RAW Photos With GIMP

The Advantage of RAW

Taking pictures in the RAW format opens up a lot of opportunities. You can change white balance after you take the picture to make colors more accurate, and you can adjust the exposure of the image really easily. The best part is, these changes don’t effect image quality at all.

Another awesome advantage of the RAW format is that the original RAW file itself is never really edited. Instead, the changes you make in a RAW editor (like UFRAW, Adobe Camera RAW, or RAW Therapy) are stored in a ‘side car’ file. This file tells the RAW editing program what settings to apply every time you open the RAW file, but it doesn’t permanently apply the settings until you export the file to a format like JPG.

In fact, if you delete the RAW Sidecar file, the RAW image will go back to its original state when you open it in the RAW editor, because there’s nothing to tell the RAW editor which settings shouls be applied. Because changes to RAW images are only stored in a side car file, you can go back and re-edit the original RAW file at any time without loss of image quality.

Working with RAW Files in GIMP

You can’t work with RAW files in GIMP, though. That’s not a GIMP quirk, it’s a RAW quirk. In order to work with your images, you’ll need a RAW converter to change them from a RAW format to something that GIMP can read, like TIFF or JPG. In addition to converting RAW files, RAW convertor programs usually have some editing capabilities that allow you to make those white balance, and exposure changes and save them as a sidecar file. Once you export the RAW file to JPG or TIFF, those settings are permanently applied to the file, and when you open the photo in GIMP it will recognize the image just like any other JPG or TIFF.

Your camera may have come with RAW conversion software, and if it did, I recommend using that software for your RAW editing process. But, if your camera didn’t come with this software, there are some free options available. One of these options is called UFRAW, and it’s designed to work with GIMP.

How to Install a RAW Converter

The UFRAW Window. Click to see a larger version of this image.

For Mac

Good news everyone! If you downloaded GIMP from this site UFRAW pmay have come with your GIMP installation. If that’s the case, you won’t have to do anything. To check if you’ve already got UFRAW installed on your computer, follow these steps:

  • Open GIMP.
  • Go to File > Open in the Main Menu. The Open window will pop up.
  • Navigate to any RAW image file you have, highlight it, and click Open.
  • If a funky looking window opens up with your picture in it (looks like the image above), you already have UFRAW installed.

If you get a warning that you can’t open the RAW file with GIMP, you will need to install a separate RAW converter.

I recommend trying RAW Therapy. You can find the download here, and instructions on using it here.

Once you download RAW Therapy, double click the ZIP file to open it, then open the DMG file to run the automatic installer. You can drag the Raw Therapy icon into your Applications folder to keep RAW Therapy handy when you need it.

For PC

  • Make sure you have GIMP installed.
  • Then, download UFRAW from this link.
  • Open the package, and follow the instillation instructions.
  • Now, open GIMP, and go to File > Open in the Main Menu.
  • Navigate to any RAW file, highlight it, and click Open.
  • Your RAW image will open in a new, funky looking window. That’s UFRAW. Now you can start editing!

How to Use UFRAW

There are a ton of options and controls in this UFRAW window. It’s such a powerful tool, I could easily write a book on just UFRAW! Thankfully, there’s already some pretty good documentation available. So, instead of re-writing all of it here, I’ll send you to the UFRAW Users Guide for more information on how to use it.

  • UFRAW Users Guide
  • Have Fun! And let me know if you have any issues. I can’t offer official support for UFRAW, but I can try to help in some cases, or direct you to someone else who can help more.