Opening RAW Images In GIMP with UFRaw For Windows - The Basics

Opening RAW Images In GIMP with UFRaw For Windows – The Basics


gimp-logo-blog-1.pngNow, before the Mac crowd starts getting hot under the collar that this is another GIMP post excluding them, I can explain.  There’s a very good reason you don’t need these instructions on installing UFRaw for GIMP; because it’s already included with the Mac build of GIMP.  So not only do you have reason to not complain, you may gloat a little if that is your style.  You may still find these instructions helpful.

And for Linux folks, instructions for installing are as vast as there are flavors of Linux.  All of the appropriate packages can be found on UFRaw’s download page.

This fine tool does a great job of converting a few of the basic RAW formats (Canon, Nikon and a few others) into your choice of outputs.  The tool has quite a few controls for adjusting the image even before opening the converted file in GIMP and it can, indeed, be used as a stand alone program if desired.  In this post I will explain just the basics of opening a photo with some simple changes.  The tool has a LOT of controls beyond the basics, best left for another post.

For the Windows people to get started, you’ll need to download UFRaw from Sourceforge, located here.  I’m also assuming you have a copy of GIMP already loaded.  If not, it’s here.

Starting Up UFRaw

UFRaw can be found in the GIMP program group in Programs.  It can also be invoked by attempting to open a RAW file from within GIMP.  If you are starting directly with UFRaw, upon clicking the icon the first screen you will notice is a file selection window.  You can use the standard Ctrl and Shift keys to select multiple images.  After selecting the right image, click Open.


The Main Screen

The main screen UFRaw opens can be a bit daunting.  Just take a look (click for larger view).


There is a LOT going on in this screen shot.  The image of boats I have selected is on the right with the size and current viewing scale below.  That’s the easy part.  Zoom controls are below that.

On the left side, starting at the top is the RAW histogram, then an exposure slider with a few extra buttons.  Next is a row of tabs for making adjustments during conversion.  Below that is a panel that changes depending on which tab you’ve selected.  Finally, at the bottom, is the histogram of the image your are viewing with all changes applied.

On the far right are the Options button, Delete button (be careful!), Cancel, Save and Open in GIMP.

Load The Adobe RGB Color Space

The first time you start up UFRaw it only comes with a standard output option for sRGB.  If this works for you, cool.  But if you want to output to AdobeRGB(1998), you will need to load it first.  This is a one time action and will make AdobeRGB available from this point forward, so it’s worthwhile to get it out of the way.  The ICC profile can be found here.

Download that file and save it to a useful location.  Next, in UFRaw, click on the Color Management tab image .  From here, click on the open folder next to sRGB to select the ICC profile you just saved. image After selecting the AdobeRGB1998.icc file and clicking Open, you will see AdobeRGB1998 as an option going forward.


The Most Handy Features For Quick Image Conversion

As mentioned in the intro, I’m only going to touch on the simple, quick edits that can help you get started editing your image in GIMP.  There is a lot of experimenting you can do with this tool so please, take some time to fiddle with the other features.  But for now, the most vital to note are:

  • Exposure Value Settings – This is the image section at the top.  It will likely autoset the first time an image is opened.  If not, click on the image button.  To reset to the default, click the first button on the right.  Otherwise, use the slide to get the look you desire.
  • imageWhite Balance – UFRaw will default to the camera settings for white balance.  This can be changed by clicking the selector.  The normal allotment of options are given, including manual, auto, daylight, shade, cloudy, tungsten, flourescent, and flash.  Also, you may select the white balance from a spot on the image itself.  To do this, move the mouse over to your desired sampling location and right mouse click.  Then click on the eyedropped tool image.
  • Crop and Resize – These two functions can be found by clicking on the image tab.  Most handy is the ratio selector located in the middle of the screen.  It looks like this image . The difference between lock and unlock is hard to see when clicking on the padlock image.  To adjust a crop, move to the edge of the image until you see the adjustment arrows, then drag the sides in.  If the aspect is locked it will remain constant with the drag. Once the appropriate size is selected, click and hold in the middle of the selection box to drag it around the screen.  This can all be reset by clicking the reset button image .
  • Rotate – This deserves its own bullet point.  First, there are the simple rotation buttons. image Those are easy to use and I like the ‘flip’ capabilities being added at this point (although I have a personal grudge against flipping images most of the time).  Below that is the arbitrary rotate slider and grid selector.  image I really like the Alignment Line Count (what I call a grid selector) as it allows you to overlay a grid on the image with varying quantities of rows and columns.  Rotation is then very easy to exact.

Saving The Output

imageAfter making some simple changes (more advanced changes described in a later post here on DPS) it’s time to save the file or open it in GIMP for more tweaking.  Click on the Save tab image and you’ll see the options listed at right.

  • Path will be the same as the location of the original RAW file and can be changed using the arrow to the right.
  • File name, well, that’s an easy one.  Change the desired file format if desired to PPM, PNG, TIF or JPG.
  • Create ID is to create a sidecar file that contains all the changes made in UFRaw to the image.

