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DigiKam: The Other GIMP For Photographers

by phorneker

When it comes to digital photography, the first thing that Linux users have in mind for picture editing is the GNU Image Manipulation Program (or simply GIMP). Sure, I have used that product for years for digital photography.

The other product I use just as often, is the photo management program that was designed for KDE called DigiKam, and that is the subject of this article.

DigiKam was originally designed as a photo management program, with many of the file management functions that are available in the Dolphin file manager.

However, many capabilities have been added to the software package, including a photo editor with capabilities that facilitate many things I could do in the GIMP (and less time consuming at that), and the integration of Internet services such as Google Photos and Flickr, as well as the creation of online photo galleries.

When you launch DigiKam for the first time, it will scan the Pictures directory for anything that is considered a picture or a video file. This could be a JPEG, PNG, TIFF, MOV, MP4, or other supported standard format. If you have a large collection, this will take a considerable amount of time for DigiKam to scan for image and videos.

Within DigiKam, Albums are simply subdirectories created and maintained inside the Pictures directory on your hard drive. When you create an album in DigiKam, you are really creating a subdirectory inside the Pictures directory within your home directory.

There are three panels and two sidebars that make up the user interface for DigiKam. The left panel keeps track of Albums that DigiKam uses. By default, DigiKam sources its photograph collection from the Pictures directory within your home directory. Here Pictures is an album within the list of Albums that DigiKam keeps track of.

The main panel is where actual content is displayed. In this example, the top level Albums is selected, and the locally stored homepage for your installation of Digikam is displayed. Selecting any of the other folders in the left panel will display the contents of that directory in the main panel.

Here we have a light table view of a collection of photographs stored in "~/Pictures/Architecture/Chicago Field Trip 1988" on my laptop.

During my junior year at Valparaiso University, I took a class called "History of American Architecture" that included a field trip to Oak Park, IL, as well as parts of Chicago to visit (and study) buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The pictures on this DigiKam screen were scanned from photographs I took on that field trip.

The panel on the right is a multipurpose panel, and is where most of the functionality of DigiKam happens. On the right edge of this panel are vertical tabs. What appears in this panel depends on what tab has been currently selected. The same is true for the left edge of the left panel.

Here, the current tab selected is Properties. What is displayed here is some basic information on the selected photograph. In this example, the selected photograph is the highlighted image (in cyan) at the top left hand corner of the light table.

File Properties gives information about the file that has been selected. Here, the file is called class-grouping.jpg, located in "/home/patrick/Pictures/Architecture/Chicago Field Trip 1988" (without the quotes, but including the spaces in the pathname). This photograph was scanned at 600dpi and has a image size of 5776x4191, and weighs in at 3.4MB after JPEG compression.

Let us now click on the highlighted photograph.

We now get a full view of the selected photograph, along with a filmstrip of adjacent images contained in the same directory. Click on any of those to scroll through the directory.

As we scroll through the directory, notice that the information displayed in the right panel changes with the selections.

This sculpture is located in front of the Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago. I framed this so you, the viewer, can make your own decisions as to what is conveyed in the sculpture. This photograph was processed in June of 1988 as indicated at the lower right hand corner of the photograph. The actual photograph was taken about two months earlier.

...and this building used to be a functioning Marshall Field’s store in downtown Oak Park. Its architecture was obviously inspired by Louis Sullivan’s design of the State Street store (now Macy’s), including the clock at the southwest corner of the building. (The image was scanned at 150dpi.)

As this is a scanned picture, there are not going to be any metatags attached to this file.

The other tabs on the right panel provide information (and editing where possible) on Metatags, Color Profiles, Maps (for Geotagging), Captions, Versions, Filters, and Tools.

Filters here refers to searching the database of photographs and video. What can be searched here is the type of image or video, metatag and geographic location.

Also, tags can be labelled and images and videos can be locally rated (up to five stars). (This type of labelling also exists in Shotwell, the GNOME equivalent to DigiKam, which was recently added to the repository. Personally, I prefer to use DigiKam).

