darktable's filmic FAQ

Yeah, great idea!

Thanks Chris, I actually need to go thru and do some customizations but I was unclear how a module would react if I simply set the auto apply globally to everything. I was worried it might somehow affect previous edits but it seems not to so I have set filmic to no color preservation and enable the grey slider and it seems to not misbehave on previous edits…if set to scene-referred and I do a compress from original…it applies the my auto preset so I think I can simply do the same for any other modules…thanks for making me use my brain…

I think maybe there is not a difference :blush: I was just a bit hesitant to do this with all the changes to the history stack and xmp processing over the last year and now with a new version of filmic I wasn’t sure if there was a possible issue to be created by doing this but it look like if I just create it with my intended defaults and set it to apply to everything ie no criteria it seems good to go……

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Should I still use the ‘highlight reconstruction’ module together with filmic v4? I see similar results with and without it.

You can use it. Since it is earlier in the pipe it will affect filmic: if you select clipping, then filmic won’t have stuff to reconstruct; If you select „reconstruct in lch“ or „reconstruct in color“ there might be additional information remaining filmic can use to deal with.
Filmic cannot reconstruct things no longer available - it just can mitigate hard clippings


Thank you for this very helpful clarification on some of the points with the new scene-referred workflow! After reading through this FAQ as well as this other recent thread, something finally clicked for me and it now is much clearer. I think the two things I was missing before were:

  • understanding that the exposure module is primarily for adjusting the midtones; don’t worry about the shadows and highlights since we will adjust those later in filmic rgb. Also, using the color assessment toggle to help with getting a proper exposure
  • understanding the difference between clipping in the raw file verses clipping introduced as part of the editing process (and understanding that filmic rgb’s reconstruct tab is targeted at the former)

I think previously I was underexposing the midtones because I was concerned when the highlights were getting clipped in the exposure module, but now realizing that I can mostly ignore what is happening to the highlights when using exposure and then pull them back afterwards in filmic rgb has helped.

I wrote up the steps I am now using with the scene-referred workflow here; I am amazed at how fast it is to process images now and get good results.


One thing I believe it’s missing in the FAQ is: how do I choose the right preserve chrominance mode ?


Hi, I was following that workflow too so thanks for sharing it and confirm me that I understood all that I read :slight_smile:

Your post is pure gold, a step by step guide to process a photo in Darktable using a scene-referred workflow.

You should review the new modes in clipping indicator added to master over-exposure warning : add meaningfull modes by aurelienpierre · Pull Request #6253 · darktable-org/darktable · GitHub
And if you want/can update your clipping section. Probably, in your example, the clipped zones are not really clipped (read the PR and look for luminance mode).

I’ve found that trying to match portions of a color image to middle grey is, for me anyway, very difficult, either with or without the color assessment tool. It’s hard to “un-see” color when it’s right in front of you. Here’s a quick trick for making that approach usable if you have the same problem as me:

  1. Ctrl-B to show color assessment view.
  2. Turn on monochrome module.
  3. Tweak exposure using the Exposure module or the histogram until the “right” things in the photo are in the vicinity of the middle grey surround of the color assessment view.
  4. Turn off monochrome module.

Thank you both for these great tips! I’ve updated my workflow guide accordingly.

You should review the new modes in clipping indicator added to master over-exposure warning : add meaningfull modes by aurelienpierre · Pull Request #6253 · darktable-org/darktable · GitHub
And if you want/can update your clipping section. Probably, in your example, the clipped zones are not really clipped (read the PR and look for luminance mode).

I’ll probably wait until the next Darktable release is out be for adding this update (since most users aren’t compiling from master), but this looks like a fantastic enhancement. I agree that being able to just look at luminance clipping should make a huge difference. For now I added a note to be careful when using the over/under exposure indicator since it is likely showing more than just luminance.

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You could then also use the zone module. It has a middle grey display…hover over it and it shows what is middle grey in the image…couple that with the dymanic exposure short cut and you can perhaps have even a better control over middle grey…hovering over middle grey gives something like this…image


That’s a good alternative. I’ll play with both. Thanks!

Zone system‘s middle grey is the middle gray at it’s position in the pixel pipe.
Why do you need something like middle grey at a place where most color and tonal edit is already done?

Ya I am the same with brightness color messes with me so using this you can highlight by hovering with the yellow or just back away and look at the grey zones…using the dynamic shortcut E for exposure you can just hold E and then scroll wheel or I guess use the histogram but I find that a bit fiddly and then go back and look at the updated zones it works pretty well and now that you can drag the panel wider you can make the display fairly large temporarily when editing…

Well, art schools take 4 years full-time for a reason. There is the doing and there is the seeing, which gives you the feedback for the doing. I can give you shortcuts for the doing parts, but you will need time and practice (and perhaps a teacher) for the seeing one, because there are no shortcuts there.


Call me naive, but after almost a year trying to grasp wtf middle gray was, I came to this intuitive finding: it’s the exposure level that pleases my eyes.
So, after the default scene referred workflow is applied, I tweak exposure until the area in the image that matters most to me is well exposed, or pleasing to my eyes. That’s my starting point. After that, I tackle the other areas that remained under or overexposed.
Maybe in the end I don’t have a precise 128 triple where it should be, but it won’t be far from that.
But… Now thinking about it, maybe this naive method fails because I can be influenced by environment and display brightness conditions…


Incidentally, ART has a false color mask that shows where the different tonal ranges are, much like the zone system module. Something like this would be useful in darktable I think.

Yes, I came to the same conclusion after some back und forth :smile:.

@gadolf Olá rei ingênuo!
I must say that my method is a bit safer:

XT-4 + M42 50mm Industar-61L/Z + Lastolite foldable grey “card”

Have fun!
Claes in Lund, Sweden


Ok, I have added a paragraph on middle grey in the FAQ, with real-life examples and unbearable sexyness. (“What is this middle grey you keep talking about ?”)