At this point you are either ready to save the file by itself with the image button or open the edited file in GIMP with the image button.


UFRaw is a very handy, open source tool for converting even the most modern RAW files.  It can be used as a stand alone tool or in conjunction with GIMP in order to smooth work flow of your photographs.

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Peter West Carey leads photo tours and workshops in Nepal, Bhutan, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and beyond. He is also the creator of Photography Basics - A 43 Day Adventure & 40 Photography Experiments, web-based tutorials taking curious photographers on a fun ride through the basics of learning photography.

Some Older Comments

  • Eda September 25, 2013 10:09 am

    Hey there, Thank you so much for this resource! All of this can get quite complicated, for myself anyway. So I appreciate all the info you've made available through this site.

    I have downloaded UFRaw in order to process RAW images in GIMP...So, I'm not sure I understand the technicalities of it all...I simply need to open a RAW file in UFRaw before I can open it in GIMP? Do i need to alter it in any way?

    I successfully opened an image in UFRaw but when I tried sending it to GIMP (without any changes in UFRaw) I received this message:

    Error activating Gimp.
    Failed to execute helper program (Invalid argument)

    I read that I might have to change the remote access to GIMP setting under "Options"... just now sure how, or to what.

    How do I send the pics to GIMP?


  • RichardG891 February 8, 2013 09:59 am

    @David Sullivan
    The required libraries are in the "GIMP 2" folder. The easiest way for the two programs to find each other is to copy the three folders in the ufraw directory into the GIMP 2 folder, allowing any existing files to be overwritten. The ufraw exe file will be in "bin" folder. If you try to open a RAW file from GIMP it will launch ufraw first.

  • David Sullivan December 23, 2012 09:55 am

    I downloaded UFRAW several times reinstalled and it won't open says The progtam can't start because libgdk-win32-2.0-0.dll is missing from your computer. Try reinstalling the program to fix this problem

  • Jim Gustafson August 31, 2012 09:05 am

    Been doing a bit of photography for our products and getting used to GIMP2.8 on my Mac OS 10.7,4. So far, so good until I loaded 2.8.2. Formerly, I could open a raw image directly and do some simple things like temperature, tint, exposure, etc. Since loading 2.8.2 GIMP will not open them at all. I've attached to images of responses to this effort. Thanks for any help you can give. ~Jim [eimg url='jamesgustafson/desktop/Screen Shot_1.png' title='Screen Shot_1.png'][eimg url='jamesgustafson/desktop/Screen Shot_2.png' title='Screen Shot_2.png'][eimg url='jamesgustafson/desktop/Screen Shot_3.png' title='Screen Shot_3.png']

  • Bob May 13, 2012 10:14 pm

    Sorry for this very late post, but for those who have dark/odd colour/desaturated images you need to add your camera profile under the colour management tab. I use a Nikon D90 and found its profile only after installing the Nikon supplied software into a Win XP machine.

    Installing that into UFraw cured both the colour problems and the huge (+2.6) exposure adjustments I was having to make. As for a reset-to-default button I would much prefer it if you had the option to name and save setups individually, I like my landscapes in a particular style and being able to call it up from a list would be brilliant!


  • Britt November 5, 2011 03:42 am

    thank you for sharing this info. I've been stuck with the DPP that came w/ my canon and whining the whole time, "why can't DPP and the gimp have a baby that will let me work with RAW?!?" I can't wait to learn how to use this program! thanks again.

  • jason October 27, 2011 07:32 am

    can someone PLEASE tell me how to start UFraw in default vs saving the previous settings... I want to start the program and image FRESH each time not automatically impose the previous session settings.. I've looked all over and can't figure out how to do this anywhere. thx

  • susan October 2, 2011 12:57 am

    I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong, but UFraw isn't opening my raw files correctly. I'm shooting on a Canon 1100D (rebel 3) and I'm using a mac. But when I open the images in ufraw they show up with only the left part of the image and all a fluorescent green color, but they are fine with Canon's software. Anyone know how to fix this?

  • Joe April 3, 2011 06:54 pm

    I cant thank you enough, I have written to Nikon, Adobe but none of them have given me
    a simple solution. Bless you and your children's children, I have some personal photos and
    thort I would never see processed. Thank you, keep up the good work

  • Brett Russell January 7, 2011 12:10 am


    Nice concise summary as when I swapped jobs I lost my laptop with Photoshop on it so went looking for cheaper alternatives. A few points though.

    1. Image detail recovery appears to be missing in UFRAW, or at least works very differently to the rather impressive one in Photoshop.

    2. UFRAW processes well my Canon S70, S90 and 400D images. Top job.

    3. Panasonic LX5 raw images are purple due to Panasonic changing its raw image standard from LX3 to LX5. Shame as LX5 is a brilliant camera and makes you consider if you really need a SLR most of the time.

    Cheers Brett

  • nelu?u September 22, 2010 05:20 am

    I have the same problem, RAW from my Pentax Kx are dark and desaturate

  • habeeb September 21, 2010 06:58 pm

    Thanks for this post. Installed both GIMP and UFRaw. just one ne question. when open D90 raw file in UFRaw, it looks dark and the colors are not as good as what ViewNX shows. Am i missing any fine tuning?

