darktable user survey

We have passed 1015 entries, I might close the survey in a week if nobody complains about it.


1015 entries in one week. Congrats :+1:


Will you share the results? I’d love to see how wrong I am about those :wink:

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Of course, I will write a report with graphs (#geek).


Interesting survey! I ran into the same problem though (no experience with culling etc. in DT), the survey wouldn’t let me save with unanswered questions. So I gave those a 1.

Survey is now closed with 1110 entries. Here are a couple of raw screenshots with some quick comments. More in-depth review will come in the next days, since I need to isolate for example the native English speakers from the rest, since the language of the survey was English, I expect that to have biased the answers toward highly educated people in non-English-speaking countries.

Participation stats:

So it was time to close it.

Heat-map of users origin:

So the Republican states of USA don’t use darktable apparently :smile:. What baffles me is users come mostly from rich countries, which is weird since it’s free to use. Does that mean that Third-World countries prefer pirated Adobe products ? One could argue it’s a matter of population density, but India speaks mostly English, weights for like 1/6 of the World’s population, and yet… even Australia has had more respondants.

I don’t like these results one bit. It means that OpenSource is not democratic at all. It’s free and yet only used by the richs.

Education & Computer science level:

So we got 56% of users having studied sciences, 87% have attended university, 58% of them holding at least a master’s degree if not a PhD, almost a third (!) of them can read C code and 46% of them know how to write a computer program.

Remember that 8% of the US population has a master’s degree. In France, socialist system where studies have been “free” for the past 50 years or so, only 18% of people have an university degree of any kind.

That is even worse than what I imagined. It means that what we write on the website “darktable is made by photographers for photographers” is wrong. darktable is used mostly by engineers. I have nothing against engineers (guilty), but darktable is not Vim, it’s supposed to be an art software… that is not used by artists.

I won’t post all the screenshots now, anyway I will need to split results between education level, origin and stuff to make it meaningful, but here are a few figures:

  • users describe their photography as personal (24%), artistic (16%), documentary (15%), familial (14%) ,
  • 50% of users see photography as a serious hobby, 23% as an on-and-off hobby, 11% as a need/therapy, 7% do it professionaly and the same amount have to deliver pictures under time constraints,
  • 42% of users have learned photography on the internet, less than 5% have formal training or internships, 12% took some informal classes, and 14% have learned photography with no external ressource,
  • 67% of users spend less that 15 min editing one picture,
  • 59% of users wish to spend less than 7 min editing a picture,
  • 22% of users use darktable almost everyday,
  • 84% of users process less than 50 pictures in one session,
  • the most beloved features set is the tonal editing (69% of satisfaction), then the colour editing (69% of satisfaction, but with fewer 5/5 rates).
  • the less beloved features set is the file management (43% of satisfaction), then the batch editing features (52%).

There are 2 ways to read those results:

  • take these demographics for the average user and focus on making those geeks happy,
  • try to understand why we obviously don’t attract art-trained people, image professionals and Third-World countries.

Failing to attract professionals/image experts, we miss people with high skills, an exigent eye and a proper training to challenge us and give us qualified reports about workflow and visual issues. Not that I dislike our current geeky crowd, but a community needs skilled members to drag it up, and we don’t have them. And since that community is self-taught with the cargos of BS you find over the internet, there is a huge need for proper (re-)education too.

EDIT : regarding technics:

  • 69% of users use a GPU,
  • 97% of users have a computer newer than 2008 or at least SSE4-able,
  • 60% of users run darktable on Linux, 32% on Windows, 8% on Mac and 1% on Free BSD.


Could also be where the survey was posted… hard to say what’s happening in China, and I’d assume India also has a regional social network that is popular, but I don’t know.

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I think your conclusion from the data may be wrong. Photography, and especially editing photographs, is something only comparatively rich people can afford (even as job, but for sure as hobby). There may be many people that care more about getting water or food than doing photography. The gap may or may not be larger for commercial products, but only the comparison will give you evidence.

Photography is leisure time activity for many, so why is being an engineer by education mutual exclusive to being an artist? I get what you are reading from the data, but I can imagine adobe products are as well used a lot more by nerds than by artists, if these categories mean anything. Evidence is only possible by comparison.


Third-World also has image professionals. They still do fashion shows, they still have magazines, newspapers and they also have surprisingly rich elites & towns. The respondents from the rich countries are already a part of a lucky minority (half of them from the top 8% educated, 87% of them from the top 15% educated). Even poor countries have that kind of elite (but maybe less than 8% of global pop), so I would expect similarly tainted results.

