Sunday, August 12, 2012

Photivo - A Great Choice

Top- After Photivo  Bottom - Before Photivo

As an Open Source software devotee, I look back and realize I've probably written more about this than any other topic on this Blog, and if this is getting tedious for some, I'm truly sorry. It's just that Open Source is having its day - right now. It no longer means that you have to be running some kind of Linux or BSD Operating System to use Open Source Applications. Most of the really good ones are also available for Windows. This gives an advantage for Windows users of being able to procure really seriously great photography software free of charge, but there's more to it than that. These applications are not just "reverse engineered clones" of high cost commercial kits any more. Some might have started that way, but over time, they have developed merits of their own, as the Open Source developers have gotten way beyond making free copies of the good stuff, and now are using their imaginations to introduce new ideas that differentiate Open Source from the commercial mainstream.

There is one cardinal rule for Open Source software that must be kept at all times - otherwise it isn't Open Source - that is, the Source Code for any given product must be made available to everyone, so that anybody who has the skill to do so can modify the code and re-introduce it as something new and (hopefully) better. The fact that many programs are offered packaged free of charge is beside the point - not all Open Source software is "Freeware". The main point is, that the Source Code must be offered freely in two ways - 1) free of legal proprietary claims which prevent others from working on it to improve it or make it into another product, and 2) free of charge. Get it? It is the Source Code, and not necessarily the user-friendly end product that must be free of charge. It is this fact which makes open Source a true haven of creativity.

Which brings me to the subject at hand - Photivo. It has become my favourite RAW Processing Software. Now, please consider what I'm about to say in this light - I have absolutely ZERO experience with the big commercial programs like Photoshop, Lightroom, Elements, etc. To be honest, I've never seen any of these in action, and haven't even so much as looked at an on-line screenshot. This may change by next week, as I am planning on purchasing a semi-pro pigment ink printer - either a Canon or Epson - haven't decided yet, and chances are, it'll come packaged with Adobe Elements. I will also most likely have to run this printer from Windows to get the most out of it's features, that is assuming that the Linux community have even created a driver for the model I buy - Printer Drivers are a weakness of Linux, and even if there is a driver available, it usually has restricted features, or might not behave right in some way. So all that to simply say that I might soon have a commercial software product as a point of comparison.

So, again - Photivo (sorry!). It has every RAW adjustment imaginable, allowing a photographer to truly  bring out the art in every photograph. It is an incredibly intimidating program to use at first, especially when you're new to the concept of RAW Processing. If you're a total newbie to RAW, then NOTHING about Photivo will make sense to you. But, if you take your time, and read up on your Photo Terminology, and at the same time open a RAW file with Photivo to work with it, things will quickly begin to make sense. To get the most out of it, I recommend a nice big high quality computer monitor (at least 19" size) - if you're using a Laptop screen, you might not be able to see everything Photivo is doing. So, at the top, you can see a before and after of one picture that I stepped through.

That being said, I like to use any photo processing software with care. I've seen so many pictures that get so overworked with RAW processors, they no longer have a clear subject. One thing I love about Photivo is that it is always in a live-preview mode, so that every enhancement you make can be seen and undone for comparison. My approach to each enhancement is that if I clearly see a difference, I probably went too far and so I back it off a bit. Meanwhile, each step you take is cumulative in Photivo, so each change builds upon, and is also affected by, a previous step. If you feel things are getting out of hand, you can always go back and reduce, or turn off, some previous step. I'm sure this is true of most commercial giant photo software, but not always so with the Open Source programs. 

So, a note to my faithful readers - even if you already have one or more of the industry standards, why not download and try Photivo, and make some comparisons.

UPDATE - Photivo can also be compiled on a Mac!

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