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Photo Editing For Real People With Fotox
Panorama, HDR, and Documentation
May 29, 2008
I first read about Fotox in an article by Dmitri Popov, who writes a lot of articles that I enjoy reading. I gave it a test drive, and it's no Adobe Photoshop. Which for me is a plus--for editing digital photographs, Photoshop is overpriced, lardy overkill, and there is no Linux version anyway. Fotox comes with a small but useful feature set, including red-eye repair, sharpen, bend, stretch, noise reduction, cropping, and resize. It only supports the JPEG format. It fills a neglected niche in Linux photo editing, and that is an easy-to-use photo editor that includes the most commonly-used functions. It also comes with two useful features that a lot of bigger image editors don't have: panorama and HDR.
HDR means "high dynamic range." In plain English this means you take several photographs of the same subject at different exposures, and then layer them to create a different exposure effect. When HDR is used subtly, it's a good way to balance exposure extremes and create a more realistic-looking image. It also intensifies colors and contrasts. A common problem is a beautiful landscape that is darker than the sky, so either your sky is washed out or your landscape is too dark. HDR allows you to sandwich the two different exposures and balance the two extremes, so your photo looks the way your eye sees the scene. That's how you get pretty landscapes under dramatic skies. Used less subtly, you can create some striking images that appear three-dimensional and surreal. The best place to see HDR in action, with before and after photos, is on the Fredmiranda.com forums. Those forums are like getting a master's education in photography. Another place to see HDR examples is the HDR pool on Flickr.
One more excellent feature Fotox has that is absent from so many applications is a clear, thorough user's manual in English, and a quick-start guide in German. The GUI is available in English, German, and Spanish. Fotox hasn't appeared in any distribution repositories yet. Follow the installation instructions; it's an easy source build, .deb, or .rpm installation. You need exiv2 to read EXIF data. Fotox is Gnome-friendliest, so installing it into any other desktop environment means you'll probably have to set up a menu launcher manually.