The name digiKam may not ring a bell with many serious photographers and shutterbugs, but if you are in the market for a powerful photo management tool that sports a slew of pro-level features without a mind-boggling price tag, digiKam (http://www.digikam.org/) definitely deserves a closer look.
digiKam is an open source application that combines photo editing and management features. digiKam may not be as polished as commercial tools like Lightroom or Aperture, but behind its unassuming appearance hides an impressive collection of genuinely useful tools. The application offers photographers functionality that covers the entire photographic workflow: from importing and organizing photos to batch processing and sharing them. Being an open source application, digiKam has a vibrant community of users and developers which produce a steady stream of digiKam releases that sport bug fixes and new features.
Import and Organize
So what does digiKam actually offer in terms of features? Let’s start from the very beginning — importing and organizing your photos. digiKam’s import feature can automatically detect your camera and import photos into the application. You can also use the import feature to scan photos directly into the application or transfer photos from a USB storage device. digiKam even lets you pull photos from a remote machine and popular services like SmugMug and Picasa Web. Of course, as any photo editing application worth its salt, digiKam supports RAW files as well as a variety of other image formats including JPEG, PNG, and TIFF.
Similar to other photo management applications, digiKam allows you to organize photos into albums. In addition to that, the application boasts tagging and rating features, and you can use digiKam’s powerful filtering and search capabilities to quickly find photos by their tags and/or ratings. The application also offers geotagging capabilities that let you geotag your photos in a number of ways. You can geotag photos by simply specifying a location on the map, or you can sync photos with a GPX track. Once the photos are geotagged, you can use digiKam to quickly find photos taken in a specific geographical location. Using digiKam’s powerful renaming feature, you can create sophisticated (or simple, if you like) renaming rules and apply them to multiple photos.
Editing and Process
When it comes to tweaking photos, digiKam offers a true smorgasbord of editing tools. But in addition to standard features like color correction, noise reduction, and level adjustment, digiKam puts a few other powerful tools at your disposal. The exposure blending feature, for example, allows you to combine multiple bracketed photos into a perfectly exposed image. It does so through an easy-to-follow wizard that makes the entire process a rather straightforward affair. digiKam provides a capable lens correction tool, which can come in handy for fixing barrel or pincushion distortion. And if you need to compare two similar photos side by side, you may find the Light Table feature rather useful.
The powerful Batch Queue Manager tool allows you to apply a series of actions to multiple photos. For example, you can use the Batch Queue Manager to resize photos, apply noise reduction, add a watermark, and convert them in another format in one fell swoop.
digiKam can be used to view and edit metadata in the EXIF, IPTC, and XMP formats, and the application sports a nifty template feature which lets you create one or multiple templates with specific metadata and apply them to selected photos. For example, you can create a template containing copyright and author information and apply it to your photos.
Export and Share
Once all your photos are processed and neatly arranged into the album, you might want to share your creations with others. Also here, digiKam provides a wide range of options. The application plays nicely with many popular photo sharing services such as Flickr, SmugMug, and Picasa Web, and you can easily upload your photos to these services directly from digiKam. The application can also push photos to the Piwigo and Gallery installations, which can come in handy if you prefer to host your own photo gallery instead of using photo sharing services. Want to print your photos or send them via email? No problem, digiKam can take care of that, too.
These are just a few features to whet your appetite. Of course, the best way to decide whether digiKam suits your needs is to try the application yourself. After all, digiKam is free in every sense of the word, so you have nothing to lose except a couple of hours and a few megabytes of hard disk space.
Dmitri is a freelance contributor, and he has been writing exclusively about Linux and open source software for many years. His articles have appeared in Danish, British, US, German, and Russian magazines and Web sites. He is also the author of the book digiKam Tricks and he blogs about digiKam and photography in general on his Scribbles and Snaps blog.