There’s a special place to chat with fellow photographers, learn about high-end FOSS photography software, and share your work with others. It’s called PIXLS.US, and it’s a large and wonderful world beyond Photoshop.
This is truly a golden age in the hobby of photography. Never before has it been so inexpensive and easy to take and share great photos. The rise of smartphones has fueled an explosion in casual photography, and the ecosystem is further extended through the proliferation of media-sharing apps like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Lower costs for better cameras has enabled many budding photographers to take up the hobby. Unfortunately, while much of the underlying software that fuels the apps and platforms is built on free/open source software, there is little fanfare for the projects that are available directly to photographers.
Proprietary giants such as Adobe dominate the landscape of photographic software tools. Not only in market share, but in mindshare among users as well. Visiting any large photography website will yield entire forums and sections dedicated to Adobe products. Other proprietary software are often listed among the viable alternatives. Any talk of free/open source software projects (if there are any at all) is relegated to the “Other” category. Given the breadth, depth, and quality of photographic tools available from the FOSS world this is a shame. There should be a better way to not only showcase these amazing projects, but to also showcase works and workflows for other photographers, all while using the underlying principles of free software to help share and extend photographic knowledge.
It’s amazing to think that there wasn’t a dedicated location for free software photographers to congregate and share already. While there are places where photographers can come together, they are usually related to forums or mailing lists of specific projects. Projects like darktable, RawTherapee, and GIMP have active userbases, but they’re mostly interacting based on the project vs. the hobby of photography itself. This leads to many of their users being spread out over various locations.
There were some proto-attempts at something similar in projects like MeetTheGIMP.org by Rolf Steinort, and a first pass at creating GIMP tutorials by yours truly. Unfortunately these attempts at actually contributing to a broader body of knowledge, and extending what phographers can learn and use to showcase their works, are far and few between. Due to the low cost of starting up there are often new blogs and personal sites cropping up that are quite happy to feed users the latest, greatest method of doing something that has been covered a million times before, which in reality are cheap monetization attempts as opposed to true passion for the hobby and community.
I created PIXLS.US with a specific mission statement:
To provide tutorials, workflows and a showcase for high-quality photography using free/open source software.
This is an attempt to pull the community of FOSS photographers and their work out of the “Other” category, and to put them front and center where they deserve to be. There is a two-pronged approach to doing this.
The first is to build a good-looking, friendly website as a basis for long-form articles focusing on free/open source photography as well as a blog for quick reporting and announcements on topics relevant to the community. This was accomplished using Node.js + Metalsmith to generate a static website.
The second, and possibly most important, approach is to create a place for the community to interact and share. This is accomplished through setting up a much more modern forum system, Discourse. Through a bit of wizardry (read: hard work), the forums at discuss.pixls.us serve as a means for handling the commenting on the static site posts (articles + blogposts) as well.
Having a framework available is nice, but the true heart of this endeavour is related directly to the community. Luckily I happen to be friends with many of the best photography project leaders out there. The G’MIC project moved its official forums over to PIXLS, as well as the RawTherapee project, PhotoFlow, and Filmulator. There are many friends and users of other projects such as GIMP, darktable, and more that are all interacting on the site.
We now have a way for sharing knowlege and information across project boundaries seamlessly and a better chance at focusing on the hobby of photography.
The main site was launched in August, 2014 and discuss.pixls.us was launched in April 2015. In that time we’ve grown the active userbase to over 700 photographers and developers. There is amazing content from many different folks writing articles, blog posts, and sharing their work. They cover beginning to advanced topics like color profiling, high bit depths in GIMP, Blender, color curves matching, masking, skin retouching, and black-and-white conversion.
Sharing works is a common theme that runs throughout the community. From the main developers interacting with folks on various projects, to the sharing of RAW photograph files in an effort to let others in the community try their hand at processing, the overall community is fantastic at supporting each other.
If you have an interest in photography consider dropping by and say hello. This is a fantastic opportunity to help beat the drums and raise awareness for photographers of all levels to let them know that there are free tools for photography available for all, and a community to help get the most out of them.
Let’s show everyone that free software photographers are very serious folks: