Free and Cheap Photography Software: Part One - Raw Therapee

“Are your images Photoshoped?” is a question that I get often and can always easily answer. “No. I don’t use Photoshop, but I do use some great photography software that is much cheaper, and even free.”  And now that Adobe has gone to a pay perpetually (subscription) pricing model, it might be well worth your while to check out these great free and inexpensive programs that I use all the time.  

This article, the first in a series of three, covers Raw Therapee, an outstanding raw converter - you do shoot Raw, don’t you!  The next two will acquaint you with Picture Window Pro, a superb, inexpensive image editing program built specifically for photography, and Lightzone, a unique, free editing program that includes special tools you won’t find anywhere else.

Raw Converter - Raw Therapee

Raw Therapee is free, open-source raw image conversion software.  It’s cross platform: Linux, Mac or Windows (32 or 64 bit), and it’s International - available in 25 different languages.  You can download Raw Therapee free, and full documentation is available online or for download in English, French and Japanese.  It’s regularly updated (current version 4.2, initiated during 2006) covering every camera and format that you can think of, as is it’s “Wiki-like” user-guide/documentation.

The program has a wealth of features with the robust user interface simply divided into three parts: Browser - to navigate between images and folders, Editor - where all the exposure, detail, color and other tools are used, and the Queue - where conversion takes place, either as a batch or in the background.

Here’s a screen shot of the Raw Therapee Browser:


This is where one selects images to edit, and select images to convert from raw to your chosen format (eg: tiff, jpeg, etc.)  Note the very handy star and color code system to rate or sort your images.  Images edited have a check mark, those already converted show the disk symbol.

Next is a view of the Editor:


This shows changes to the images as you edit. Note the full feature histogram, history of image edits and the ability to toggle “before” and “after” views. One can also save “shapshots” of the editing sequence at any stage, show clipped highlights and shadows, and save custom processing profiles at any stage.

The Editor’s exposure tools are very full featured.  This screen shows some of them:


I find the most useful exposure tools to include highlight reconstruction, exposure compensation, saturation, shadows/highlights, tone curves - which are very flexible, and the vignette filter.

The Editor’s color tools are also wide-ranging.  I most often employ the white balance and vibrance features.  Here is a screen shot of some of the color tools:


Additional Editor tool sets include: Detail - for sharpening, edge enhancement, noise reduction, defringing, and others; Transform - for cropping, lens/geometry corrections such as perspective, distortion and chromatic aberation reduction.  Even more Editor tools include: RAW - hot and dead pixel filters, and dark frame and flat field corrections; and Metadata - for Exif and ITPC (author, copyright, etc.) data.

Finally the Queue serves to organize the actual raw processing. One may process images as they are placed in the queue, or as a batch for all images in the queue.  I find the Output Directory “templates” very useful for placing raw-processed images in the proper folders.  My system is to send “regular” images to a “Converted” folder within their “home” folder, HDR images to an “HDRConverted” folder, and panorama images to a “PanoConverted” folder.  You can customize this kind of organization any way you like.

Here is a screen view of the processing Queue:


Overall, I find Raw Therapee to be an outstanding raw conversion option.  I recommend that you give it a try.  And remember, the “bang for the buck” is incredible!  It’s absolutely free!!

Jim Harrison, President

Cumberland Safari

Last October I had the great pleasure of participating in a photographers and artists “Safari” to Cumberland Island on the Georgia Coast. A dozen photo and art enthusiasts, led by professional photographer and good friend of the Atlanta Photographic Society Gary Gruby, spent six days (and five nights) exploring Cumberland’s wilderness, barrier island and cultural features. Plus enjoying each other’s very pleasurable company.  We had a blast!  

I was also fortunate to come away with several ribbon winning images, including these three:


My favorite among 700+ images from the entire trip was this early morning view through the dunes:


Plus, I was fortunate to capture many additional photographs that I just plain like, whether any judges ever do or not.  A few of these are shared here in my Facebook Cumberland Island Album

Gary tells me that another Cumberland Safari is planned for later this year: Oct. 16-21.  APS members who would like to learn more about this fantastic photographic opportunity please contact Gary Gruby by email or through his web site.  And please feel free to ask me any questions you have about my experience.  Hint: I liked it so much I’m going again this year!

Jim Harrison, APS President

PS - Other APS photographers who would like to share their photo workshop or trip experiences here, please let me know and I’ll reserve you some space on our front page blog.

Zoo Atlanta Shoot

Back in mid-June (Sunday June 14) nine Atlanta Photographic Society members and guests had a great time photographing the animals (and humans) at Zoo Atlanta. Most of the animals were out-and-about during the morning and several were great “posers” including a pair of lions, the rhinos, and one very photogenic Mercat.  


