Filmic with studio lighting

First post, so please forgive me if I mess up.

Below is a picture of ‘Jane’ photographed with studio flash, along with the associated XMP file.

Public Domain Mark
This work is free of known copyright restrictions.

Jane.ARW (19.6 MB)
Jane.ARW.xmp (7.4 KB)

After some experimentation with Darktable I found that I could produce reasonable images by disabling the base curve and replacing this with a simple S curve using the Tone Curve module.

I do however suspect that I am totally misunderstanding Darktable. I am sure there are ways of producing better images but I have spent hours experimenting with Filmic and Filmic RGB without success.

If anybody could point me in the right direction I would be extremely grateful.


What’s your editing goal ?

Here is an example based on my studio standards:

Jane.ARW.xmp (6,4 Ko)


Hello, before using Filmic disable the base curve!
I get this after changing some sliders in filmic rgb (and nothing else), should be considered as a starting point.


Here is my try:

Jane.ARW.xmp (7,5 KB)

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Hi @Cranky and welcome!

If anybody could point me in the right direction…

Here are three pointers to start with:

Have fun!
Claes in Lund, Sweden

That’s fine, it’s possible to use the base curve as a tone curve too
Jane.ARW.xmp (9.0 KB)

My way to use filmic is :
1)recover the highlights moving the exposure slider to the left like you have done
2)in the filmic module set the contrast to 1.125 , shadow/highlights balance to 0 %, preserve the chrominance= no
3)move the middle gray luminance as you like
Jane_filmic.ARW.xmp (7.7 KB)


Thank you Aurelien - Your image is much cleaner than mine.

Would you normally use any other modules beyond this stage with studio photographs?

I am fascinated to note that in this case you have disabled the exposure module. Is this how you now recommend that Filmic is used?

Thanks Paul - I was aware about disabling the base curve but clearly need to experiment more with Filmic.

Thanks Boris - You have produced a great image that is somehow more 3D.

Do you typically use so many modules at once? I’m amazed that you can keep tabs on them all.

Thanks Claes for all of the useful pointers.

Thanks for your contributions age.

I have in the past tried using the base curve as a tone curve but always found it a bit hit and miss when compared to using the tone curve.

With the earlier version of Filmic I too sometimes had more success when using it back to front :grinning:

It was important to me, that the character (skin and hair) stays in the foreground (If I think about it now, I should have darkened the background a bit).

It was also important that the lighter parts of the skin don’t look faded or overexposed and show a smooth transition. Here lies the great strength of the linear RGB workflow by @aurelienpierre!

Most of them are applied automatically. I start with exposure or directly with Filmic RGB. The most important in your example were exposure, Filmic RGB, local contrast and color balance. That does most of the work already. After that I do the little things like contrast equalizer to sharpen the image or similar things. Such things can be kept well in the overview.

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Adjusting scene grey or exposure gives the same result. In this easy situation, I keep the modules number minimal. If I need more advanced retouching, I usually use exposure first. That’s why I was asking what your goal is.

This is where I constantly struggle. Whilst Jane is a patient model, who never, ever, blinks, she does have shiny skin, which is very prone to developing specular highlights. I take the view that if I get her to look good, then human subjects should follow.

It was this that led me towards using tone curves, which enable me to bring up the shadow side of the face towards the highlight side. Conversely, when I have in the past (incorrectly) used Filmic, the specular side of Jane’s face can quickly become too bright and colourless.

Now that I feel more on track with Filmic, I suspect that I could use some form of curve tool, or perhaps the tone equalizer to even things out when necessary.

I guess that my problem is that I don’t really understand which other modules are compatible with Aurelien’s RGB workflow, which clearly has to be the way forward.

I am also somewhat nervous about using any more modules than necessary, because I have in the past found myself screaming in frustration whilst trying to fix something without realizing that another module was impacting upon whatever I was trying to achieve at the time.

Once again, thank you for your feedback, which is amazingly helpful.

Thanks once again Aurelien. I certainly like the idea of keeping things as minimal as possible.

I’m afraid that I don’t understand your question about my goal. It may help if I mention that I have spent over 40 years shooting portraiture on medium format but have only recently commenced experimenting with digital, which sometimes feels like slide film by comparison. My latest response to Boris may enlighten you further.

It was only after reading about your early work on Filmic that I was persuaded to buy a digital camera and start experimenting. I admire what you are doing and have watched your videos and read lots of what you have written in my efforts to comprehend it all.

Today’s input has proven really helpful.


That is quite the compliment!

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I didn’t see that coming… :blush:

I asked what your editing goal was, because depending on the mood you want to set, parameters are not the same (for example, in studio, I usually keep the scene grey at 18% – but that’s another matter if you want to match a bright commercial look).

I would focus a little more on her hair.

Jane.ARW.xmp (7.9 KB)


Thank you for yet another interesting interpretation. You’ve used some modules that I’ve never even heard of.

Slightly different approach, just for the sake of the demo:

Jane.ARW.xmp (7,8 Ko)