darktable 3.0 for dummies (in 3 modules)

This week-end, I re-tested the ability to get results close to the OOC JPEG with the scene-linear workflow, on Panasonic and Nikon cameras, because I started to wonder if I was deluded after the load of incomprehension this has started.

So, yes, it’s definitely possible and quite fast.

Notice that my screen is set for Adobe RGB while Gnome screenshot tool seems to assume it’s sRGB so all colours look desaturated

Step 0 : raw

Camera auto white balance did a good job, there is no clipped highlights, that’s a pretty great start. We won’t need to bother about white balance. Also, the lens correction is just a matter of enabling the module, it will fetch automatically the Lensfun database for the proper lens profile, so no need to bother if your camera + lens combo is supported.

Step 1 : filmic

Just enable filmic with default params:

It lacks a bit of crunch, so auto-set the the white exposure with the colour picker on the waves (the brightest area), and the black exposure on with the colour picker on the trees (the darkest area):

Then, reduce a tad the latitude to avoid the curve clipping (orange part at the bottom), and lower the scene grey point reference to brighten the picture globally: (notice it is equivalent to raising the exposure compensation in the exposure module, and then accounting for the change in filmic white and black exposure settings, it’s just faster this way since scene grey auto-adjust white and black in filmic)¹

¹ : for big mid-tones corrections, you might want to setup filmic grey level to 18% and to use the exposure module to raise the overall brightness. It will make the filmic easier to control. Notice that dividing filmic scene grey by 2 is exactly equivalent to adding 1 EV in exposure module, the difference is only in the UI.

Step 2 : color balance

This is all lacking some saturation. Just increase it in color balance:

Although it’s not needed, for the sake of the demo, here is how I would even the white balance in the image, between shadows and highlights:

(This step of white-balance is removed for the final comparison below).

Step 3 : local contrast

The beauty of the local contrast is you can get quite harsh on the settings, it holds steadily. Also, if you are happy with the general contrast after filmic, you can set highlights and shadows corrections to 0:



darktable 3.0:

You actually got your retouch in 3 steps, guys ! How much more simpler do you expect me to make darktable ?

Picture taken from the French darktable forum : Prise en main du workflow RGB
Files here : https://we.tl/t-E7x0zLNPZZ


Nice clear explanation. Thanks @aurelienpierre. Happy to say that pretty much corresponds with my current workflow. Once you get used to the new way it’s pretty fast and way better than the old base-curve-centric approach.

I’ve been re-editing some of my best photos over the last month or so using filmic and have noticed a signficant improvement (e.g. better local contrast, better colours, fewer halos) on the vast majority, and with way fewer modules.

1 Like

This workflow was established 2 years ago. I guess stuff like this gets lost in the forum. :man_shrugging::woman_shrugging:

1 Like

Thanks a lot, @aurelienpierre! That’s exactly what I need to master the new approach.

I repeat the same things a lot, yet people keep asking again.

1 Like

Maybe create a dedicated site for the darktable new workflow instead of posting in different places on discuss.pixls.us? Personally I have troubles to find what I need on the forums.


I don’t know what the best option is, honestly, between user manual, videos, forums, etc. I feel like all the info is already there in several versions, and it’s still not enough.

It’ll never be enough, users want the info directly transfered to their brains, matrix style.

Until that happens, posting a question and getting a direct answer tailored to them is what’s easiest for the user.

We need to author canonical sources and consistently point to them.


Thank you very much for all.

Maybe, it could be useful to have this topic/thread pinned in darktable section.

A lot of us are comparatively new to the forums so won’t have been around for some of the initial workflow discussions (or perhaps things were first discussed here before they got into a release and users could use them?). I think there needs to be a single location for this info (so those several versions you talk about can be condensed into one). The user manual is a good place (most of us who want to understand it have read it a few times) but its release often lags behind the release or amendment of new features. Until then it’s searching forums and reading through posts which can take a bit of sifting.

I’d say transitioning the current user manual to a wiki might help the situation (something that’s more easily edited by a knowledgeable user). The wiki can also contain references to things like theory, videos, important forum topics etc. There will be many (me included) who are much more comfortable editing a wiki than doing it all in git and submitting pull requests. A lot of this doesn’t need a techie, just someone who’s happy to trawl the forums and compile the info.


The user manual is not really intended to be tutorials, but rather a module reference. Maybe we could complement that with step by step stuff to get you started. But I agree that the Git + XML way is not really contrib-friendly, although maintaining a CMS for a wiki is a lot of work too.

1 Like

Agreed - there are pros and cons to both approaches and the manual is still needed as a module-by-module guide (perhaps as a more controlled section of a wiki if you go that way).

If you want to retain the current manual but encourage contributions how about, for now, a new forum post with a dummies guide to contributing to the manual and a call to action. I’m sure there would be volunteers. The key is finding some way that the devs don’t feel they have to shoulder all of the burden - there are lots of us who want to contribute and most of us frequent these forums.

1 Like

You’d be surprised. We’ve posted several links to the translated article by @aurelienpierre from French, but we haven’t had too much action. And hackmd couldn’t be any easier, open web browser and type. You don’t even have to log in.

I was under the impression that the translation was finished… I’ll take a look soon and see if I can improve it.


I worked on it a bit… (I’m mbaz over there). I’ll keep at it as time allows…

Hm, this all works perfectly with properly exposed, low ISO images. But I struggle to utilize it to save technically not so optimal images. I was shooting a kindergartens christmas play in a church with nearly no light, but I am only able to get good results when the colour channels are unlinked, no matter if base curve or filmic. Unfortunately as there are people on the images I cannot post one.

I suppose there are several low light Play Raws that we could test using this method.

Might be a daft idea, but could a pdf of the ‘darktable for dummies’ open the first time you install dt, with the option of skipping it and turning it off subsequently. Might field some of the questions.