In desperation - help needed!


Hi all,

I’m not sure how complimentary it is of me to be posting this here on a foss site, but I’m completely at a loss where else to go…

I’ve been active in photography for a few years now, and although I have pretty much mastered composition and other things related to camera work, it would appear I suck completely when it comes to editing! If there were a natural talent, it definitely wasn’t given to me.

I have tried many foss programs, some Linux-friendly proprietary ones, messing around with icc profiles and monitor profiles, and yet I consistently fail at getting the results I’m looking for - similar to those you see 500px, for example.

Some people have made the suggestion that I need step away from the kit lens and buy more expensive glass. Others have suggested the only way to go is the dreaded Lightroom/photoshop route. Both involve a very costly price tag.

The biggest frustration is around noise, and making images pop. Also not having a one-stop shop in terms of software, often requiring 3-4 apps to process one pic.

I very much like doing landscapes and nightscapes, and would one day like to sell my work. Nothing would give me more joy than to boast that they were done with open-source software, debunking the myth that Lightroom is photgraphy’s god.
I realise there isn’t much money in landscape work, but rather in portraiture/weddings. However I have no interest in these sorts of shoots.

So, the dilemma revolves around what my next step should be. There are three possible outcomes as far as I can see…

  • Buy a new lens to try out. This seems a very expensive route with no guarantee it’ll resolve my issues. There are no outlets where I live (or close by) who offer rental lenses.

  • Buy into Lightroom and a Mac. Another very expensive ‘trial’ with no guarantee of success - not to mention my overburdening malice toward Adobe over their attitude toward their not porting to Linux. It would also have to be a Mac because I hate the direction MS are going with Win 10 and its associated privacy issues. One reason for Lightroom would be the endless youtube tutorials, local courses offered - as opposed to a handful of open-sourced options, many divided between the various foss apps.

  • Do nothing and let photography fade away gracefully. After all there isn’t any point in doing something that provides a constant source of frustration and as a result don’t get full enjoyment from, is there?

What would you do if you were in this situation? Is there a another unseen (to me) option? If so what? This whole thing has frustrated me for so long, that I now get depressed just thinking about photography in general - and yet, I know could be immensely satisfying.

Kind regards,


Can I ask you what you’ve tried, what your expectations are, and what you got?

Noise: do you have a decent tripod? If so, noise shouldn’t be an issue. If not, get one.

Pop: What do you want, the Clarity tool? If I can plug for my own program, I recommend you try Filmulator which is good at this sort of thing, if you haven’t done so already.

Can you post any examples of raw files that you feel like you haven’t been able to do justice?

(Mica) #3

There are no magic words that will give you editing powers. Good editing comes with learning to work your tool chain, having a vision of what you want to see, and obtaining a good capture.

There is a photo critique section here, you should post some work there if you’re looking to improve.

Share you workflow and we can also look for generic problems. It seems doubt full that buying Lightoroom will solve your problems.

If you’re using the kit lens, a better lens may help the sharpness and clarity, but you can still make wonderful photos on almost any lens.

What would you do if you were in this situation?

Relax. Then get to work on it.


As others said, first it would be good to see some example of your work and also some words about what you yourself dislike about it. Next I would suggest to look around for examples of other’s photos that you DO like. Maybe we can analyze the desired style together to see what you a missing. Without such concrete examples I don’t think it’ll be possible to give real advice.

About the used software and camera/lens: Unless it’s really crappy I am absolutely convinced that no matter what you use you can get good results. Maybe not the very best with cheap camera and glass, but the software side shouldn’t matter as much as some make you believe.

(Karl) #5

@fotonut, In my experience, buying new glass won’t help. Like you, my preferred subjects are nightscapes, and my go-to glass for it is still my kit lens, even though I have other lenses that are more expensive and better quality.

Similarly, spending money on software likely won’t be a magic bullet either. Post-processing is much more about technique than learning a tool. If you don’t understand why something works, you’ll still wind up frustrated. Just as a more expensive camera won’t make you a better photographer, more expensive software won’t make you better at post-processing.

As @houz mentioned, sharing some examples of what you’ve already done, and what you’re trying to achieve would be a good way to get started.

(Pat David) #6

Hi @fotonut! Others have already asked some great questions, but I wanted to chime in too…

I’m of the opinion to remember that what 500px, Flickr Explore, and other voting-based views of photo communities mostly show is what the hive mind finds pleasing (which is often at odds with what a person’s personal tastes might be).

I’ve also noticed that sometimes the information is not so forthcoming about their process, wanting you to believe that it was easy/simple (it’s usually not). Many of those image are heavily processed.

The new lens option is great, but often you’ll find that the benefits it offers are matters of degrees vs miles.
Rarely will Lr/Ps be the factor that makes a difference in the final result (other than arguably how fast you can do something.

