I am only at the user level and I use mint 7 Gnome and no issues with handling digital photos. I use Image Viewer for quick look and slide shows. I use Gimp for modifying the photo. Never have any problems with them. I can plug in to the USB port my Canon PowerShot camera and see the photos just fine or sometimes use a USB media reader. Both applications come with Mint. Don't understand your issues.
Lindows, Linspire, Freespire, Ubuntu, Mint 15 Cinnamon, Mint 16 XFCE