Digital photographs can be something of a pain. With the storage
capacities available today, it is easy to take thousands of pictures, with
no regard for the cost. With film cameras, there was an incremental cost
for each shot taken and each print made, which tended to reduce—but
problem of organizing a photo collection. With digital photos, though,
there are programs like digiKam that
can assist in this task. As digiKam approaches its 1.0 release it
seems like a good time to see what it can do.
When first starting digiKam (1.0-beta5 from Fedora Rawhide), one is faced
with the "First Run
Assistant" that allows the user to make some choices on settings for
the program. Earlier versions (0.10.0 on Fedora 10) seem to want to index
the entire disk or something—perhaps from an errant setting—when they start, leading the user to believe
has crashed or exited, so the assistant is a much better welcome.
Unfortunately, it asks too many
questions and, more importantly, several that a new user is unlikely to
have a good answer for. Taking the defaults is a reasonable option, but
also seems unnecessary; asking for a storage directory and pointing users
at the configuration menu item would seem enough to get started.
The program itself has two main sections, the left hand side has photo
albums, searches, calendar view, map search view, etc. based on which tool
is selected, and the right hand side shows the results of the operation.
The results show thumbnails of the images with information on tags,
ratings, and creation date. Hovering over an image or thumbnail brings up
a box with much more information including EXIF data from the file,
image dimensions, and filename.
That's all fairly standard fare for photo organization programs, at least
to this untrained observer. The tagging, rating, and searching make things
much more interesting. Tags can be applied to photos to characterize them
in some way, and photos in multiple albums can carry the same tags. So if
one had photos of monkeys from Costa Rica in one album and strange animals
and insects seen at home in another, tagging them all with "animal" makes
finding them all quite simple. A search of that nature can then be saved
and recalled as needed.
Ratings allow the user to apply up to five stars to photos, based on their
quality or subject. Advanced searches can then use the ratings as a
criteria in the search, allowing for searches like "find all the five star
animal pictures". The calendar view (shown at right) shows photos based on
when they were taken, which is a nice way to organize pictures from
multiple sources of the same trip or event for example. For images tagged
with their location, the map searching could be used, though none of the
author's pictures were tagged that way (yet, anyway). The map search
seems to incorporate the Marble
widget for use in selecting geographic regions.
One of the first steps when using a photo organizer is to get some photos
into the system. Importing from an Android ADP1 (treated as an external
USB device) did not go very well, as
digiKam crashed while rooting through the SD card. It seemed unhappy with
a Bill Monroe mp3 file, but it wasn't clear why it might be looking at such
a thing. In any case, manually moving those images over to a local
directory and pointing digiKam at that worked fine. Normally, I would have
pointed it at several thousand images on a USB drive, but, the fates
conspired to have two identical terabyte drives containing the photos (and
a vast quantity of FLACs) stop showing up on the USB bus. Presumably just a
temporary glitch, but not one to try to track down under deadline pressure.
But digiKam is not just about organizing photos, it is also targeted at
those who want to manipulate the images in various ways. Even the most
basic user will want to rotate images or do red-eye removal occasionally
and those are, of course, supported, but digiKam goes far beyond that.
There is a whole raft of corrections that can be applied to photos in the
image editor. The digiKam web site lists various kinds of image processing
that can be done, including color management, noise reduction, working with
camera raw file formats, and so on.
digiKam also comes with a standalone photo editor, ShowFoto that has all of the
same editing capabilities, but does not have the album management and
searching that come with digiKam. In addition, digiKam uses the KDE Image Plugin Interface
(KIPI), so that KIPI-Plugins can be used to export the digiKam
data in a wide variety of formats. KIPI-Plugins exist for various web
photo services (Flickr, Picasa, etc.) as well as social networking sites
Exporting an album (or the results of a search) to HTML is also possible
for those that want to set up their own simple photo web site. There are
multiple theme choices, and the resulting web site is functional but
basic—just fine for those who would rather keep their photos on their
own site. Exporting to personal photo web site programs, like Gallery, is supported as well.
The author has few real complaints about working with digiKam 1.0, it seems
like a fairly solid program with lots of interesting potential. There was
some confusion about working with
albums and adding new directories of images, but that should be easily
overcome by working with it more—something that is very likely to
happen. Once those thousands of images are extracted from the recalcitrant
USB drives, digiKam seems like the right program to use to organize them.
Certainly far better than the ad hoc "organization" there is today.
It probably makes a great deal of sense to photographers, but the most
serious complaint I have about digiKam (and especially ShowFoto) is
the lack of support for PNG and GIF images. Rather often, manipulating both
JPEGs and PNGs is one of the tasks required for putting together a weekly
Doing that in one tool would be useful, which is why I use the GIMP for
those simple tweaks. But, the tagging and other features available in
certainly be used for many kinds of graphic images. Perhaps it makes
photographers cringe, but it would be valuable to some of the rest of us.
[Update: as pointed out by a reader below, this paragraph is entirely bogus and was the result of pilot error. ]
There is lots of documentation that comes with digiKam (in the
digikam-doc package, at least for Fedora), including the 300+ page digiKam
Handbook [PDF]. If just using it more doesn't answer the
album/directory questions, one would guess that the handbook will. A
release candidate is due at the end of November, with the final release of
1.0 scheduled for December 20. Based on the beta, it will be an excellent
release, and I look forward to using it. Perhaps in that quiet
week at the end of the year.
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