Noise is always an issue for us (especially you nutty night photographers! :slight_smile: ). I’d be willing to bet that most of your concerns can be addressed in a raw processor - which ones are/have you used?

darktable and RawTherapee are two very popular raw processors around these parts with quite a few users (and the occasional developer ;)) hanging around the forums.

This is not an option! :slight_smile: Don’t let it get you down! There’s some very knowledgeable and friendly folks here that I’m sure can help get you on track.


Thanks for all your thoughts and support!

The past few months have been tough personally, and without that this may not have been the issue it’s become. I use photography as a form of pure escapism - a way of disconnecting from the real world and grab a break. However, it only seems to compound the issues of the day when I can’t seem to get my head around how-to-do-stuff.

I use both Darktable and Raw Therapee, Gimp 2.9 and an array of other software. My ideal would be to get it down to two pieces of software, a RAW editor and a raster editor (no doubt Gimp). The problem is, I have found DT and RT very good at doing different things. For instance, in terms of noise, RT seems to be better for night photography, whereas DT seems to work better for daylight shots.

When it comes to workflow, it very much depends on what I’m trying to achieve. For instance, I might want to create a panorama…

  • Use DT to denoise (profile) then convert RAW images to tif

  • Open images in Hugin and stitch tifs together

  • Open merged tif in RT and work on tones (exp, shad/high, contrast, and where needed saturation and vibrance)

  • Use gimp and G’mic for touch ups

  • Re-open in DT and work with velvia (if req) and add watermark.

I’ll upload some pics on the photo critique section as Mica and Houz suggested, in the hope that I might learn more. Though I have to admit I learn more through being visual, ie: video rather than text - which is another reason why I considered LR - plenty of video tutorials around.

I have bought Riley Brandts excellent video course, learned much from it - particularly portraiture. But there really aren’t many videos around for landscape work using foss - even less for nightscapes!

In response to CarVac’s post, I’d love to give Filmulator a go, but couldn’t find a .deb package or PPA, only source files, which I’m completely hopeless in compiling.

Maybe part of my problem is as Pat alluded to, maybe I’m getting frustrated because I simply can’t get the results as those on 500px etc… because they give no idea of the work involved getting there, making the process appear way more simple than it is.

I also very much appreciate the comments regarding new glass, particularly from Karl. As you’ll all be aware, photography can be a hugely expensive past time, and there are many voices prompting many directions, which in itself creates more confusion!

Sounds to me like what I really need is more patience, and to reach out more.

It’ll also help to get a computer upgrade (hence my next post, lol), minus LR.

Thanks again!

(Jonas Wagner) #8

[quote=“fotonut, post:7, topic:564”]
I have bought Riley Brandts excellent video course, learned much from it - particularly portraiture. But there really aren’t many videos around for landscape work using foss - even less for nightscapes!
[/quote]I plan to create a tutorial on night sky photography with FOSS tools once the next milkyway season starts (in the northern hemisphere anyways). But yes, it does involve rawtherapee, hugin, imagemagick, darktable and gimp and a decent amount of work.

If you want to photograph the night sky with stars fast and wide lens definitely helps. You can quite easily get two stops more light that way so ISO 1600 instead of 6400.

If you don’t need/want the stars a slower lens should do as you can just expose for longer.

(keith) #9

Hi Bryan.
You sound in a similar position to myself around a year ago.
I am 100% linux so I tried most of the software and it soon was apparent some suited me better then others ( thats not to say the ones that didn’t suit me were any worse or better than the ones I choose ).

To cut a long story short, I chose darktable and most days I would choose a photo or two, some good and some poor and tried to make them the best I could, just learning a few modules at a time and really getting to know what each one did.

As you probably know Robert Hutton has some excellent videos on youtube

Also Ian Hex has a good site and specialises in landscape using foss software.

and don’t forget to check out the screencast tutorials on the darktable site


So there’s plenty of options to choose, to do a job as good if not better than the propriety software.

Best of luck.



As someone who has also been down this road I have a few suggestions. One is to decide on just one piece of software to start with. I can recommend GIMP and Lightzone. Lightzone is fun but frequently I’ll return to GIMP because it can do so much. Secondly, go to Youtube and watch the videos. There are hundreds for GIMP. Finally, get twitter feeds from DP School, Digital Camera World, Digital Photo Secrets and Light Stalking. I know they nearly all promote photoshop but you’ll find some gems of tips in these.
I keep a basic workflow that I keep tweaking, mainly because my memory is crap!

Good luck


Thanks for your help guys, I really appreciate your input!

I’ve uploaded three images over in the critique section, awaiting your, well, critique!

Happy new year to you all!