"DAM in dt is ... awful". Really? And does it matter?

I am a great believer in the importance of DAM in connection with image processing. Having just been informed, by a most knowledgable and prolific YouTube creator of videos on image processing (which I have found to be distinctly informative and well worth watching), that darktable’s DAM is (and I quote) “bloody awful”, I wonder what problems I have created for myself as a result of replacing LightRoom with dt in my workflow, some years ago.

I clearly failed to notice that dt’s DAM is as bad as I have been informed and have utterly failed to realise all the issues that this implies. In the years since moving away from LightRoom I have had not one DAM issue (that I am aware of). This might be because I have such a small portfolio of images (about 55K, compared to the 40K that Lr used to manage), spread over multiple drives and multiple PCs, both Windows and Linux, with multiple on-line and off-line backups.

So could somebody please tell me what is the penalty of using such a “bloody awful” product?

I can’t see it. And does it matter?


Different people have different requirements, especially about DAM. Until we know yours, it is hard to be more specific.


It depends?

The one thing where all apps fail in my opinion is interoperability.

And darktable is especially bad because it only works as a one-way street in terms of metadata.
Import from standard xmp (badly) but never write back. Mind: I think using the filename.ext.xmp scheme for the edits is a very good idea. Way better than what Adobe did with the original standard. But using the standard xmp (filename.xmp without the original extension) to interchange metadata would be really nice.

Everything else is just “user preference and bias”.


I’m using DT only as raw developer.
Main reason to not use it as DAM is the (missing) performance. It’s just to slow :man_shrugging: Also some tagging features are missing (different tag groups, face detection).

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With which I vigorously agree.

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I must have lower expectations: for years I ran dt on a 1st gen Intel Core processor, with 8 GB RAM and an nVidia GTX 645 without feeling there was serious performance issue. I now run on 9th gen Intel i7 with 32 GB RAM and nVidia GTX 3060. There is no performance issue.

I mean, even the darkroom is slow af… compare it to vkdt or many other raw developers allow their actions to be applied in “real time” (without some kind of “waiting” indicator). But I accept that, because DT provides sophisticated editing tools. I love it.

But the lightroom (edit: and again… I meant the lighttable, obviously) … meh. Scrolling in a larger directory (~1000 images) is just not possible on my end. Might be a windows issue, though. Don’t know. But as I’m also not happy with the feature set, I’m just using another DAM software, so… no problem. :slight_smile:


Are you using the DAM features of dt in any “real” way? Tell us about your DAM requirements and use cases.


But why get so exited about what

has to say about a program he may or may not have used for any significant amount of time?(*)

As said, whe don’t know his expectations and needs. Nor do we know yours.
But if you “fail to notice that dt’s DAM is as bad as I have been informed” and you are happy with the way things work, knowing LR, that means dt is at least good enough for your uses. That doesn’t mean you can’t look for improvement, of course.

(*: As we weren’t given the name of the youtube creator in question, we can’t form our own opinion about his experience and reliability)

In your case, none apparently

That depends on you. Personally, I use Digikam to enter keywords, titles, and captions, just because I prefer the interface there. Using the metadata in searches etc. works different between the programs, but I couldn’t say which is better.


I’ve had this very heated discussion with a former colleague once. “Darktable’s file organizer is SH*T!” He would say, “It can’t even filter by lens!!1”

I showed him how to do that. “Well, It’s still SH*T!” He said, “How am I supposed to discover this!!1”

We’d go a few rounds of this, until I had to break off the conversation, as it was becoming too taxing emotionally. Similar things happened regularly with this person and me.

But the same thing has happened to me: For the longest time, I could not use Adobe Lightroom, because I found the old-fashioned user interface so revolting. I was unable to enjoy old video games for their boxy graphics. This has since changed, though I don’t know why.

This seems to happen a lot, to a lot of people. It is probably all but impossible to actually be “objective” and impartial when reviewing a tool. There’s just some things -or people-, you click with; and others, you don’t.

As a general rule of thumb, I try to be measured with criticism, but lavish with praise. But “bloody awful” speaks a different language. It may come from a similar emotional core, however, that has very little to do with any measurable defect.


Well, to the best of my knowledge, there is no filtering by a lens, only by focus length or aperture. So whatever you did involved a non-trivial sequence of actions.

Which reminds me of some conversations I’ve witnessed in the (rather toxic) darktable chat where people would mock a newcomer because the newcomer wouldn’t be armed with all the knowledge of all the arcane things in the program.

Do many people use DT as a full DAM? I suppose I do in an unorganised way in that each collection generated is a new import of images that roughly corresponds to a day (or maybe a week or so if I’m on holiday) of photography but other than the collections being in reverse chronological order, that’s all I do. It’s pretty rare that I search for a specific image and if I do, I just know roughly what period or session it was and just skim through. I delete photos I’m not going to process. Maybe I just don’t have so many keepers… I export jpegs to Apple photos as I’m already paying for iCloud and it’s handy to share from there.

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Yes, it is.
In Lighttable in Collections panel there is dropdown list wher You can chose which collection You wish to see.
And here is caption “Capture details” where is → lens


Can you see why someone looking for a filter would be looking for that in “collection filters”?

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That video should be titled “how to build your own photo software rune goldberg.” IMO that person should stop making dt videos and certainly should not be offering advice on the use of the program.

I don’t like it as a DAM and wouldn’t use it as one, probably because I like Digikam so much. Is it awful? No. Does it matter? No. If it works well for you that’s all that matters.


You are right, this is strrrange solution.

Does it really matter if DT has a good DAM or not?

I’m of the opinion that it doesn’t. First and foremost DT is a RAW editor. If there is some file handling function that I think is important within my workflow that DT can’t do, I find a software that will do it for me. I think that this is the reason why so many photographers use a DAM like Digikam as their photo manager. I use IMatch which handles everything I need and more. All of my photos are organized in a file structure hierarchy and added to the IMatch database as needed.

So, I have no real interest in the DT Library other than seeing the next photo which I am going to edit. Once the editing work is completed I remove the file from the library. The xmp file is stored along with the original RAW, so nothing is lost.

That’s just way I work, “different strokes. . .”


I started using dt with V1.4 or something like that … around 10 years ago.
I was happy to find a software offering both raw editing cross formats/manufacturers and also DAM, IPTC editing (basic) and tagging (hierarchically, important) so I even switched to Linux at that time (something I am also happy with).

I found a solution to everything I wanted to achieve by thinking, reading and asking in the mailing list. So - simply said - this piece of software can’t be that awful.


iMatch looks perfect for the DAM tasks. However, it apparently runs only on Windows. That’s a non-starter, for me.