Digital Photography – Linux Darkroom with LightCraft’s LightZone 3.4

Posted by on Apr 21, 2008 in Photography, Technology4 comments

I love Photography, and any oportunity I get, I try and take photos. I have a great camera, and living in the jungle, fantastic surroundings and photo oportunites everywhere I look. The only thing I’ve been lacking is a digital darkroom for Linux. OK, so we Linux users have GIMP, CinePaint (a fork from GIMP 1.0.4 specifically for photo/movie frame editing), and ufraw – a RAW digital image processor, along with a bunch of other great tools for image processing, but I just wanted to try something more. I’ve tried installing the trial version of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom with wine, but with no success, and as such, have continued my search for a viable Linux based digital darkroom…

A couple of days ago, I set up a makeshift studio at home so I could do a photoshoot of my wife and new baby (well, I say studio – it was in fact a couple of dark blankets I found about the house, no lighting, reflectors, or any of the expensive professional gear!). Once finished, I really wanted to process some of the better shots to send to my family, and so was determined to find something I could install and use on Linux.

Tenacity prevailed, and I finally discovered Lightcraft’s Lightzone – a Java based digital darkroom, with versions available for Mac, Windows and Linux! The Linux version is currently in Beta, but in all honesty, having used it for the past few days, I couldn’t tell. Installation is as simple as you can get – download the archive (registration is required, but it’s worth it), extract the files, enter the new directory, and run the LightZone executable:

tar -zxvf LightZone-3.4.tar.gz
cd LightZone
./Lightzone

After a dialog appears informing how many days of the trial are left, the splash screen displays as the program loads. The GUI is incredibly intuitive, and within minutes, I managed to process a couple of pictures worth sending to my family. When the application first opens, it’s a simple case of using the pane on the left to navigate to a directory containing photos. LightZone automatically generates thumbnails, and a larger preview of the chosen thumbnail with an option to edit. A single click on “Edit” brings up a whole array of processing options to play with.

After a few clicks, and mainly fumbling around the system, I managed to turn this raw image:

into a Black and White 10×8 Portrait that my Mum will love:

I’m incredibly happy with the results of a few minutes clicking and fumbling around an unfamiliar system! If this is what can be achieved by doing so, I’m really looking forward to getting my teeth into the system, and learning it’s many features – HDR (High Dynamic Range) support, Zone Systems, and many more.

Unfortunately however, I only have 9 days left on the Trial, since the Linux version is still in Beta, and therefore not available for purchase. I have no idea how much the Linux version will be when it’s finally released, but the Windows and Mac versions retail at $129.95 for the Basic version, and $199.95 for the Pro version. Unfortunately, both out of my price range for the time being (that’s a hell of a lot of money where I live!), but I’m certainly going to enjoy the Beta version while I can, and dream of when I can afford to buy the Pro version! Still, I’ll see if I can make some time to write a couple of tutorials and post them.

LightZone is a fantastic product. The only thing extra I would like to see, is a 64 Bit version.

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