How to disable some of the automatically-applied default modules in darktable?

Hi everyone. Recently I’ve got a Fuji X-T30 and I’m really happy with it. And then I choose darktable as my raw processor since I don’t like Adobe’s subscription policy. However, when I open a raw file, I found some default modules are automatically applied, like the ones below:

To my understanding, the 0th~5th modules in history are necessary when converting a raw file, but it seems the 6th~11th modules in history aren’t that necessary since they all can be deactivated? Therefore, I don’t understand why they are automatically applied in darktable and how darktable chooses the parameters in these modules?

I know I can define the user-defined styles, which comprise user-defined presets, however it kinda annoys me that a raw file imported will be firstly “stained” before I deactivated these unnecessary modules…provided I’m not so wrong.

Could someone give a hint on how to disable these automatically-applied default modules? Thanks in advance.

@nimsbnims Welcome to the forum! I noticed that you posted this 2 h ago under a different name. Was there an issue the first time around? Let us know.

As for the default modules, you can set them in preferences. I will let people who are more familiar with dt elaborate on that and give you a proper intro to dt. In the meantime, see: resources | darktable.

I would say that the ones that you boxed are standard fare. You need all of them to make your image exportable. Some people would prefer the old basecurve over filmic rgb.

You appear to be set to use legacy WB with scene referred workflow. You can go into preferences and set it to none to remove part of it but of course your going to need some sort of global tone mapping…its your call how you add that. The most modern way and the workflow many modules are designed to use would be to set it to modern and scene-referred.

I refer people to this video all the time to get a clear understanding of the possible options…

This would be your minimum set , occasionally you disable highlight reconstruction but only if you have a use case…


These modules are indeed necessary.

  • orientation makes sure portrait pictures are rotated to portrait orientation.
  • exposure compensates for the built-in underexposure your camera applies to protect highlights.
  • filmic transforms your 12 EV unbounded sensor data into the bounded format necessary for computer displays, and applies an appropriate tone mapping.
  • highlight reconstruction makes sure clipped pixels don’t produce false colors.
  • white balance applies your camera’s color temperature measurement to the sensor data, without which all colors would look wrong.

Some other raw developer programs hide these basic steps from the user, which is why they might seem superfluous. But rest assured that they all do apply equivalent steps, as without them no picture is possible.


@nimsbnims First, keep in mind that you probably don’t see all that Adobe’s (or other commercial) programs do by default to your image…

Now, with darktable, the five modules you deem unnecessary, aren’t (at least in most cases):

  • without white balance, my images are mostly green
  • highlight reconstruction prevents magenta highlights (though in the default case it doesn’t “reconstruct” anything), or doesn’t do anything if there aren’t any clipped pixels
  • filmic adapts the sensor data to display
  • exposure may not be strictly necessary, but applies a correction that practice has shown to be required in most cases
  • orientation ensures that an image you took in portrait orientation is displayed as such (or allows you to change the orientation), it shouldn’t do anything for landscape images.
    To check the effect each has, there’s an easy option: turn them off by hand and observe the effect.

But they can be switched off, because for each there are alternative ways to get the same effect (at least in theory). Also, disabled modules don’t participate in the pixel pipe calculations, so add negligable time to the processing.
That’s probably the reason that you cannot prevent darktable to add them (except for filmic if you select “none” in settings :: processing :: auto apply pixel workflow default).

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filmic (which is not like some Instagram-filter but a tone mapping operator) is applied because in preferences → processing → auto-apply pixel workflow defaults the option scene-referred is selected. You may want to set that to none, but, as @afre said, most people will use a display-referred (used in most raw processors, relies on base curve) or scene-referred workflow. For the differences, see this recent post by @anon41087856. Most darktable users on this forum use scene-referred nowadays, I think.

For the others, you can create auto-applied presets, where you first disable the module, and save that disabled state as a preset, marking it to be applied automatically.

However, you’ll probably want to keep white balance (without that, your images will look green - it is the module responsible for applying the camera’s white balance setting).

You’ll probably also want to keep exposure enabled, as, at least with the scene-referred flow, most images need an exposure boost. The reason is that unlike base curves (display-referred, also applied in-camera), filmic does not brighten the image: it keeps midtones fixed.

For an image as low-contrast as what you posted above, you can get away without a tone mapping operator, but for a high-contrast landscape, you cannot.

You’ll probably want to keep orientation, too, as that makes sure that portrait-mode shots are properly rotated.

Note that raw processors discussed here will give you the flat looking, straight-from-sensor image if you disable all optional tools / modules. They don’t do what many commercial tools do: they don’t default to a ‘camera look’. Read:


OMG, very thankful for all the comments above. I didn’t expect to obtain these replies which are soooooo informative. I think I need some time to digest all the resources mentioned above. I’ve read this article: PIXLS.US - Darktable 3:RGB or Lab? Which Modules? Help!, but don’t quite understand. Maybe I’ll get through it once I comprehend the resources mentioned in the comments above. Anyway, thanks to you all.

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This is a short section of the manual but a key set of concepts to understand how DT processes your images…ie how all the modules come together… with some historical context which can help in case you stumble on some resources from even a few years ago as so much has evolved and changed… darktable 3.8 user manual - darktable's color pipeline

@nimsbnims You are welcome. Thanks for your patience. We can be technical at times. If there is anything you don’t understand in the documentation, please let us know.

@nimsbnims For the article by @anon41087856 you cited, concentrate for now on the section “A minimal workflow for beginners”, and use the four modules mentioned there in that order.
For filmic, start with the white and black relative exposure in the “scene” tab, then switch to the “look” tab. Ideally, you should not need to go back to a previous step (ideally…, I rarely manage to do that :wink: )
I still do most of my basic editing with only three of the modules mentioned: exposure, white balance (*) and filmic.

After that, you’ll probably want to look at some other modules: crop, rotate and perspective, and by then it’s time to start reading up on what else is available: the manual, this site, perhaps video’s by e.g. @s7habo (in this forum) and others).

The above is very much pared down to the minimal essentials, and doesn’t deal with any creative editing or colour grading.

I also left out sharpening, noise reduction and retouch. The first two are either very simple (just use a preset in diffuse and sharpen, or the default profiled denoise) or very complicated (how much to sharpen and where, which of the 4 or 5 denoise modules to use, …), retouch is a bit less easy to use.

*: Lately, the treatment of white balance has changed: recommended practice is to use the white balance module with the ‘camera reference’ setting, and do the actual white balancing in the color calibration module. But that’s another rather imposing module on first acquaintance… The “old” way still works…

Old (from the time of darktable 3.0), but still good intro by Aurélien for basic edits:

Since filmic is much better-behaved in recent versions, you most probably won’t have any issues with orange clipping warnings showing up on your curve.

Instead of color balance, we now have color balance rgb; just enable the basic colorfulness preset.

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