Export images: on demand or by default?


Is there a best practice or approach for handling image exports? Do you export a jpg in any case, or only for special purposes? The reason I ask: after our recent vacation, I’m now sitting on a few hundred jpg / raw+xml files and am now wondering whether or not to keep a stack of finished exports.

I would appreciate descriptions of your personal workflows.


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After i delete the bad ones (closed eyes, out of focus), and do my normal processing, i export to jpg into a “processed” folder (next to the raw folder). The export is sized to aax of 2048pixels in either side. Why? Because it provides a quick and easy way to share/find the final product across multiple software programs and looks good enough for a monitor to display.

I export as and when needed. Not all images I keep are worth exporting, but kept e.g. to help identification.
Also, different purposes may require different final dimensions or output formats.

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Thank you for the insights into your workflows!

Only a hobbyist here, but for every picture I deem “to keep” I export two versions by default: a full resolution, all metadata included, archival version (just in case I lose access to darktable) and a low resolution version (roughly 1080p equivalent) for family/web sharing. Any other version (for print, etc.) is exported on demand and then kept for reference.

I do export all images after they are processed. Shooting RAW only the “workflow” looks like:

  • copy from card to disc with a filemanager in a folder (for vaccation this would be just a single folder, folder structure is like YYYY/YYYY_MM[a-z]_[scene, location, eventname])
  • import into darktable
  • apply a basic style (local contrast, add color, tone equalizer for fine sharpness)
  • rate imported images and delete all rejected RAWs
  • edit images to taste, sometimes going back and forth and frequently copying edits from one to another image
  • during editing more images will be rejected and deleted
  • tag images with person names and/or some basic information
  • export images and mark them green

If I have a larger set of several 100 images, I work on sets of 50-100 images within the filmroll. A set can be the same location/situation or just the next 50 images in the timeline. From a typical family vaccation half of the taken images will be deleted. Also, I do try the keep the number of shoots low and do not take several images of the same scene if I am confident that scene is proper captured on card. Shooting RAW let me focus on most important settings in camera and not messing with color, shadow, or whatever corrections might be needed for the specific scene. So, less images to take for experimenting with camera settings.

For me I export a 16 bit tiff file for every edit. Without this i feel the job is not complete. I only export jpgs when needed for specific purpose. The 16 bit tiff can be further edited in gimp or stitched as a panorama or whatever. Also i can open the file again and export as jpg if required.


Yes, I like to export tiff. No loss and openable in every edditing program. Camera is set to take largest jpg + raw, after transfering I have a quick look and delete all obvious rubbish. When working on an image I will convert to tiff in RT and along with it’s jpg will save in a sep folder as edited. That way I build a folder full (ish) of good stuff. I also often use the best jpg directly, often there’s no advantage to using the raw.

When I was a professional photographer I wanted the JPG’s from my camera to have perfect color and exposure so I did not have to waste time doing RAW edits. RAW development I see as an artistic pastime which I love or a pain in the arse if it was a commercial shoot.

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Don’t subject matter and such play a role?
I’d expect a difference between landscape or fine-art photography, and event photography or journalism…

100% agree. The point I was trying to make, but possibly not very clearly, is that if the JPG meets our needs then we can accept that and the job is done in the camera. As an artistic person I love photo editing and I had years of experience developing my images and images for other people in the darkroom and photolabs. Now with digital I do it on a computer.

I go travelling and shoot in jpg and raw. I come home and spend hours developing the raw and I really enjoy the process. I then export the edited images as tiff files and delete all the out of camera jpgs. However, there are rare occasions that I can not beat the JPG. This is very rare, but it can happen. Then I keep that JPG.

Also when I do a commercial shoot I use Raw + JPG. I want the JPG to work in the camera, but if I must do further editing I want the RAW file. This is also the case with wedding photography.