  • Andres Arenas July 26, 2010 08:13 am

    I use both tools all the time and they are really great. I just posted a little tutorial on how to get the most of your raw photos using these tools

  • Waseem Nawaz May 16, 2010 07:07 pm

    Not only i learned a new thing from this atricle but I also know that you work with PWC.. :).. Guessed from your drive name. May be its some other PWC thing or you were using someone else's machine. Great article by the way.

  • Ben in Seattle April 20, 2010 11:07 am

    Husain said: "This is great!! Now add 16-bit image support and GIMP is all you need; UFRaw allows you to save in 16-bit TIFF but GIMP converts it to 8-bit :("

    I've heard that there's a version of the GIMP that supports not just 16-bits but also 32-bits per color channel plus High Dynamic Range (you can have colors that are brighter than white without clipping). It is used in the movie industry and called Cinepaint. It'd be great if somebody (Peter?) at would cover it so we can know if it's something we should be using. For example, are there any downsides to Cinepaint compared to the plain GIMP?


    P.S. I apologize if this gets posted twice. When I hit "submit comment", I'm just shown a blank page. As a test, I've removed all XHTML in this second post.

  • Bengt April 8, 2010 01:09 am

    Gimp is often a wise choice getting good lenses instead...

  • Dan March 18, 2010 02:12 pm

    This add-on is amazing. Thank you.

  • Uliana February 5, 2010 10:01 pm

    Thanks very much for this article on Gimp and UFRaw, as a Linux (Mint) user and a beginner to RAW and postproceesing, I appreciate that and sure hope for a follow-up!

  • amigapc January 31, 2010 05:04 pm

    Fantastic article demonstrating the powerful open source programs available for many operating systems. Ufraw + Gimp make a great combination that will allow anyone to enjoy working on their digital works of art!

  • James K January 29, 2010 02:53 am

    nice post.

    GIMP is incredibly useful. I keep a copy of the portable version on my usb hard drive so if i am on the move and need to do any editing I can.

  • B January 28, 2010 01:28 am

    Thanks for this intro, I've strated using UFRaw to process RAW images from my 300D. It's efficient but I'm experimenting with denoising tools, the denoise within UFRaw leaves something to be desired.

  • brian January 23, 2010 04:29 pm

    While I am not personally familiar with the Canon, with all cameras capable of RAW, its a case of going into the menu and going to the picture quality or whatever your camera calls it and select RAW - very often people who do no use RAW will have it set to jpeg. If all else fails go to your manual!

  • Kaye January 21, 2010 11:11 pm

    Hey! I just found out about RAW images, but I don't know how to take RAW images. I have a Canon 500D. Please help me. Thanks! :)

  • summerdaze January 19, 2010 07:20 pm

    I'm a UFRaw user and while I was initially overwhelmed by the program, I stuck with it and benefit from doing so. It's a wonderful option for linux users!

  • Regis January 18, 2010 02:40 am

    Thanks for the tip. Very useful.
    For the portable use see:

  • brian January 16, 2010 11:11 am

    I'm pleased to see a GIMP article. Perhaps a few people might like to try it in Linux. I use Ubunto 9.01. The learning curve is not so great and the price of the software is zero. Windows format attachments, e.g. in emails can be opened easily and Linux attachments can be converted to Windows format for the unenlightened!

  • Husain January 15, 2010 08:57 pm

    This is great!! Now add 16-bit image support and GIMP is all you need; UFRaw allows you to save in 16-bit TIFF but GIMP converts it to 8-bit :(

  • Rick January 15, 2010 01:07 am

    Glad you guys are devoting some space to apps like GIMP and UFRaw. I use both for all of my editing, and I think they're ideal for the serious photo hobbyist. (Pros are already using Photoshop and Lightroom2).

  • Eduardo Pérez January 14, 2010 08:20 pm

    I used UFRaw for some time, but then I tried RawTherapee and never came back. Editing one single photograph with one or the other may be just a question of tastes; but when you have to work on lots of files there is no comparison: RawTherapee beats UFRaw.

  • DM|ZE January 14, 2010 11:33 am

    I've been using this for a while on linux and I like it. I tried Rawtherapee but I came back to this as I like the UI better. Any reason to try rawtherapee again?

  • jodyhi January 14, 2010 02:53 am

    I've been using this for a while on Vista. It works pretty well, but I think I have a tendency to over process. I was thinking of trying Rawtherapee also.

  • fortunato_uno January 14, 2010 01:27 am

    this is the add-on i've been looking for. my rebel Xsi came with the software to do editing for raw files but, my net-book hasn't got the resalution needed to run the program. this has made it posible to work with raw image files. thanks a ton !!!

  • Shannon January 14, 2010 12:12 am

    GIMP is pretty amazing as far as freeware goes.

  • Bengt January 14, 2010 12:04 am

    Even so Rawtherapee goes open source...