to its original size.
  • + (Shift-=) and - zoom image in and out.
  • / and * respectively flip image verticaly and horizontaly.
  • Control-s saves the image.
  • Alt-Return


This tool will let you do very advanced and batch EXIF manipulations. It is already included by default in regular Linux distributions, so find it in your CDs as the simple package name of jhead.


Look at ImageMagick as the Gimp of the command line. Its commands accept a wide set of parameters and the way it works lets you create real programs for image file manipulations in a single command line. ImageMagick will be mostly used embedded in other tools throughout this guide to rescale your photos and add visible tags and watermarks. It is a very mature and well known software, so find it in you distribution CD or repository, and keep it updated.

Photo Tools

This guide is part of the Photo Tools project, a set of command line programs that leverage the power of previous tools in a practical and powerfull way. This tools will let you rename your photo files, visualy tag them in batch, etc.

2.2. Renaming, Organizing and Backing Up the Masters

After you plugin your camera on USB

2.3. Orientation and Rotating Photos

2.4. Retouching Photos

2.5. Understanding and Manipulating EXIF

2.6. Understand Printing and Prepare Your Photos

2.7. Digitaly Archive Your Photos


Dots Per Inch or DPI

Monitors typically display at 75-100 DPI, while modern printers vary from 300-1200 DPI.

1. About this Document

Copyright 2006, Avi Alkalay.

This document must be distributed under the terms of GNU Free Documentation License. Please translate, adapt, improve, redistrubute using the original XML DocBook source right bellow. Let me know if you want me to put a link to your translation/adaptation/improvement here.

This document is published in the following locations: