After outgrowing Photos and Picassa, I bought a copy of Adobe Photo Lightroom. In 2010 I paid $300 for a copy of Lightroom 3. It was a difficult purchase. $300 is a lot of money and this was the most I had ever paid for software. But I reluctantly handed over my credit card to Adobe because I wanted the features and functionality offered by Lightroom.

Some of my friends had suggested the open source software GIMP as a free1 alternative. Those friends obviously don't do much photography because the GIMP is the most unreliable piece of software I have ever used. On the Mac, GIMP would crash within minutes of making an edit. GIMP simply lacks any stable photography workflow feature that remotely resembles anything in the Adobe Photoshop suite.

However, I recently discovered an open source project called darktable that "gets it".

darktable is an open source photography workflow application and RAW developer. A virtual lighttable and darkroom for photographers. It manages your digital negatives in a database, lets you view them through a zoomable lighttable and enables you to develop raw images and enhance them.

A “lighttable and darkroom for photographers"2? I think they stopped short of calling it an open source Adobe Lightroom replacement. From the feature list I can tell the developers are aiming at creating exactly that.

Here’s a shot list of features:

  • Fully non-destructive editing.
  • A collect module allows you to execute flexible database queries, search your images by tags, image rating (stars), color labels and many more. Filtering and sorting your collections within the base query or simple tagging by related tags are useful tools in your every-day photo workflow.
  • Import a variety of standard, raw and high dynamic range image formats (e.g. jpg, cr2, hdr, pfm, .. ).
  • Tethered shooting.
  • The powerful export system supports Picasa webalbum, flickr upload, disk storage, 1:1 copy, email attachments and can generate a simple html-based web gallery. darktable allows you to export to low dynamic range (JPEG, PNG, TIFF), 16-bit (PPM, TIFF), or linear high dynamic range (PFM, EXR) images.
  • darktable uses both XMP sidecar files as well as its fast database for saving metadata and processing settings. All Exif data is read and written using libexiv2.

Wow! There’s a lot more. Too much for me to cover in this blog post. If you don’t already have Adobe Lightroom and you are on a budget, download a darktable and start playing around.

  1. Free as in free beer since most users of open source software never look at the code. 
  2. Instead of Lighttable and darkroom

I'm participating in a group 365 photography project with members of the PHOTO-FUSION meetup. The 2011 Journey 365 — Daily Visions is a challenge for the group to have fun and learn over the year.  We are being challenged by the meetup organiser to take one photo each and every day and post it to a photo album he created specifically for the project.

The PHOTO-FUSION meetup organiser has chosen to host the photo albums on his web site using Gallery, an open source web based photo album organizer.  With Gallery a web site owner can easily create and maintain albums of photos via an intuitive interface accessible from any web browser.  But after exporting a few photos from Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 and then uploading to the gallery I realised that I wanted a more efficient work-flow.

One of the things I like about Lightroom is the plug-in architecture. Plug-ins extend the capability of Lightroom allowing integration with external image-processing software such as Nik Software's HDR Efex Pro and Photomatix Pro. Adobe maintains a list of free and commercial plug-ins on the Adobe Exchange web site. I'm a big fan of Jeffrey Friedl's export Lightroom plug-ins which allow me to upload images directly to online social media services such as Flickr, Facebook, and PicasaWeb. Jeffrey offers these plug-ins as "donationware". A small donation — as little as one dollar cent to cover the PayPal fee— is all that is required to unlock the full potential of the plug-ins.

A few minutes on Google and I had a link to two plug-ins for exporting from Lightroom to Gallery. The first plug-in, written by German photographer and blogger Moritz Post, works with Gallery 2 — which is what PHOTO-FUSION is hosting — and the other is written for Gallery 3. The instructions below are for installing the Gallery 2 export plug-in for Lightroom on Mac OS X.


First, quit Lightroom if it's already running. Download the Gallery 2 plug-in from Sourceforge and extract the plug-in file from the zip file. Copy to Lightroom’s Modules folder. This will be different depending on operating system.

  • Windows Vista or 7: C:UsersusernameAppDataRoamingAdobeLightroomModules
  • Windows XP: C:Documents and SettingsusernameApplication DataAdobeLightroomModules
  • Mac OS X: ~/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Lightroom/Modules (where ‘~’ is your User directory)

Lightroom Modules Folder

Launch Lightroom and go to the Plug-In Manager. Scroll until you find the "Gallery2 Upload" entry.  Select it and verify that it is enabled.

NOTE: If the plug-in does not appear in the list, you can add it by clicking "Add" and navigating to the folder where you copied the plug-in.

Gallery2 Upload Enable

Creating export preset

Before we can use the Gallery2 plug-in, we need to create an export preset.

From the Lightroom File menu select the "Export..." menu item.

From the ExportTo drop down list select "Upload to Gallery".

Export Preset

Click "Add" to create a User Preset. Give the preset a name and click "Create".

Name the Preset

In the left hand section of the Export window, select the newly created preset.  Click "Add Server" and enter the requested information about your gallery server. The server URL is the same address you would enter in your web browser to get to the web site. Click "Save".

Add Server Info

Click "Login" to login to the server, then select the Gallery album from the drop-down list.

Select Gallery 2 Album

Make any other changes to the preset as necessary.  The PHOTO-FUSION server limits individual images file uploads to 2MB so I made sure to set that in my preset (2MB = 2048KB). I also made sure to enable the Watermarking feature. This will ensure my copyright information stays on each image.

When you are done making changes, right click on the preset (in the left hand section of the Export window) and select "Update with Current Settings".  Click Cancel.


Using the export preset

From your Lightroom library, select the photos you would like to upload and then from the Lightroom File menu select "Export...".

Export ...

Select the export preset.  Click Login.  Select the album to export to then click export.


In Aperture:

  • Save your watermark as a PSD (Photoshop) file with a transparent background.
  • Create multiple sizes of your watermark so that you can select the one that is the best match for the output size of the exported image.
  • After you create a watermark, save it as part of an export preset so you can reuse it as often as you need.

In Adobe Lightroom 3:

  • From the Lightroom menu select "Edit Watermarks ...".
  • Enter text. Hit Save.

So to use watermarks in Aperture 3, I need to use Photoshop — an expensive Adobe product?