Of course, engineer (or scientist or whatever) is not orthogonal to artist, but you can’t expect the same level of commitment and skills from someone who makes pictures for fun 2h/week and someone who does it as a living 8h/day. They won’t have the same level of exigence and expectations too. And the key to improvement is having exigent people to challenge you.

The elites may prefer commercial software as a sign that they can afford it. But I agree that it’s good to attract not only the richer people.

I am with you about getting people with design or arts background into the loop. But the borders are floating and professional use of software such as darktable is not only about design and arts. Many tasks in image editing are not within these categories. Besides artistic use of darktable (landscape and travel in my case, hobby only) I had many use cases outside these categories, and some of them related to my day job, if this counts as professional use: Photographing my son’s soccer team, preparing scanned children’s drawings for printing on mugs for my son’s kindergarten, documenting measurement setups and prototypes for papers, theses and lecture notes (job related, professional?), saving old negatives of family photos (especially after my last ancestor, my mother, died last year and there is nobody left that can tell me about my past), and many more.

I agree that getting people with different background in may help, but I do not agree that the current situation is bad in any way.

You started the poll on pixls.us where the number of highly educated users is quite large…

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Sure, but then it spread on Facebook in several languages, and on other forums (see the bump in the participation curve).

Forget about the “professional” word then. I just mean people able to see a red channel clipping or differentiate cyan from blue or perform a skin editing that doesn’t turn the face into pure wax. That is, people who have mastered their stuff above average.

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Hi :wink:

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Given that Windows packages for dt are a relatively recent phenomenon, this suggests that the overwhelming majority of long-time dt users are Linux users. This alone would suggest that the user base would be more technical than the overall population of photographers.


I’m a hobby photographer from India. Amongst my very limited photography circle here, a few are professionals who pay for Adobe, a few are hobbyists who only bother with snapseed on their phones. A small percentage do use pirated Lightroom.
Before jumping to Darktable, I was using Adobe’s photography plan. It is actually quite cheap here for anyone considering this as an serious hobby. ₹800/month is less than one movie outing. And there a shit-ton of tutorials on YouTube which add to the comfort level.


As @aurelianpierre is talking about statistics … however, every voice counts :D.

I am sure for most of these people, darktable is way too technical. They may not care about dB values but are happy pushing sliders from 0 to 100. About the complicated stuff such as colour management, there are pre-baked solutions that do not require technical understanding. Basic lightroom editing of many professionals means pushing 4 sliders towards what they call “dynamic D”, I think it’s black, white, clarity, and whatever. Plus white balance and maybe a nik preset.

There are many other reasons for people sticking with adobe, and at least for me, the selling point of free software is not the price tag but the control over my data and that there are no lock ins. Plus many technical reasons.

Among the reasons sticking with adobe I am often told:

  • mac version of darktable is slow
  • ux of darktable is different than expected, e.g. hover instead of selecting, sidebars not adjustable with mouse (I know it changed recently), …
  • results of the idols are achieved with adobe, so I can achieve the same using the same software
  • collaboration requires adobe ecosystem
  • gimp does not offer non-destructive workflows, so I have to get photoshop anyway
  • they did teach adobe in school/university
  • availability of learning material

I know some of them are stupid reasons, but that’s what arts and design people tell me.


There might be a bit of a skew due to users willingness to participate. I shared this on my photogroup among people who use many different apps ( darktable is often recommended there, but we also have bunch of pros doing adobe and still recommending darktable/RawTherapee) and it seems like people didn’t even bother with it (“it’s in english!”) or just went into “i won’t be filling no surveys” mode…

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The result is not really surprising. For most image editors - if they really can be called image editors - good enough, simple to learn and to use is the maxim. Thats why canon puts the green rectangle program even on their most expensive camera lines …
Professional photographers worries about time, not features. The must features are important, but these are available in any commercial raw converter or image editor. If they can edit their images several minutes faster to fit the customer’s needs they will use the tool, that give them just the required functions. If they have to pay for it - it’s worth paying for it.
Thats also a reason, why sony isn’t able to blow canon or nikon out of the pond: the last percent of dynamic range isn’t in focus of professional photographers, they earn their money with daily business shots where the ooc jpeg must be already perfect. A Raw converter is mostly used while importing into Photoshop where the main work - retouching etc. is done.
Darktable gives features to bring out the last percent of a raw file - thats for enthusiasts, not for the guys where time is money


But it could be. A tool could serve both requirements. Some actions were already taken, e.g. basic adjustments module.

To fully understand the topic, maybe each photography genre has to be analysed separately. It would be great to do this and discuss it with people from this genre.

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