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10 Open Source Applications to Improve Your Digital Photography


Photographer using a laptop
StA-gur Karlsson/E+/Getty Images

Digital photography is a wildly popular hobby that requires not only a good camera and an artistic eye, but also the right software. Whether you're looking for a complete solution or just some new additions to your toolbox, these open source applications will help you make the most of your photos. What's more, everything listed here runs on Linux, Microsoft Windows, and OS X, and it's all free to use, modify, and share.

Image Processing and Editing

We know you already take great photos, but even the best professionals sometimes do a little touch-up work.

  • UFRaw: If you shoot your digital photos in raw mode, this utility can help you manipulate and read the images right off your camera. Manage colors with ICC color profiles, and apply Nikon tone curves to your images—even if you don't own a Nikon camera.

  • RawTherapee: Photographers who shoot in raw mode and obsess over every pixel will love this application. Exposure levels, shadows and highlights, saturation, noise, chromatic aberration, it's all there and so much more.

  • GIMP: If your photo needs to be completely reconstructed (or if you don't shoot in raw mode), this open source counterpart to Adobe's Photoshop can help. GIMP can disassemble your images, combine them with others, and manipulate it all with ease.

  • Pinta: Sometimes, simple is all you need. When you just want to put a text bubble on a photo or draw right on your image, this little painting program can get the job done.

Image Organization

One great thing about digital photography is that it doesn't cost extra to take more pictures. So go ahead and shoot away—open source software will make sure you stay organized.

  • DigiKam: This very advanced application lets you easily view, manage, organize, and tag your complete photo collection. It even comes with simple editing tools like red eye reduction, image cropping, and special effects.

Specialized Utilities

The Unix philosophy is, "Do one thing, and do it well." These open source programs have taken that philosophy to heart.

  • Hugin: Have you ever photographed a beautiful landscape and wished your camera could have captured the whole scene in a single image? With this panorama photo stitcher, your dreams can come true. Take unlimited photos, line them up on screen, and then blend them into a single, seamless photo.

  • Jhead: While probably not a popular pastime in general, manipulating Exif headers does hold a certain appeal for the geekiest digital photographers. If you've ever wanted to adjust a photo's timestamp, edit JPEG comments, or generally change metadata, look no further.

  • Photorec: After spending countless hours shooting, editing, and organizing photos, don't let a hardware crash wipe it all out. This data recovery software may be able to help you get your lost pictures back from hard drives, CD-ROMs, and even memory cards.


Taking pictures is fun, but sharing them with your friends and family is what it's all about.

  • LibreOffice Suite: With Impress (included in the LibreOffice Suite), you can create multimedia presentations with your photos that include slideshows, transition effects, and music. When you're ready, just email your presentation to friends and family or have them over for a private screening.

  • Gallery: If you already have your own website and want an easy way to share your photos through it, this web-based photo manager may be just what you need. Written in PHP and backed by MySQL, you'll be sharing your images with the world in no time.
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