The Tools tab, is what makes DigiKam the product that it is.

What is shown here is only a sample of what can be achieved in DigiKam.

This is only an introduction to DigiKam. There is a lot more to cover starting with the Tools tab and the things it can do. Also, there is a powerful image editor (called showfoto in the repository and is downloaded at the same time DigiKam is installed from the repository.)

For the record, I currently own the following photographic gear:
  • Sony Cybershot DSC-H10 (my primary digital camera with Zeiss lens, 8 megapixel)
  • Sony Cybershot DSC-W170 (purchased at Goodwill, sharing the same USB cable, batteries and memory cards with the DSC-H10, 10 megapixel compact)
  • General Imaging Company A1255 (purchased at Goodwill, GE branded 12.2 megapixel camera taking SD-HC memory cards and standard USB type B connector)
  • HDV180 "Jazz" video camcorder (from Big Lots, from Sakar International, 12 megapixel still images, 1280 x 720 HD video, taking standard SD-HC memory cards and standard USB type B connector.)
  • Cobra "Black Friday" special (Christmas gift purchased at Kohl’s back in 2008, 8 megapixel, standard SD card up to 2GB, standard USB type B connector)
  • Vivitar ViviCam 3340 (received as a Christmas gift back in 2004, 1.3 megapixel second generation digital camera, no LCD display, standard SD card, standard USB type B connector)
  • Mamiya Sekor 528TL (rare film SLR camera purchased at Goodwill, fixed 48mm f/2.8 lens, shutter speeds 1/15 to 1/500 second, and time exposure. Works great considering its age)
  • Pentax K-1000 (my current primary film camera. Purchased at Goodwill, this 1976 vintage camera was one of the last Japanese built K-1000 models with the words "Asahi Pentax" printed above the lens mount. The body was constructed of steel as opposed to the plastic models found in later versions of the K-1000 as late as the 1990s. This camera came with a SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/2.0 lens.)
  • Aiptek DUO-V26 digital camcorder. (purchased at Goodwill, takes Compact Flash card, which was reformatted for FAT12 with 2GB capacity, standard USB type B connector)

Also included in the camera are the following:

  • Pentax SMC-F 28-80mm f/3.5-4.5 autofocus zoom lens (standard Pentax K mount so it will work with the K-1000, and if I choose to replace the Cybershots with a Pentax DSLR, this lens will work with that camera as well as the basic Pentax K mount has not changed in design over the years.)
  • DeJUR 135mm f/2.8 lens for the K-1000. (This was purchased with the K-1000)
  • DeJUR 2x Teleconverter for the K-1000. (Both the 135mm lens and the teleconverter were made in Japan.)
  • Minolta Auto 200X flash with a translucent panel for wide angle lenses
  • Lenmar EF32 manual flash
  • Pentax AF-200S automatic flash
  • Sets of 49mm, 55mm and 58mm filters of various types, including the Cokin filter system

Previous equipment I owned (but no longer do):

  • Rolleiflex SL-35M (purchased in 1997, broke down in 2007 after ten years of heavy usage. This was my primary film camera that got replaced with the Cybershot DSC-H10. The reason for that choice: Both cameras came with Zeiss lenses.)
  • Minolta XG-1 (shutter failed after battery replacement)
  • Canon Canonet QL-19 (this was my primary film camera before the SL-35M and was the camera used to take the pictures shown in this article. This was a 35mm rangefinder that had very much the same lens and shutter mechanism as the Mamiya Sekor 528TL, which is one reason why I purchased that camera.)
  • Olympus XA-2 (this was a Christmas gift I got back in 1982, and lasted for 25 years! Donated to Goodwill in 2007 after I purchased by Cybershot DSC-H10 as part of my inventory reduction)
  • Argus DC-1510 (A first generation digital camera that had promise to be a great
  • camera, but did not deliver due to poor picture quality, though it was Linux compatible.)
  • Argus C3 (This was the Ford Model T of film cameras.)

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