I'm full of self doubt right now

I feel deflated about my editing “eye”. I just installed an application called fotocx, which is a newer version of fotoxx, which I have been using for years. Anyway, I simply used it to open some raw files from my months or years of using darktable, and with no editing at all, the quality blows me away. Its displays are much better than my edits, some of which I have worked on multiple times, spending a lot of effort

Now this software must be doing some baseline editing, but I don’t know what exactly it does. I do know that it uses dcraw as its basic converter. It then provides tools for me to use to do further editing.

I guess I should show an example. Simply opening a raw with fotocx gave me this result:

My darktable edit that I had come up with months ago:

My edit may or may not be much worse, but it is certainly not much better. Anyway, I’m sorry for venting, but I just wanted to say this.

Its seems similar to the one in the OP…

Yours has a color cast and less exposure from what I can see as the main difference…

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Just a thought- I wonder if you are simply being shown the in-camera jpg when the raw is opened. Sometimes the plain-ol in-camera camera jpgs are pretty decent.


So this is what I get with the default scene-ref (sigmoid)

Only 2 changes so not really even an edit… but as you say you like what you saw when it was opened…

THis is just using my usual start with the exposure autopicker set to 50% and on the whole image and then same for the CC module hit the picker for the whole image…Relative and Perceptual renders.

And this if I leave DT at as shot…WB ie less neutral

Using filmic instead and lightening the overall tone with one of my favourites… tone eq relight…
It can be easily a different start or almost start maybe just needing skin tone adjustment …so I wouldn’t beat yourself up… I think its just nice to see that comparison you show and it shows the cast and darker version you have which now upon reflection you are noticing… I think this would be 80% or more of my photos if I went back to look at them…esp those going back a few years but I cant reedit my whole collection :slight_smile:

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I can relate.

It’s very difficult (well, it is for me at least!) to have any sense of objectivity about how good, bad or ugly my edits really are as seen by others. I can always go back to an image and see things that should’ve been done differently (i.e., better).

I want to avoid just “trying things” and instead wish to critically evaluate an undeveloped image, determine how I want it to look, visualize that and then just “go there” (kind of how Mozart composed LOL).

But boy howdy… that can be difficult at times. Despite my wishes I still end up pushing sliders to see what they do and by the end of editing, I probably have 40% of my edits canceling out or overriding each other.

There’s always a dichotomy in my mind – On one hand I really don’t want to produce “perfectly perfect” plastic-looking images. But on the other hand I want to know how to do it, if for no other reason than to simply have that level of skill and understanding. Ideally, I’d like to land in the middle with completely “in-control” processing to just the right degree. Not too much, not too little.

I have no idea if I typically do that, though. I know I don’t have the desired level of skill, that’s for sure.

I realize my pontificating isn’t of much practical use but I guess at least I can say, “I feel your pain.” :slight_smile:


No need to apologise! I’m not sure which I prefer, TBH, of your two versions.

I do find myself that the harder I try to get an image just right, the worse it gets - so I’m quite minimal usually. Sigmoid is very convenient, as it pushes the saturation with contrast in a way that more or less matches an out-of-camera JPEG, then a bit sharpening and it can be done. I often do get in and tweak highlights, maybe adjust colours, but less can be more. :wink:

Edit; I wonder why haven’t heard of Fotocx before? It’s open source… yet nothing shows up on the forum.
It’s got some interesting features like page flattening - someone was asking for this a while back.
I might install it on my laptop and have a play.
Looks a bit crude in some aspects compared to darktable or similar but I could be wrong.
@Tim , I would say the raw converter is applying a tone curve, similar to RT and ART (or darktable in the old base curve workflow, with the color preservation turned off).

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Was just part of the journey for me. I kept learning until I could consistently get my images to look better than the camera jpeg, and of similar standard to the best play raw edits on this site, according to my own taste. I thought I had a pretty good eye too but some of my early edits were terrible. What began disheartening grew to be very satisfying. Working with better tools, and understanding how to use them and whats possible, helped a lot too.


I think it can even sometime come down to how long your editing session has been. I think if you have been there a few hours then your judgement starts to change and for sure your eyes start to get conditioned and fatigued… I often see this from the last few edits of a long session. I go to open them to finish them off and I have the notion in my head of where I left them and when I look at them I go what happened… they might be darker than I recall or the color I thought I left at a yellow might now look orange or you know whatever …maybe there is more or less contrast or sharpness… in any case sometimes there can be other reasons for a particular edit looking the way it does outside of your “skills” :slight_smile:


Thanks, everyone. Your comments are helping me to understand my issue and feel better about myself. Like several of you said, you can keep fiddling in darktable and come up with something that seems to satisfy you at the moment, but looking back later, does not seem so good. I just need to calm down and keep honing my critical eye.


I am a minimalist so I think edits are wholly subjective and worrying about whether one is “better” or “worse” is a matter of taste and not worth worrying about. What matters more is capturing the moment such as in the example you posted :smiley:


Do you edit the image in one sitting and call it done?

I’ve been editing stuff over days or months for a while now. I’ll edit til I think I’m done, then step away. Come back to it and edit more (or start over). And I keep doing that until I don’t see any more changes I want to make.


Some thoughts:

  1. When I edit an image, I ask myself: “Does it say what I want it to say?” If it does, then the job is done. If it doesn’t, then what can I change so it does say what I want? This is a different question, a different attitude to “Can I improve this image?” That question is more about aesthetics, and can be circular: improving one aspect often makes another worse.

  2. I sometimes wish software editors had a “randomize” button. When pressed, it applies some random colour-shift and saturation change, and small rotation, and crop. It might flip the image horizontally. Anything to shake up my tired perceptions.

  3. A brain reset is useful. Ideally, when I edit an image I have no memory of the photography or previous edits. It has no history, only possibilities.

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Not always. Sometimes I go back for days, weeks, or even months. For some images, I have as many as five or six duplicate versions I’ve worked on in darktable.

I find that if I am happy with it for a few weeks, I’ll generally be happy with it going forward.

Developing that critical eye for your own work is extremely difficult, and I feel like a lot of photographers never actually develop that sense because they don’t push hard enough and they don’t really ask themselves what they’re trying to say.

Keep on pushing yourself, I think you’ll get there.

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I tend to do a rough edit as part of my culling process, in order to work out whether I can make something good from it. Then it goes into another pot, and gets a final edit weeks/months/years later.


For what it’s worth, here’s a direct quote from the ‘About Me’ page of my website: “I’m NOT a photographer, there’s NO SUCH THING as a decent camera bag, and EVERYONE’S photos are better than mine.” You are certainly not alone. :blush:

And as far as editing goes, lets just say I never really finish anything to my complete satisfaction — I imagine I’ll keep on tweaking stuff until the day I drop.


@Tim Sounds like you need a breather. Grind your axe and chop some logs, or join the solar eclipse viewing. Remember to wear eye protection, so you can return to photo editing afterwards. :sunglasses:


@Tim yeah, I know that feeling very well: editing a picture for maybe half an hour, being kinda satisfied, looking at the original jpeg and thinking man, what have I done - this looks ugly.

A lot is schooling of the eye. There are various disziplines for your eye:

  • recognizing sharpness on different scales
  • contrast in relation to tonal range
  • seeing color casts

These come only with time/experience, I think.

In regards to your pictures, I’d say it is mainly the white balance that is different in both pictures. WB beeing one of the major factors that influence the look of the picture, btw. (and one that throws me off regularly) :man_shrugging: