I would imagine by now the few regular readers of this blog have figured out that I love both photography and free software.
I, personally, use Lightroom. And, yes, I paid for it. I’ve gotten used to it and I understand the workflow and I can get the little bit of editing I do to photos done that way. But, I am always on the look out for software that I can recommend to people unwilling to make that kind of investment. So, I was happy to find LightZone. It’s free and open source, which is always really cool. And, it’s not quite a replacement for Lightroom, but, for a free program, it comes as close as any I’ve seen.
LightZone is easy to install and use, but it is somewhat limited. Basically, this is a digital darkroom program for beginners, which is just fine, because everyone has to start somewhere. Besides, if you’re just getting into photography, why spend a lot of money on software you aren’t even sure you need?
Lightzone handles all the basics of a digital darkroom. There are filters of every kind and description. There are the standard healing brushes and modification tools. The work space is laid out a little differently than Lightroom, as one would expect, but it does seem to have pretty much all the same tools. Just like Lightroom, LightZone is a “non-destructive” editor, meaning all the changes can be easily modified or even undone, even in later editing sessions! Instead of using layers concept that so many photo editors do, LightZone lets the user build up a “stack” of tools which can be rearranged, turned off and on, and removed from the stack. Also, a tool “stack” can be copied to a batch of photos at one time, just like Lightroom can copy the applied settings from one photo to another, or to a batch of photos. It would take a little getting used to for me now, but if I were just starting out, I would definitely start with LightZone.
One advantage of LightZone over Lightroom is that a number of the plugins I had to buy for Lightroom seem to be features that are built into LightZone. This is especially useful for people who want to try HDR photography, as LightZone has a bunch of tools for HDR built right in! Also, LightZone is available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux and is free on all three platforms. All that and it will even handle the RAW formats from most camera manufacturers, just like Lightroom!
If you don’t already have a favorite digital darkroom software package, LightZone is definitely worth a look. You can see screen shots and download it here: LightZone.
Hey, it’s Friday, why not go take a look? What have you got to lose?