Alternative Photo Editors III

Icy StreamAnother lesser known way to edit your raw digital photo files is with a combination of open source applications – The GIMP and UFRaw. These apps are distributed under the GNU General Public License.

I originally found GIMP while experimenting with Linux on one of my machines. I thought I would have to run them on Linux and was worried because that is an old machine without much processing power. I was happy to learn that both come in a Windows version.

GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a full featured image editing application. Photo editing is just one of the things that it does so there are a ton of features in it; most of which I will never use. Even for photo editing there is more stuff than I need – heaps o’ filters, layer functions, plug-ins, clone, dodge, burn – you name it, it’s in there.

GIMP is pretty fast (even on my 1.2GHz machine with only 640MB RAM) and does a really good job of photo editing. As a long time Windows user I’m not real comfortable with an application that uses multiple windows – Windows programs tend to keep everything in one box. It isn’t a problem just not what I’m used to.

IceOne thing that GIMP doesn’t do is support my Nikon raw image files (NEF). That is where UFRaw(Unidentified Flying RAW) comes in. UFRaw supports a whole slew of RAW image formats already and since it is open source, if your camera isn’t supported, you can help out the development by contributing the data needed to get your camera on the list.

You can use UFRaw as a stand alone application to edit raw files and save them out as TIFF or JPG. You can also install GIMP and UFRaw together so that UFRaw acts as a plug-in. When you open a raw file from GIMP, UFRaw pops open and loads the image. When you are done making adjustments in UFRaw, your image drops into a GIMP window for some more tweaking.

UFRaw takes a bit of getting used to. It’s a little rough around the edges. I had to tinker with the settings for a while before I got the results that I wanted. In particular I had to set the highlight restoration to be “film like” and I had to set the gamma level so that my images transferred well to other applications without looking over or under exposed. Follow the user guide to make sure you get off on the right foot.

WaterI mostly use UFRaw to edit my raw files for white balance and exposure and then convert the result to a 16 bit TIFF file for further editing in another application – either GIMP or PaintShop. Currently GIMP (version 2.2) only supports 8 bit TIFF, but since the images are converted automatically and you probably won’t notice any difference in the image, it isn’t a big deal.

UFRaw does not save any EXIF information into TIFF files and it does not embed the color profile that you are using. Both minor points that I think are being worked on for future versions.

Overall I found that UFRaw and GIMP make a powerful image editing combo that can run on just about any operating system. Definitely worth a look before you decide on an image editing application.



6 Responses to “Alternative Photo Editors III”

  1. fencer Says:

    Thanks for the info!


  2. Michael Singer Says:

    i fully agree with you. i’m looking forward to the day when GIMP will support 16bit image files too. i’m using the current “unstable” version of GIMP without any problems.

  3. forestrat Says:

    I did a quick search to see what is happening with GIMP and 16 bit support. It seems that this is a hotly debated topic in GIMPville. I guess I’m too easy going.

    Anyway, by all accounts 16 bit is in the works, but no idea when it might be added.

    I’ve heard that CinePaint is another open source image processing application that’s aimed at higher end applications. It handles up to 32 bit images and all sorts of specialized film image formats.

    If I get a chance I’ll check it out and see if it is useful for an average schlockmeister like me.


  4. Jocelyn Says:


    awesome blog keep updating and you will see us comming back and back.

  5. fjas Says:

    if you ever consider going back to linux, try darktable. beats ufraw hands down

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: