I've been using Photoshop since version 1 of "Photostyler". Before that, I dreamed
of digital images while using an 8086 PC and CGI graphics. Photoshop is a good
application, but I feel a growing distaste for proprietary software.
So, for 2006 my photography business migrates to the GNU/Linux box. I see some
room for improvement--user interface, color management, file system navigation. Let
me give you a list, in order of importance, of the ten things that matter most in photography.
1 image content
2 image content
3 image content
4 image content
5 image content
6 image content
7 image content
8 image content
9 image content
10 other concerns
Gimps problems are smaller than Photoshop's, in my view. They are a much smaller concern
than image content. Really, content wins the day, a message I wish to communicate to fellow
photographers who look for good images in fancy cameras, or the latest software releases. If
we're all doing something together--like creating and using image software--don't miss the spirit
of the enterprise by rolling out some elite criteria to judge the work of friends.
Digital fine art is an oxymoron. Want fine art? Try a darkroom! What really makes digital work
is content (and colors), because it certainly lacks dynamic range and resolution (and the beauty
of silver-based papers).
Visual art is all about feeling. So another good question is how do you feel about underwriting
Adobe? They employ many nice people--and some gifted software engineers, but the company
is just another greedy corporation, charging high prices, and hiding the code. Passing out those
nondisclosure agreements, which now include impressions from previous lives and the kitchen sink.
I selected Gimp because the whole project feels good. You create software for the same
reasons I create photographs So, if Gimp has problems, I'll live with them (or participate in solving
problems). Gimp is really a marvelous bit of engineering--the only problem I can see is perhaps the
team underestimates what it can do.
I do have a few suggestions developers might like. I'm sure you have no shortage of
ideas, and limited consensus, so this is just food for thought. A mutual friend, Richard Stallman,
said I should run them by you, so here you are.
1. A browser just like Photoshop. No, better not. The browser is junk--very clunky and hungry
for system resources.
CS browser is just one of those flat-file Microsoft thingies. Why not incorporate a real relational
database? So, my suggestion is to dramatically improve workflow by developing a MySQL
database companion for Gimp, that allows users to search and sort large image databases
like mine (30,000 digital images). Images could be tagged while they are being processed,
or batch tagged.
As director of photography for North American Women's Baseball League (NAWBL), I know
that searching and sorting images can be very time-consuming work. Using Gimp you could
automatically transfer image metadata to tags. It would be very useful to do a search involving
all the images shot at f/2.8 or f/4.0? All the photos shot with a particular lens. All the photos
shot at ISO 100, or ISO 800. Photos of women who pitch, play for a particular team, have a
batting average over 300, et cetera. A game? All the photos on the same day. This information could quite helpful for batch-processing images, as you might want to clean noise from high ISO files, sharpen images with narrow depth of field, et cetera. If you need to consult backup files for images lost in a crash, sorting by date is very helpful (speaking from experience). With metadata, and user criteria in the
tags (associated to files that need not be opened to perform searches/sorting) it could be a
very power tool for organization--something that graphic artists and photographers would value
Such a database could be great learning tool for spirited amateurs. What speeds to stop motion?
What speeds for flowing water? How does digital perform at higher ISO? I recommend tagging
all photos where contrast range in a scene exceeds the reach of a digital CCD. (happens a lot!)
A relational database can be a very powerful tool, and since digital is such a productive medium,
photographers really need one. There's no way on earth Adobe could build a product that competes
with MySQL--the world's best database engine. Tools that improve the WORKFLOW of photographers
and their clients would be worth considering.
You can see Photoshop is making a small effort in CS, with sort routines in the browser. Adobe
cannot afford to package a powerful database engine, because they would be paying license fees!
But Gimp already has a wonderful neighbor, who works for free.
2. The much talked about user interface. Nobody will agree on one, any more than they agree on
the ten best photographs. Why not have configuration options, that you could test, and pick a design
you like? Gimp looks pretty good on Fedora 5--because Fedora 5 has a beautiful design for the
desktop. Reminds me of Japanese art. So, this suggestion is just to provide different skins--as many
as people care to develop or download. A choice of skins that conveys the feeling of particular cultures as artistic themes would be very nice, because authors and users come from every point on the compass.
The general idea is to be transported, in terms of feeling, when you fire the application. With a thin
GUI you could hardly go wrong.
3. There is much ado about layout Since people work differently, one size does not fit all. I'm not
sure if this idea is practical, but it's certainly outside the box. If you have real multitasking, might as
well flaunt it. On GNU/Linux systems, design an interface that runs on all four desktops. You could
have your browser and killer image database on one screen, an image on another with appropriate
tools, or multiple images open and writing to the desktops like pages, that users can toggle and
customize. Pages (desktops) could also run on multiple screens--all with one copy of Gimp in memory.
It's a bitch to port MySQL and ODBC to windoze, in conjunction with a big application like Gimp,
so these features could just be for GNU/Linux or Unix type environments. If you've a product that's
much better than Photoshop, users will migrate to get it. I feel it already is better--but adding power
to regulate workflow would be a very desirable benefit.
This idea is really a repetition of the idea about providing an optional MySQL database feature.
Power is leveraged, by utilizing system strengths. GNU/Linux has industrial strength
database capabilities. It also has real multitasking, and multiple desktops, to solve all your problems
of designing inside a space that is too small. I suggest, thinking outside the box of one screen--and
presenting a range of user interfaces and default options. Wrap them up in one configuration menu,
and fire Mr. Gimp--with the equivalent of 4 monitors. (unless you want to use two monitors for each
Having said all this, I prefer working with film. :-)
Hope my suggestions are not too impractical. I think Gimp will blow the doors off all proprietary
models down the road, and I will riding with you.
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