digiKam is a digital photo management application for KDE. It provides a full image processing cycle – from acquiring and editing to collection organizing, browsing and exporting.
For years I used no special software for digital photography and photoalbums management. Just command-line gphoto2, GIMP and usual filemanager in preview mode were enough, or at least I thought so. Few months ago I decided to scan my old photo archives to have them in digital form and was drowned quickly in the thousands of shots many of which needed for some correction. And new shots from my digital camera are going on. So, once I felt I’ve lost control on my photo collection.
I looked for a software which could help me and found digiKam – a great photo organizer, editor and more.
digiKam works directly with a digital camera. In fact, it depends on gPhoto framework, so you need to have gphoto2 installed and working (if you are a photographer on Linux, you probably already have it). digiKam provides an easy to use interface to the camera that enables you to browse, preview, download and delete your images.
For those who used to download photos with gphoto2 from console, this new experience is really impressive.
digiKam also can acquire images directly from a scanner (through SANE interface) and grab the screenshots. Of course, you can also import your existing photo directories into the digiKam database.
An essential part of digiKam what makes it a really great app is its photo organizing functionality. It makes use of a database to store tags, comments and other metadata related to images and albums. So, you can easily find, browse and sort images in your collection.
The photo browser supports faceted navigation – you can explore your collection by albums (just the folders), tags or dates. It is possible to assign a number of tags for each photo which makes its finding extremely easy (if you are a Flickr user, you know what help the tags make).
Faceted navigation by tags and dates
The key difference from the Flickr tags (not too obvious) is that the tags can be organized hierarchically – they are rather taxonomical categories than usual labels. So you can set, say the “Roses” tag as a child of “Flowers”, and “Flowers” in turn, as a child of “Nature”. Then, all your “Roses” photos will automatically be assigned to “Flowers” and “Nature” which makes a great help in further navigation
The advanced search functionality enables to select the shots which match the specific criteria (it looks like the queries to database). You can save your queries to quickly repeat them in future.
There is a bit of fantastics – searching images by similarity. It makes use of an intellectual algorithm of “fingerprints” to compare images and find their “optical similarities”. You can adjust a treshold level to find more or less similar images – from the exact duplicates to the “slightly resembling” shots (for instance, from the same session).
It supposes these shots are similar. I think so too :-)
Editing: Goodbye, GIMP?
digiKam integrates an advanced image viewer/editor (ShowFoto) which also can be used as a standalone application. Along with basic image processing functionality (cropping, resizing, rotating, color correction) it supports a plugins architecture for to add new tools and image effects. digiKam plugins are developed by another project and should be downloaded and installed separately. Current distribution includes a variety (about 30) of plugins including correction filters, funny artistic and distortion effects, adding borders and text to images and so on.
The most interesting and useful tools for photographers are, of course, those for improving image quality. digiKam provides a rich set of those tools (both embedded and pluggable) – from basic brightness/contrast/color adjustments to sophisticated photo restoration utilities. They are collected in a “Fix” menu of the image editor:
I think, even a professional photographer will be happy with that toolkit. All filters have the live previews and work surprisingly quickly. In general, digiKam seems to work much more faster in comparison with monsters like GIMP or Photoshop.
There is a magic feature which really impressed me – an “auto-correction”. It is unbelievable, but by a single mouse click you can turn your ugly dark or low-contrast photo into an eye-candy. Just take a look:
Auto-correction: before and after
digiKam makes use of the KIPI plugin framework which aimed to be a common shared plugin infrastructure for KDE graphic apps. The current set of KIPI plugins enables very useful features of batch image processing. You can do resizing, converting, adjustment, applying filters and effects on the selected photos or even on the whole directories just by few mouse clicks.
Sharing and exporting
Yes, digiKam does flickring! Uploading photos to there is a snap – just choose images you want to upload and (optionally) enter the Flickr tags and privacy options. At very first time it will open your default browser for logging in to Flickr. A very useful feature is that it can resize the uploading shots on the fly, so you don’t need to prepare the special low-res variants of your original shots. For instance, I usually take the hi-res shots of 1600×1200 or even more, and reduce them for Flickr to 640×480, so automatical scaling makes a great help for me.
digiKam also can build HTML photo galleries, burn CD/DVD with your photo collections (via external b3d software) and of course, print your photos.
A really cool and handy app which seems to have no competitors in Linux world for now. Recommended for all Linux photographers – profies and amateurs like me.