Any experience with digiKam as a frontend to PL?

Before Adobe LR/PS became rentals, I used to use LR as my “frontend” to PS, with final adjustments for a client in PS. I now use PL (current 6 Elite complete) as PS, but have not yet found a satisfactory front end. I have been looking at digiKam (DK) as a possible frontend and organizer; DK will work with a SAN, etc. I fully understand that the “tight” Adobe linkage between LR and PS will not exist between DK and PL. DK also might have the “quick-and-dirty” processing of LR, but it would not be my NEF to client JPEG engine that would remain PL. My scheme is to setup within each set of images “indexed” by DK a sub-directory (subfolder) “To Process” that would contain the raw (NEF) files that I wanted PL to process, using DK to copy/move the selected NEF files to each directories “To Process” sub-directory and output the resulting JPEGs into a sub-directory “Processed”. The .dop files would be in “To Process” allowing for further changes in output if needed. Is anyone on this forum using DK? If so, how and with what experiences?

Sounds like you’re intending to use digikam as a media manager/file manager.

What capabilities are provided that aren’t included in Photolab. Not saying there shouldn’t be any. But understanding what specifically you need that is lacking will help better inform the answers.

Please visit the digiKam URL and look at the “features”, including face and scene recognition, and the ability to work with a SAN (in so far as the underlying OS supports such). My current workflow typically proceeds as follows: 1. remove card (CFex) from body and insert into USB card reader 2. Open card without writing anything to it and look at each raw image in a raw preview application. 3. select the raw and camera body produced JPEG (I do not spend time extracting the JPEG from the raw) pair of interest and copy these to a directory on my laptop and/or SAN with a name relevant to the immediate project, etc. 4. create a To Process subdirectory NOT on the camera card but on the storage to process 5. Open the To Process in PL and with workflow (crop, correct, DeepPRIME XD, etc). Repeat. Eventually, archive the entire card to a removable SSD drive, possibly for future SAN use. Format the card in the camera body. Repeat. I do NOT delete images from the card, particularly in the camera, as this evidently leads to card failure issues requiring a deep (re)format of the card. My current CFex cards for primary use are Delkin Black 325 GByte, and even with a 4 TByte SSD in my laptop, I do not load the entire card onto the machine and work from there, but first select and copy (reading only, no writing) from the card. Is the above somewhat clear?

This is a myth and it’s false. Aside from the rare case where the camera firmware is so poorly written that the camera can’t manage to properly modify the directory entries, there’s no problem to delete images from the camera.

I’ll take a look at the website…

SAN is usually an enterprise type storage solution. How are you using a SAN differently than a small office/home would use a NAS?

A typical NAS is a RAID array with a network interface and processor (set) that implements NFS or some other similar file system. I use a small distributed store arranged as a SAN. But, my question primarily has to do with the use of digiKam as an Adobe Lightroom “like” frontend to PL and any on this forum who are or have used digiKam.

Most of what you want to do can be done in Fast Raw Viewer. If you wish to explore this simple but very powerful application then explore options for moving files selected/rejected to other folders. You can also rate files etc. The preview is the actual raw data and not just the embedded JPG that most apps display. FRV is very well priced too.


You could continue using LR as a front end to DPL instead of PS. I guess that the Library mode in LR is still free and continue to work even if your subscription has been cancelled.

Or did I miss something ?

Somewhere I the back of my subconscious, I seem to remember that Digicam metadata is not necessarily written to XMP tags. Feel free to prove me wrong but it could be worth a check.

A person who has had 8 years of experience as a customer service (troubleshooter) representative at a major manufacturer of memory cards for photographic use (that are in fact used by many working photographers and videographers) has repeatedly cautioned me that many of the memory card failures she/he has seen from otherwise serviceable cards (not near the cycle life of the card) have happened when a photographer deleted image files in the camera body. Separately, a well respected published author in the photography field has given me the same warning. You may regard this as a myth and you may feel assured that the ASIC/s and firmware in your camera/s will not cause such a card malfunction; I do not. In fact, I no longer delete files from a card even on a computer. Cards have sufficient storage capacity today for enough image files that this is not necessary. I simply ignore such files in post and then, after archiving the files I want, in addition to those I promptly process in post, I format the card in the camera body doing a “quick format”. If a camera and/or a computer detects “bad blocks” on a card, I IMMEDIATELY retire it (even if I must miss images during work), attempt to recover what I can using a computer, and then contact the manufacturer to see if there is any applicable warranty.

LR integrates well with PS. The "non-rental " may or may not stay that way depending upon the Adobe business model. I have tried other candidates for a LR replacement, including Photomechanic.

What I read from your initial post is, that you want to organize your photos along the following lines:

Root folder

  • Customer A
    • Session
      • Imported
      • MySelection
      • CurrentCustomizing
      • ForFinalSelection
      • AcceptedByCustomer
  • Customer B

Capture One is probably the app that works with sessions most easily. There is no need to invest into C1 though. If you create the necessary folders in advance, you can shift images between folders from within PhotoLab Library view. One problem remains: PhotoLab stubbornly redraws new images - instead of providing a possibility to quickly cull with the built-in previews.

Vote here:

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The preview function you suggest is one of the reasons I am looking for a solution. Permit me to elaborate. Simply viewing the embedded JPEG thumbnail in a NEF is insufficient. Gross errors in composition can be seen in such a JPEG. However, unless there is a large error in exposure or focus, these more subtle issues need the capability to examine the image in greater detail (a loupe, based upon a physical optical loupe as would be used with film on a light-table prior either to projection for positive (“slide”) film or enlarging/printing for negative film). In the DSLR era with higher resolution demosaiced sensor output than, say, 35 mm Velvia film, there (often) could be front/back focus issues with the AF and a particular lens. This issue is less so (significantly less so with the Nikon Z8/Z9 AF system) with mirrorless bodies that focus from the imaging sensor – but is still not negligible. For example, I will magnify from the raw image details such as vibrissae, hair, scales, feathers, etc. If these are reasonably sharp, I will consider the image for further post, otherwise ignore it. These details were clear in LR but not during the selection (culling) process. Setting up folders is the simple part; real selection and rating (that is “portable” between different workflow applications) is not. I have thus far tried several LR (not PS) replacements. (For PS, PLcurrent Elite Complete seems acceptable as the PS replacement save for the lack of the use of plugins – even the DxO NIK plugins – that use the internal pipeline format but rather require export to TIFF that, in my opinion, is a ludicrous waste of machine resources and time.) The closest to “acceptable” I have found is digiKam but before I invest too much time into integrating digiKam into my workflow, I hoped to discover how well digiKam “integrates” with PL, particularly if others (especially working photographers, some of whom do use PL) have experiences or comments. Although digiKam is licensed for free, it appears to have a professional developer/maintainer base (as does DxO being a for-profit business – DxO is somewhat responsive to the needs of working photographers given that Nikon Z8 NEF support appeared in mid-June, not July, and thus not forcing me to look elsewhere).

It sounds as though you essentially need Digital Asset Management (DAM) software, and there are only a few ‘serious’ DAMs in the consumer-affordable market:

If you don’t find a solution within that selection, you probably won’t. Unless you have a few thousand to spend on a corporate system.

Personally I use Photo Supreme, but I know that there are many happy iMatch users.

FastRawViewer shall do what you want - open raw fast, zoom, check raw clipping/raw channel saturation, etc. …

… isn’t it best to do everything in PhotoLab then?

I have both FastRawViewer (FRV) and RawPreviewExtractor (the latter when I need deeply to “dig” into a raw file). I tried using FRV as a standalone application reading from a CFexpress card but NOT writing any data to the card (such as a “rating”) and then copying the relevant JPG or NEF files to the processing directory for PL. FRV had an appropriate zoom (loupe) view and had histograms as well, but no mechanism for range copying (not moving) selected files to the target directory (that I easily can create prior to FRV). FRV is a good culling program if it can move files and then put the rating, etc., into the target directory (not the card). LR did not have this issue as I recall. digiKam is more LR like in that there is limited post processing (not as capable as PS with plugins or PL Elite complete) to produce a “quick and dirty” that nonetheless could be “better” than the JPEG produced by the body.

??? in FRV you can select files by rating or label and then copy the selected files to whatever directory you want ??? unless I am missing something …

You wrote :

  1. remove card (CFex) from body and insert into USB card reader

FRV compliant

  1. Open card without writing anything to it and look at each raw image in a raw preview application.

FRV can do this

  1. select the raw and camera body produced JPEG (I do not spend time extracting the JPEG from the raw) pair of interest and copy these to a directory on my laptop and/or SAN with a name relevant to the immediate project, etc.

FRV can copy that pair

  1. create a To Process subdirectory NOT on the camera card but on the storage to process

FRV can do this - create a subfolder and copy files to it

  1. Open the To Process in PL and with workflow (crop, correct, DeepPRIME XD, etc). Repeat.

FRV compliant - you can run DxO PL6 from FRV so that it will open all raw files in the folder in its browser

I use acdsee as my photo manager. In my opinion the best one around, and as a bonus gives alternative tools for processing if you want to achieve something you can’t achieve in dxo. I love the dxo/acdsee combo.

I licensed acdsee when I was looking for a LR/PS replacement after the Adobe rental model was imposed. Generally, I license software for testing because the “free” testing interval is too short and many of the “free” versions have various (sometimes subtle) limitations. I replaced acdsee with PL. You are using acdsee much as I used LR and then use PL as I used PS. How many images are you managing and how many do you process at a session? How good do you feel is the “integration” of Acdsee to PL? Certainly not as “good” as LR to PS as both are Adobe (although DxO Nik is very poorly integrated into DxO PL because PL does NOT accept plugins).

I probably have a couple thousand images but acdsee is a quite strong image manager so I don’t see any issues with acdsee handling more. I have Photolab set up as an external editor. The only issue, which would be the same with any raw processor is that if you want to make further adjustments in acdsee you need to save as a dng or tiff in order to see the changes in acdsee.