darktable developer & photographer
I'm Aurélien, photographer and image processing algorithms designer. I am to digital photography what a luthier is to music : a designer of instruments for artistic expression.
I call myself a "full-stack" photographer, for lack of better name. For example, on this photograph: I did the styling, the make-up, the picture, the retouch, but I also engineered and programmed about half of the software processing filters to achieve precisely the look I wanted. This full-stack experience is very valuable to improve photography as a full workflow.
In darktable, modules like filmic, tone equalizer, color balance, negadoctor, and the scene-linear workflow are my brain children. darktable is a free/opensource photo editing software available on Linux, Mac and Windows.
Using my experience as a photographer and retoucher and my training in engineering, I am willing to make darktable an industry-ready working tool for those photographers that need spot-on colour rendition and believable tone and colour adjustments, while working under time constraints. After having shot a couple of weddings as a photographer, and discovered that darktable was really painful to use for all these HDR situations where you don't want your picture to look HDR-y, I realized something was wrong in the way it processes colour.
One thing led to another, and here I am, knee-deep into digital colour processing, trying to build better image adjustments and better user interface for darktable, and wire all that consistently with other software for a complete, comprehensive and reliable toolchain, that will allow photographers to convey their vision without technical obstacles, and no matter their output medium (paper or screen).
What is my job ?
Designing a consistent, efficient and streamlined workflow to post-process photographs, allowing the exigent 21th century photographer maximum control over the image while inducing close to no visible side-effects.
Research & Development
Every week, I browse academic platforms and read research papers about things like image denoising, deblurring, HDR tonemapping, colour adaptation and psychophysics. Using these papers, I adapt and develop maths models to represent images in meaningful ways, that allow physically- or perceptually-accurate adjustment. For example, allowing to affect brightness without changing colour saturation, or remove lens blur without adding noise or fringes. I adapt my algorithms so they can take parameters that have a physical meaning, so, for example, light measurements on the real scene could be directly transfered into input parameters in the software. Then, I try to find time to document my theoritical work to make it available for other developers and researchers.
UI & UX design
Good algorithms are worthless without a good interface to control them, so I aim at designing user interfaces that give direct access and maximal control to the user with minimal overhead and relevant scopes to represent the image properties in meaningful ways. My most advanced work so far is darktable 3.0 tone equalizer. I also aim at making digital image processing more consistent with analog image processing, because I fear digital photography has lost touch with its roots and many things made more sense in film.
UI design is a long iterative process that requires constant back-and-forth between theory and practice, user feedback and tests.
Education & User support
A great deal of my time is allowed to answering users questions and sharing knowledge, making Youtube tutorials (in French and in English) to explain theory and practice of image processing in the context of darktable software, but not only. I write and proof-read darktable user manual and assist darktable's users on Github, pixls.us, darktable.fr, Reddit, and the darktable mailing list.
Helping other developers
In addition of reviewing features for darktable, I am in touch every week with developers of others opensource projects like MyPaint, Photoflow, Blender and Rawtherapee. We help each other and I occasionnaly solve their maths for them.
Going to meetings
A have attended the Libre Graphic Meeting 2019 and plan to attend it again in 2020. These are great opportunities to exchange ideas with fellow image geeks and make progress in our respective projects by helping each others.
Bugs triaging, code reviews & project management
I'm now part of darktable's admins and took the job of triaging bugs and organizing projects to coordinates efforts.
To help documenting my image processing research, noticeably to write maths equations and create charts, I had to develop my own WordPress plugin : WP Scholar.
To present photos in a minimalistic carousel, lightweight and efficient, I created another WordPress plugin : Photographers Galleries.
All this work is available under GNU/GPL v3.0 license.
Why do I need financial support ?
From the above description, you might have guessed darktable takes all my time, including week-ends. I couldn't afford another job. I need recurring donations to secure a regular cashflow and pay all the bills, including tax overhead like health insurance and retirement contributions (which, in Europe, takes away about 2/3 of the raw incomes for self-employed people). Among these expenses are also the electronic hardware and books necessary to my work.
Achievements so far in darktable (as of v3.0)
- UI revamping with CSS theming ability - 4 months of work
- Filmic module v1, v2 and v3 (RGB) - 1 year of continuous improvements
- Tone equalizer module, with direct user interaction on picture - 8 months of work.
Between August 2018 and January 2020, I have contributed 353 commits, added 30,833 lines of code and removed 13,930 lines of code, becoming the 11th most active developer since 2009, and the second most active for darktable 2.6 and 3.0 releases.
Work in progress for 2020
- Colour adaptation feature, in order to compensate the display for the surround lighting of the desktop, and improve the colour assessment mode
- Colour equalizer module, to adjust saturation and vibrance depending on the luminance of the picture,
- Image doctor module, outcome of more than 2 years of research on image deblurring, allowing joint deblurring, denoising, defringing and highlights reconstruction. These is a very challenging task and I have a lot of work ahead to make it run reasonably fast.
- Wiring darktable with Krita for a fully scene-linear toolchain that will preserve colour through each software,
- Wiring darktable with WordPress, finishing the template provided by Tobias, to post pictures on a WordPress blog directly from darktable.
Why am I the only darktable dev taking donations ?
All the other darktable developers have a job they don't want to quit, code in darktable for fun when they feel like it and want to keep their responsibilities minimal. There are also tax issues for the German citizens, for whom the tax-filing time overhead to declare the donations would exceed the possible donation amount.
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