Rhino Right at You by Paiboon S.


Mercat by Chris Handley

The cool(er) morning temperatures insured that many zoo residents were active too, including numerous very social Gorillas who, unfortunately, seldom ventured within closeup range.


Gorilla on the Move by Jim Harrison

The Zoo’s new reptile house was certainly a treat!  Lot’s of interesting close-ups were available there.


Reptile Friend by Luis Pita

Feeding time for the Giant Tortoise’s was one of my favorite photo ops!


One Large Salad by Jim Harrison

The King of Beasts had a cool, shady spot staked out on top of a huge rock and lay there basking in dappled sun/shade for a very long time.  This afforded many portrait opportunities for those who brought a long telephoto lens.


Lion on Top by Paiboon S.

Atlanta is certainly fortunate to have a world class zoo.  Zoo Atlanta is an incredible learning opportunity and a big plus for species conservation with it’s participation in many collaborative breeding programs with other zoos. We really enjoyed the photographic possibilities too!

Jim Harrison, President

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APS MeetUp Group

APS is now on "Meetup"

Join our Meetup group to follow our scheduled competitions, programs, field trips and other club activities. The Atlanta Photographic Society's Meetup group is for both club members and guests.  Our Meetup group's name is "Atlanta Photographic Society."  Please click on the link to join our Meetup.

Equipment Corner


The Atlanta Photographic Society's X-Rite ColorMunki device is available  to Club members only for their personal use to calibrate monitors and printers/papers.  The checkout period is ~1 month (bring back to the next club meeting in ~1 month).

A color managed work flow is essential to ensure that what you see on your monitor is accurate, and that what you print is what you see on your monitor.  It's also necessary for accurate viewing of your images on other monitors.

For more information on the ColorMunki, tutorials, etc. please see the  X-Rite web site.  You can also consult with Don Stephens or other club members with experience using the ColorMunki.

Tips, Techniques and Learning Corner

Photography Fundamentals Videos

A wonderful series of 24 half-hour videos covering the fundamentals of photography is available for checkout to  club members only for their personal use for photographic learning/education.

The checkout period is for ~1 month ( bring back to the next club meeting in ~ 1 month).

Whether you are a beginning, intermediate, or advanced photographer you are sure to take away at least one new gem of insight that you can put to use to improve your photography from each of these outstanding lessons.

Ultimate Photo Guide Videos

This excellent series of 10 short (4-6 minutes each) videos from Outdoor Photographer and Digital Photo Magazines cover a great introduction to photography for beginners, and are a good, quick review of the basics.  You can view them all in about one hour.  It is available for checkout to  club members only for their personal use for photographic learning/education.

The checkout period is for ~1 month (bring back to the next club meeting in ~ 1 month).

The Digital Photography Book

Scott Kelby's superb book is a very handy longtime favorite.  It's highly recommended by both your President, Jim Harrison, and our Competition Chair, Al McLeod.

It is also available for checkout to  club members only for their personal use for photographic learning/education.

The checkout period is for ~1 month ( bring back to the next club meeting in ~ 1 month).

Your inkjet paper purchases can now benefit the Atlanta Photographic Society! Just click on the Red River Paper link, order your favorite papers, and the club receives 5% of the purchase amount.

Red River Paper was founded in 1997 and has become a trusted supplier of exceptional photographic inkjet papers to customers around the world. The company offers products that often exceed major retail brand quality with a savings as much as 40%.


Wings Camera & Digital

Wings Camera & Digital has been serving Atlanta's photography needs for an amazing 103 years!

APS members will get Full Camera Cleaning for $24.95 (regularly $29.95). Use APS2015 for Discounts. Thanks Mike!

Member Stan Greenberg Recognized

Stan recently participated in a workshop with Jim Zuckerman, and was fortunate to have several of his images published in the January edition of Zuckerman's e-magazine, PHOTO INSIGHTS. Check it out: p.35 under STUDENT SHOWCASE. By the way, this is a great monthly magazine with lots of good photo info, and it's FREE, so consider subscribing.

Stan's superb image, "At the Pond," also won BEST OF SHOW in the Carolina Nature Photographers Association (CNPA) MEMBERS’ CHOICE 2015 competition. This was in the Tier One category (limited to professional photographers and those members who had previously won a ribbon). According to Stan, "I was especially honored, because my photo was chosen by Arthur Morris, world renowned Nature and Bird Photographer who was the keynote speaker at the Annual Meeting in Spartanburg, SC."

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