For photographers, Linux offers some of the most advanced and comprehensive image manipulation applications. Best of all, they are pretty much all free and open source software. That means whatever you do with it, it won’t cost you a cent. You can download some of them to view or incorporate them into your normal workflow. It’s up to you.
Here we present eight of the best professional-quality photography applications available for Linux. With this one, your only limit is your imagination.
GIMP, which stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program, is considered to be the best cross-platform, free, and open-source image editor available. Often compared to Photoshop, GIMP will do just about anything its expensive commercial counterpart can do. Best of all, GIMP is available directly from the software repositories of most Linux distributions, making installation quick and easy. There are also a large number of excellent GIMP plugins available.
While some would say GIMP has a significant learning curve, most will tell you it’s worth taking the time to learn how to use it properly. If you’re looking for an excellent, high-quality general purpose image editor, GIMP is the way to go.
digiKam is an advanced, professional photo management and editing solution. It is free and open source, available for Linux, Windows and macOS. It comes with a long list of tools designed to make importing, managing, editing and sharing all your photos and raw files easy. The app’s import capabilities import photos, videos, and raw files directly from your camera or other external storage such as SD cards or USB drives.
digiKam makes it easy to organize your files into albums and tag, rate and label them. Features such as facial recognition and advanced search options allow you to easily find your way through your collection. For prolific photographers with large collections, it’s hard to beat the features of digiKam.
Krita works somewhat like traditional paint programs, but with a much larger set of features. It allows you to easily edit and manipulate your photos, but you can also use it to create or add images through its wide variety of tools and brushes. It is the perfect software for those who want to combine art with reality.
Krita is built with a clean, intuitive user interface that allows even the newest users to quickly start editing and creating. For those who like to experiment with mixed media and more free artistic sales channels, Krita may just be the perfect piece of software.
RawTherapee is another free and open-source photo editor aimed directly at professional photographers. As the name suggests, it is specially designed for working with raw file types, although of course it offers the ability to read and process all major image types.
While RawTherapee is certainly one of the best photography apps for Linux, it has not yet garnered the popularity of some other programs. For this reason, it can be difficult to find tutorials that help you with the steep learning curve that comes with such a complete and complex photography application.
If you are an experienced photographer, that may not be a problem. Whatever your skill level, rest assured that RawTherapee can keep up with you.
Inkscape is another excellent editor that is often compared to expensive commercial applications. While you can use Inkscape for basic photo editing, its real strength lies in its full vector graphics capabilities. Instead of Photoshop, Inkscape would be more of an alternative to Adobe Illustrator.
Inkscape is a great tool for photographers who may need to embellish their work with objects such as commercial logos, stylized text, or other similar overlays needed for many commercial tasks. Combining Inkscape with GIMP gives any photographer virtually unlimited editing options.
LightZone is a professional digital darkroom and photo editor. It includes support for raw file processing and editing, as well as other major digital image types. It’s known for being able to keep up with professional standards while maintaining a level of usability that makes it a bit more user-friendly than many other editors of its kind.
LightZone is a completely non-destructive editor that allows you to customize or change any of the tools later, even from one editing session to another. Rather than using layers like other photo editors do, LightZone lets you build a stack of tools that you can rearrange, adjust, toggle, and remove from the stack as you see fit. If you want to add your own digital creativity to your photos, LightZone lets you do just that.
darktable is known as one of the most consistently advanced photographic editors available for Linux. The name itself is a combination of light table and darkroom, two of the most commonly used tools for photographers. As you might have guessed, darktable allows you to work in two different modes.
Import files and perform basic operations in the lightbox. Once you’re done, you can switch to darkroom mode, which lets you tweak things like image quality and dig deeper with more advanced tools. All edits are non-destructive and are saved separately from the original photo. You can make multiple changes to the same image and go back later and choose the one that suits you best without losing the original.
darktable is designed for photographers, by photographers. Many professionals already know that darktable offers an exceptional workflow experience and addresses many of the shortcomings known to exist in other photo editing software.
Rawstudio is a standalone open source application designed to read and manipulate raw images from digital cameras. The authors intend to deliver a product that allows you to read, edit and manipulate raw images imported directly from your digital camera as easily as other applications allow the manipulation of JPEG images. The main focus of Rawstudio is to provide the user with an efficient and fast workflow for review and processing for large image collections.
Rawstudio is a highly specialized application specially designed to work with raw images. It is intended as the first step in your image processing chain. After you’ve made your initial adjustments with Rawstudio, move on to using a more comprehensive editor to achieve the final results you want.
Explore and experiment for the best results
No matter what your level of photography skill, you’ll find that exploring and experimenting with different software often yields the best results. You may prefer one workflow over another, and you will find that all applications have their strengths and weaknesses. Through thoughtful crafting, you will surely find the perfect combination that will allow you to express your artistic skills perfectly.