Extended Rawtherapee Rave Review

Hey, I got an in depth rave review that I have been sharing with people. I just thought I’d share in case anyone is trying to convince anyone to switch and is looking for talking points. Also just some positivity would be nice as well.

Extended Review and Experience with Rawtherapee

When I first became interested in photography in high school, I was gifted a DSLR but couldn’t afford the Adobe Software, so I downloaded Rawtherapee to process my raw files. At first, I judged it to be somewhat inferior to the adobe products I had some access to at school, somewhat based on legitimate comparative weaknesses, and some on baseless internet dogma of the supremacy of the Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) engine. Nonetheless, I still used rawtherapee, as it was my only option for editing photos at home.

At first, I was somewhat overwhelmed by all the confusing options, although I knew enough basic theory to know what I was doing. As I learned how to use Rawtherapee through experimentation and reading documentation, the amount of full control of all raw processing parameters really accelerated my learning of the process and technical theory of raw processing (I doubt that many Adobe users even know what demosaicing is, and trying to boost color saturation without getting terrible out of gamut color blobs with CIELAB color channel S-Curves is so much more educational than just dragging a vibrancy slider up that does all the thinking for you). As such, I credit learning on Rawtherapee for much of the knowledge and confidence I now have.

In the last few years, I acquired the budget for buying a Capture One licence, or an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, but I ultimately chose not to, as one, I had grown accustomed to the power and control I had with the HSL adjustments as an equalizer curve, and CIELAB color tab and all the different convenient curve options it had, such as chromacity (specific CIELAB variant to saturation) with respect to luminance and chromacity with respect to chromacity, which allowed me to do complicated color corrections efficiently, that I’d have to create a mess of complicated masks to do the same thing in Photoshop, and couldn’t do in Lightroom. Also, Wavelets are so much more powerful and capable than a single clarity slider. There was so many obscure features in Rawtherapee that I came to rely on, such as dark frame subtraction, demosaicing algorithm control, RL deconvolution, which looks much more organic than LR sharpening whilst increasing resolution, flatfields (can be used to eliminate vignetting, periphery color shift issues, and even sensor dust spots in a pinch). Still, initial impressions from inexperienced users are going to favor the capabilities of Lightroom noise reduction, but once one gets versed with tuning the noise reduction in Rawtherapee, the comparison becomes a wash. Then, since RT 5.0 and more recent updates, Rawtherapee fixed many of its shortcomings, with more tonemapping algorithms, better performance on Windows (Rawtherapee can now process 24 megapixel files on my family’s dusty 2009 Windows 7 desktop, in which previously, it would crash easily), even more color controls, Lensfun lens corrections, which has many built in profiles for common lenses already and anyone can create a lens distortion profile, a functioning and competitive shadows/highlights control that doesn’t produce halos or other artifacts, improved chromatic aberration correction, and a general increase in stability and performance. Suffice to say, the workflow in RT is great, and I am committed.

Rawtherapee can now pretty much do everything possible in Lightroom, aside from Digital Asset Management (DAM) and local adjustments in the stable release (Use DigiKam (Free and Open Source DAM), and export a 16 bit tiff to your choice of pixel editors if these seem like deal killers). Last year, I was even able to edit through a 400 photo event shoot in less than six hours on Rawtherapee, whilst ending up with photos that looked much better than the photos the other volunteers took, whilst correcting difficult lighting conditions. Then, I did an all-day photo gig of a conference, with 600 photos to edit, in which I was paid around half a grand, and was able to continue providing quick turnaround editing on Rawtherapee. Most recently, I had a tight deadline for event photo turnaround that was sandwiched between classes that had only an hour gap, so I ended up able to successfully cull through 200 photos, and come out with 20 polished feeling edits in that insane hour. I have continued to use Rawtherapee for a vast amount of personal creative projects and professional projects for my Work Study job.

On my modest mid-tier spec’d Windows 10 computer, I have had no real issues with performance, stability or features necessary to edit photos professionally over the last year or two. Note that while stability isn’t perfect, like any real software, especially something as complex as a raw editor, Rawtherapee crashes are very rare these days, avoidable with experienced use, and developers are responsive to bug reports. Note that a crash doesn’t ever mean you lose any more than trivial work (replicable in 10-50 seconds) on one photo, as Rawtherapee automatically saves processing parameters in a recipe instruction like sidechain file, along with the original raw file, whenever you apply a processing profile, switch photos, hit a save processing parameter keyboard shortcut, or close Rawtherapee, minimizing the chance of losing work and constraining lost work to the last photo that you were editing before a crash. From my experience, I see no reason to recommend against Rawtherapee for professional use, aside from someone already having a committed and preferred workflow and/or not willing to deal with a modestly steep learning curve.

