The best Linux photo software for editing and managing photos

  • By Christopher Kielty, last updated September 07, 2016
  • Filed under: Linux

When you think about managing and editing your photo collection, Linux probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Indeed, popular options like Lightroom and Aperture do not offer Linux versions. Of course, you could always go the Wine route. But is there a better way? I certainly think so! Here is a list of the best photo software that runs natively on Linux.



Although the name might sound kind of silly, digiKam brings some impressive features to the table. It includes tons of flexible organizational options and nondestructive editing tools. There is even facial recognition and geolocation support.

Compatible with over 1,200 camera models and 300 RAW formats, getting photos into digiKam is a piece of cake. You can also import from flash cards, thumb drives, external hard drives, CDs, etc.

Metadata support is very good in digiKam. You can see EXIF, Makernote, IPTC, and XMP metadata. It’s easy to add titles, captions, tags, ratings, labels, and date/time data to photos.

DigiKam is very flexible. It can be configured to fit your workflow in a way that makes it feel like it was custom made just for you. While this is great, it’s also bad. The configuration process has a lot of options and can be a daunting task.

Once you get digiKam working the way you want it to, there’s still the cluttered and sometimes unintuitive interface to contend with. Also, while geolocation and facial recognition do work, they just aren’t quite as solid as some of the non-open-source alternatives.

DigiKam has been criticized for having a lot of dependencies, making it a bit unwieldy. Indeed, there are quite a few dependencies. Installing digiKam is a bit slow. However, using your distribution’s package manager should make the installation pretty much automatic. I installed digiKam on Ubuntu 14.04.1 LTS. Installation was easy (but slow). The full install took up 422 MB of disk space. That really isn’t very bad when you consider Aperture consumes over a gigabyte of disk space.

Released under the GNU GPL, digiKam is free and open source software.

AfterShot Pro 2

AfterShot Pro 2 running in Ubuntu

AfterShot Pro 2 is a snappy little photo manager that is a pleasure to use. The interface is well thought out and beautifully simple. Managing and editing photos with AfterShot is fast and easy.

Even if you’re already using something else to manage your photos, AfterShot makes a strong case for on the go photo management. It’s speedy, even on a small, compact laptop. Efficient use of screen real estate make it preferable for small screen devices. Plus, you can use it to manage photos in place, without having to import them.

Previous versions of AfterShot were criticized for strange feature omissions, like red eye reduction. Corel said they would add a red eye reduction tool and I am happy to report that they made good on their promise.

AfterShot isn’t free or open source. It is, however, a solid photo management solution that is truly professional grade. In addition to Linux, AfterShot is available for Windows and Mac OS X. The Pro version is $59.99, while the feature reduced non-pro-version is $29.99.

There is a free 30 day trial available, which you can download from Corel’s website. The Linux version comes in either a deb or rpm package. I downloaded the deb package on Ubuntu. I am happy to say that the installation process was quick and easy, using Ubuntu’s software center. The whole program ended up using about 134 MB of disk space. Not bad!


Photivo running on Ubuntu 14.04.1 LTS

What is Photivo? Good question. It’s not a photo manager and it isn’t really a photo editor, either. Photivo is an image processor. Basically, it takes one or more photos and processes them using various algorithms.

See also: How to install Photivo image processing software in Ubuntu Linux

If that sounds boring to you, then you should check out what Photivo can do. You should also see the Photivo pool on flickr.

Photivo features include 16-bit image processing, GIMP import/export, RAW support, various denoise methods, perspective correction, demosaicing, tone mapping, various sharpening algorithms, adaptive saturation, film grain simulation, black and white conversion, split toning, vignetting, and fake tilt shift. This isn’t a complete list of Photivo’s features, but it’s a lot of them.

Getting Photivo installed and working on Ubuntu 14.04.1 LTS was a little tricky. See this tutorial if you want to get Photivo up and running on your Ubuntu system. Once installed, it’s pretty great. I’m a little surprised there isn’t an easier option. I suppose this is pretty specialized software.

Photoivo is open source software, licensed under the terms of the GNU GPL. Check out their download page. In addition to Linux, Photivo will also run on Mac OS X and Windows.


GIMP image editor running on Ubuntu

I think GIMP is to photo editing as digiKam is to photo management. Powerful features that rival professional grade software, with a cluttered interface and a kind of awkward name (GIMP actually stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program).

Despite its shortcomings, GIMP is a very capable photo editing app. Don’t believe me? Check out the GIMP users pool on flickr. There are some very good photos on there that were edited using GIMP.

GIMP has powerful batch processing, layers and layer groups, custom brushes, move and transform tools, lots of different kinds of selection tools, various distortion/warp/liquify options, blur/sharpen, color adjustment, and a ton of filters and effects. Various tool palettes, windows, and other aspects of the user interface can be customized in many different ways to fit your workflow.

GIMP supports PSD files. It also supports JPEG, PNG, GIF, TIFF, BMP, TGA, XWD, XPM, PIX, CEL, MNG, PPM, and PCX. Additional format support can be added using plugins. If you have a really weird format, you could always try using ImageMagick or GraphicsMagick to convert it to something more manageable.

I installed GIMP on Ubuntu. Installation was quick and easy using apt-get. The whole installation used up 86.4 MB of disk space. For comparison, Photoshop requires 2 GB of free space for installation. That’s about 2,215% more disk space!

GIMP is free and open source, released under the GNU GPL. In addition to Linux, there are prebuilt packages available for Windows, Mac OS X, and various BSD distributions.


Shotwell running on Ubuntu

Shotwell is currently the default photo manager for Ubuntu. Its well thought out interface is great, especially for for new users. Nondestructive photo editing makes it easier to make quick changes to photos without having to commit to anything.

Importing photos from your camera or flash drive is pretty easy. Files are stored in ~/Pictures by default. You can also import from any old folder on your computer. Photos are automagically organized into events. At first, the events are just titled with their associated date. Renaming events is easy enough.

It’s easy to add titles, comments, ratings, etc., by right clicking on a photo and choosing from the drop down menu. If you’re organizing a large library and want a faster option, don’t worry. Keyboard shortcuts are here to save the day! Quickly add tags to a photo with control + T.

Once you start adding tags to your photos, you’ll notice they show up on the left side of the screen, just under “Events” and “Folders”. Click a tag to see only photos with that tag assigned to them.

Shotwell is GNU GPL software, meaning it’s free as in free beer and as in free speech. Installation on Ubuntu with apt-get was super easy. Shotwell takes up right around 80 MB of disk space, depending on which dependencies you already happen to have installed.


F-Spot photo manager

F-Spot is kind of like Shotwell’s older, somewhat slower sibling. Many of the Linux distributions that now use Shotwell as their default photo manager once used F-Spot.

I hate to make F-Spot sound like such a bummer. It actually is a good photo manager. But for whatever reason, F-Spot now appears to be abandonware. The last major release of F-Spot (version 0.8.2) came out in late 2010.

Installing F-Spot on Ubuntu is easy. Just make sure you type “f-spot” in apt-get and not just “fspot”. A total of 68.7 MB of disk space was used for my installation.


Managing RAW photos with gThumb

gThumb is a simple, straightforward photo management app. It’s lacking in some of the more advanced features, like true nondestructive editing. But what it does, it does well. The interface is quick and easy to use.

Touching up photos in gThumb is easy. Click the photo you want to edit, then click the paint palette in the upper right hand corner of the screen. A list will appear on the right side of the screen with color and contrast adjustment, image rotation, mirror and flip, crop, resize, red eye removal, and a few others.

Although gThumb was able to load my catalog of RAW photos (Canon Rebel), it wasn’t able to apply any touch ups I tried to make to the photos while in RAW format. It gave me a “Could not find a suitable module to save the image as “image/x-cannon-cr2”” error. This isn’t a problem when managing libraries of JPEG images.

gThumb makes quick work of adding titles, descriptions, keywords, and other metadata to photos. Click on a photo then click the “Comment” button at the top of the window, to the left of “Tools” and “Share”. A window will pop up where you can add information to the selected photo. Once you’ve added your comments and click save, the windows stays open. This way you can just go to the next photo without having to reopen the window. It’s the little things.

I installed gThumb on Ubuntu. Installation was a breeze using apt-get. Total installed size for gThumb was 81.1 MB.

ImageMagick and GraphicsMagick

ImageMagick resize 50%

ImageMagick is an excellent suite of utilities for displaying, editing, and converting images. It supports over 200 image formats, including some vector graphic formats.

See also: An attempt to list all of the text editors that run on Linux

ImageMagick really shines as a batch image processor and converter. Of course, GIMP can also do batch processing. But if I need to convert some images to/from some weird format, or if I just want to make some simple change to a lot of files (like adding a watermark), this is my go to app.

The lack of a UI takes a little getting used to. However, ImageMagick isn’t that difficult to master as far as command line programs go. And in the end, it is well worth it!

GraphicsMagick is actually based on ImageMagick. The programming behind GraphicsMagick is different from how ImageMagick is made. GraphicsMagick is said to be more stable. That said, I have never had a serious stability problem with ImageMagick. They are otherwise very similar programs.