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07 January 2008

Software toolkit for photography post processing: from Linux to Mac OS X

I've been getting used to Mac OS X Tiger and I must repeat the obvious: It's bloody great!!

One of my current time sinks is the post-processing of digital photos ranging from trivial sharpenings to time consuming panorama builds and HDR experiments. Of course, being a Linux geek, my toolkit is all Linux-based and reasonably optimised with tens of shell and ruby scripts to automate the boring repetitive stuff. The main software components are currently composed by exiftool, ufraw, digiKam, hugin, qtpfsgui and The Gimp.

Now if only I could use all those tools on OS X...

  • exiftool - A tool for reading, writing and editing meta information of images and other types of media.
Easy and done. There are binary versions of this command line tool ready to be installed on to the system from the home page of the project.
  • ufraw - A utility to read and manipulate raw images from digital cameras.
Easy and done. I compiled v0.13 from sources with a basic set of dependencies supplied by fink. Pierre Andrews went through the trouble of creating a nice .app package himself and made it available here: Thanks Pierre. It runs on X11.
  • qtpfsgui - An open source graphical user interface application that aims to provide a workflow for HDR imaging.
Seems easy but not quite done yet. The main website has a very nice .app binary build of version 1.8.12. The only thing missing is support for hugin's align_image_stack, but Mandus ( together with Ippei Ukai ( are working on getting it added. If I recall correctly, this is linked to carbon or cocoa i.e. it does not run on X11.
  • digiKam - An advanced digital photo management application.
Or headache #1. The main problem with getting this to work in OS X is its close integration with the KDE desktop environment. It has tons of dependencies like libkipi, kipi-plugins, libkexiv2, libkdcraw, libgphoto2, liblcms, libpng, libtiff, libjpeg, ... and it is damn hard to get everything working and working together. Fink has one decent build of digiKam 0.9.3 which compiles and installs fine, but the final result could be better - it does not process all the EXIF/IPTC that the native Linux version does and the GPS locator function (a kipi plugin) does not seem to work. Both of these are functions that I use extensively.
How wonderful it would be to have digiKam properly packaged into one .app (just like qtpfsgui) and linked to qt4-mac instead of running on X11... I'll just keep working on getting it running - compiling dependencies and dependencies of dependencies until eventually I get it right.
Or headache #2. Again tons of dependencies prevent me from cleanly building a snapshot of the SVN trunk. The building system even attempts to create a nice .app package but then it does not work. Unlike digiKam, though, there seem to be alternatives. Some good-hearted people who are able to build these snapshots successfully and package them nicely into .app packages, cutting the number of external dependencies as much as possible (ideally there should not be any dependency in .app packages other than OS X's system libraries).
Both Ippei Ukai and Harry van der Wolf have HuginOSX .app builds available on their websites. Harry's seem to be the most recently updated: These snapshots run natively on cocoa, although there are some important dependencies that must be interpreted by the mono framework.
  • The Gimp - the GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed piece of software for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring. Functionally analogous to Photoshop.
Easy and done. An .app binary build of version 2.4.0rc3 may be downloaded here: It runs on X11, though.

Once I get all these working properly, I think I will be both happy and sad at the same time. Happy because I had been able to port my post-processing photography software kit to Mac OS X, which is great. But sad because by then, I will have no good reason for going back to Linux...

Cheers, PJ.


Rui Covelo said...

You sell out!!! hehehe :D

It's a strange timing because I have been using Tiger much more than Linux at home but I'm getting back to Linux (unless I get Leopard meanwhile and it makes me forget the problems I found with Tiger). I constantly miss being able to move windows using the alt key+mouse, I miss "always on top", the multiple virtual desktops and some other things. I also miss not having to reinstall my system when I have problems... I recently had to reinstall tiger and didn't like it at all.

And I also miss some applications as you do.

This post is very useful to me. I've been searching for some software to help me make my pictures a little less crappy :)

Unknown said...

Yes, I am a sell out. The assimilation is almost complete.

About re-installations... I am not having any issues yet - does not mean that I won't...

I am compiling my web development toolkit (apache2+php5+vim) but php5 is having some issues. I may have to compile things by hand (arrrrr!).

Glad my post helped. I have also been looking at some gimp extensions to automate some fancy image trickery like some smart sharpening plugins, haze removal, white balance adjustment, etc. but haven't tested them yet.

More to come.
Cheers, PJ.

Anonymous said...


Unknown said...

You're welcome!

Right now I am thinking about deviating a bit from a part of the toolkit that I posted about, but I will post about it. It will be a pondered decision and it will not involve photoshop.

Cheers, PJ.