Digital Photography and Linux

A primer for various digital photography programs available for Linux.

This article presents a basic overview of some of the programs available for Linux to create and work with digital images. The programs discussed here are those that were installed by default or by the package management programs of SUSE and Kubuntu on my systems. They are fairly standard and should be available for the major distributions. My preferred desktop environment is KDE, so the choices are slanted in that direction, though I indicate where a program also works on GNOME, or where there is an alternative. This is becoming less of an issue, as it is possible to run GNOME applications on KDE and vice versa. In fact, as the screenshots show, I did all my work in KDE. To bring some organization to the article, the programs are introduced in work-flow order. See the on-line Resources for versions of software used.

Scanning with Kooka

To convert images in a nondigital format, it is necessary to scan the image and capture the output into a digital file. The software of choice for this is SANE (Scanner Access Now Easy). SANE takes care of connecting to the physical devices (the scanners) and passing information to and from them. Any one of a number of front ends handles the user interface for the scanner. The two covered here are Kooka and XSane. Kooka is an official part of the KDE Graphics Package, and as such, is found in the KDE menu. XSane is an independent project. Support for scanners is provided by the libraries from the SANE Project, so if you need to determine whether your scanner will work, go to the SANE Web site (see Resources). To scan, open Kooka from the KDE Graphics menu item (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Kooka Showing a Preview with an Area Selected for the Final Scan

Scanning a color photograph entails selecting a Scan mode of color and the appropriate resolution. The Source item also may need to be selected (for instance, I use a Epson 1240U that has the choice of a flatbed scanner or transparency unit). Select Preview Scan. This generates an image in the preview box to the right. It is then possible to use your mouse to select the portion of the preview that you want to scan. Select Final Scan. At the end of the scanning process, a dialog box pops up, asking you in which format to save the scanned image. Saving the image creates a thumbnail image in the box at the bottom right and adds the image to the Kooka Gallery at the top left. For further work with an image, select the Image menu item and then Open Graphic Application to use the image editor you prefer.

Scanning with XSane

XSane can be run either in KDE or GNOME. To open XSane, again go to the Graphics menu item and select XSane. One immediate difference you will notice is that XSane opens a host of windows (Figure 2). I generally have the Standard Options, Advanced Options and Preview windows open in addition to the Program window. This can be controlled by clicking on the Window menu item in the Program window and selecting or deselecting the appropriate items.

Figure 2. XSane with the Preview Image and Final Scan Image

The information in the Advanced Options window will vary according to the capabilities of the scanner you are using. To start a scan, go to the Program window and select the necessary values. To scan a print, select Viewer, Color, flatbed, full color range and 300 in descending order for the output, image type, source, color range and resolution choices. If the output is going to an inkjet, in the Advanced Options section, set the Color correction to Inkject Printers.

With the settings taken care of, click the Acquire preview button in the Preview window. The preview scan displays in the Preview window, and you can use the mouse to select an area for the final scan. Clicking on the Scan button in the Program window initiates the scan with the resulting image displayed in an image viewer. The viewer has some limited abilities as far as editing the image, but its primary purpose is to proof the scan. Selecting the File menu item accesses the Save image menu item. From here, you can save the image in any one of a variety of formats.

A side note—for my scanner, in the Advanced Options section, there is the ability to focus on the glass or 2.5mm above the glass. For negatives in the the film holder or slides in thick mounts, the 2.5mm setting is best. You may want to experiment with this setting to see what works best.

XSane also works as a plugin to The GIMP. This means if you are using The GIMP for your image-editing chores, you can go to File→Acquire→XSane→Device Dialog from The GIMP and call up XSane directly. The final scanned image will be loaded directly into The GIMP for further editing.


Adrian Klaver, having found Python, is on a never-ending quest to explore just how far it can take him.