Finally, I like the aesthetic of the results from Rawtherapee better, and there are more avenues for creative control than in ACR. Once I learned my way around Rawtherapee, I became able to get my photos to have an organic texture not inherent in ACR. After I settled on a preferred defaults/ editing habits, I find the results impeccable and artsy. There are so many options and so much fine user control in Rawtherapee that it is easy for any aspiring photographic artist to create their own unique feel to their imagery, at a subtler textural level than the gross color and tone adjustments typically worked in.

For more information and to download Ratherapee and try for yourself, visit:
https://rawtherapee.com/
For more detailed information on the functionality of Rawtherapee, visit:
RawPedia

Note the links are captain obvious to you folks, but this is a copy/paste of what I usually share with others.

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You wrote this or someone else wrote it and sent it to you?

I wrote it.

One of the things I emailed when trying to convince a university tech administrator on installing Rawtherapee on school computers, sent last November.

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Very nicely done!

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Thanks, Mica!

It’s nice to know that RawTherapee made a positive difference in your life.

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… it was the same for me too. I’m just sorry that at the beginning of my job I threw my money away to buy a C1 license. I have been using RT for many years and would not change it for any reason.

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I immediately started sweating… :sweat_smile:

So, could you share some bits on your quick default workflow? Just to get an idea… You mentioned CIECAM and wavelets (nothing that I could use in a hurry), that’s why I’m asking.

Yeah, totally. I now kind of feel like an evangelist for it, and do not care for any image processing workflow that does not include raw Bayer data being processed by Rawtherapee, with the exception of maybe by necessity when shooting event videography, where shooting raw would produce nearly a terabyte of data.

In fact, RT compatibility will inform my future camera purchasing decisions. One example of this, is when I have the money to upgrade to a BMPCC 4k from my current BMPCC, I will seek out a body that still has the CDNG firmware (v6.1) or can be downgraded to v6.1. Yes, I know in theory, developers can implement support for BRAW, and raw video clips in general in Rawtherapee (not implemented currently but I know would be possible), however BRAW is not true raw, and is already partially demosaiced, and so I wouldn’t be able to take advantage of all the cool demosaicing and raw preprocessing options, to the same degree, such as hot pixel filtering, dual demosaic, and LMSSE.

Funny, I came within an inch of buying a C1 liscense, 3.5 years ago, as I had just bought a Sony A7 mkII, and going from 16 megapixel to 24 megapixel raw files made RT very unstable on my father’s old 2009 Windows 7 PC. Then I built an modestly powerful editing rig, played around with the trial of C1 pro, and was contemplating switching to it for good, but then realized I didn’t quite feel comfortable spending more money on top of what I already had, on the PC, and other paid software, and so I went back to Rawtherapee, especially since it was performing better on the newer hardware.

Then, the developers improved Rawtherapee to the point that it is even stable on my dad’s ancient PC, albeit slow, and stable and fast enough for professional use on my editing rig, added a bunch of stellar features such as the Fattal tonemapping, dual demosaic, and a new and impressively low artifact shadows/highlights feature, and dehaze.

I also got an OG Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, and found Rawtherapee to allow me to shoot in much lower light with the BMPCC, as it dealt with the sensor artifacts, such as hot pixels and line noise much better than even Davinci Resolve (ironic given they are both made by Blackmagic, lol). At first, using Rawtherapee for CDNG video processing was a huge slow processing inefficient slog, when I was using the GUI batch cue, and I endured it for the amazing image quality. Now it is a lot more quick and feasable since I discovered the command line workflow.

Now, I am cultishly devoted to Rawtherapee for life.

OK, so first of all, I don’t actually use CIECAM. In my write-up, I was referring to CIELAB curve editing, as I believe it’s the more technically accurate term for what we casually to LAB.

Anyway, I just have my default set to use Chromacity according to Luminance curves to reduce the saturation of the whites and close to white highlights, to provide a smoother and more filmic highlight rolloff. I also often compress the saturation by using the Chromacity according to Chromacity curves to reduce artifacts from out of gamut colors by boosting the moderately saturated chromacities while cutting the saturation of the extremely saturated chromacities.

On wavelets, I have a default profile that I use that just adds a little local contrast using the luminance levels, see attached .pp3 file for exact settings.

All of these more advanced features of Rawtherapee sound time consuming, but the key is just to set defaults, and copy paste profiles, and focus on minor adjustments of exposure settings, white balance, tone curve, tonemapping, shadows/highlights, perspective, rotation, noise reduction and sharpening, to account for minor differences in lighting, framing, sharpness and exposure that vary from picture to picture in a generally similar environment, and just use the copy pasted settings so you don’t have to spend time tweaking advanced settings for each photo when you are editing lots of photos, be it sports, professional event photography, or what have you.

Here is my default processing profile. Note that the settings used are recommended for low ISO shots, high ISO defaults are for a later time :wink:DSC00380.ARW.pp3 (11.5 KB)

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Ah, sorry. Being an occasional CIECAM user, I misread that. :expressionless:

Thanks a lot for sharing your workflow as well as your base PP3. That’ll give me and others an idea. :+1:

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