My thoughts on F-Spot

180px-Main-window.pngRecently, I’ve been trying out the F-Spot photo management application for Gnome. Having used Picasa for almost a year now, I’m spoiled with quick editing and management of my photos. With just a simple click, the quality of an image can be improved in Picasa. Since F-Spot was included in Gnome/Ubuntu, however, I decided to give it a shot. From their web page:

Editing photos in F-Spot is a breeze. Easily rotate, crop, resize, and adjust red eye and other color settings with a few simple clicks. Versioning ensures your originals are never altered.

There seems to be quite a difference in the mission statement between Picasa and F-Spot. The latter has taken the “photo management” part more seriously, and the “photo editing” thrown in as an afterthought. F-Spot’s mission statement is not finalized, though, so hopefully this will change. This is also why I’m blogging about it.

Using F-Spot as a photo editor is very limiting. I would like to see lots of changes, most of them inspired by Picasa, but taken a bit further. The tools I usually need to improve a promising but not perfect photo are:

  • Auto contrast. Ideally, it should be a button in the already existing color dialog in F-Spot, which should adjust the slides accordingly, so you have a chance of fine-tuning it before comitting.
  • Straightening a photo. Picasa has a really good tool that not only straightens the image, but auto-crops the image so you don’t need to do that manually afterwards. Much easier than starting GIMP and rotating freehand (without any reference lines) and then cropping to remove the transparent areas.
  • Cropping. My camera sensor produces 4:3 images, and most of the time I prefer to crop them to 3:2. F-Spot has this feature but the implementation is very non-intuitive. You need to select between portrait/landscape aspect ratio with a drop-down list. It would be much easier if F-Spot could just detect which direction you’re dragging the mouse the most to.
  • Rotating. Even though the EXIF tag says the image should be rotated, basically every other application ignores this, making F-Spot’s rotation useless. Please, just do a lossless jpeg rotation like every other software! Also, rotation–unlike every other operation in F-Spot–is not treated as an actual modification. In other words, a (Modified) copy of the image is not created.
  • Filtered B/W. Sometimes you can achieve a much better B/W effect by using this method. Try Picasa to see what I mean. The difference can be stunning.
  • Levels/Curves. Maybe this is a bit advanced, but at the same time it can really make a huge difference on an image. Being able to, for example, increase the light of shadow areas, while preserving the light on the midtones and highlights is invaluable in a high contrast image.

Moreover, I like the idea of F-Spot creating a (Modified) copy of the image you are manipulating, preserving the original. However, there are things I don’t like about it:

  • The modified copy is usually a lot smaller (in file size) compared to the original. There seem to be no preserving of the jpeg compression quality. I’ve seen examples of the original jpeg being over 2MB and the modified version under 700KB. That’s not normal, is it?
  • There is no way of specifying where the modified versions should go. Currently, they’re dropped in the same folder as the original, with an added ” (Modified)” suffix. To me, it would make much more sense to put them in a /Modified/ subfolder. I like to separate originals from my “mastered” versions.
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