Liking Raw Therapee very Much, but Missing Presets

I definitely prefer Raw Therapee to Lightroom for landscapes, it’s amazing how a few clicks in this software can really bring the details, and how well done things like Local Contrast and Tone Mapping are in this software. But when I am photographing people, I am struggling a little. First I miss a few Lightroom presets, and it’s not that easy to find presets for Raw Therapee. But presets aside, what would you recommend to really bring up the beauty in skin tones and the human form in general?

This software is complex, and I am still learning. I also think that options that are incredibly usefull, like the ones I mentioned, are too mixed up with options that offers little impact on the image, happened to find them by chance. So, are there simple options or presets to used when photographing people at night, for example?

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Here is the documentation: RawPedia

The closest thing to presets is Film Simulation - RawPedia
You can find an infinite amount of CLUTS in internet to suit every need you might need…

And the PlayRaw category has a few portraits, e.g. [PlayRaw] Mairi Troisieme and [PlayRaw] Mairi Further. That will give you a few example processings.

Thanks, I will read about the tools I don’t know. The UI is quite complex, but probably it offers much more flexibility, once you get used to.

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Please don’t be afraid to post with specific questions if you run into a problem or want to know how something should work to get the result you’re looking for!

You can also check any of the articles to see if there might be something there to help out?


Skin tones are something I always find tricky regardless of software, and what looks good is also subjective, but I’ll tell you a couple of things I do to help make skin look a little bit nicer…I’m not an expert in Raw Therapee at all, nor at making skin look good, so take my tips as only suggestions to try out yourself, obviously everyone will develop their own techniques at processing their own photos, and a lot of people on here get more deeply involved than me I reckon. No question there are a lot of people who can make skin look nicer than I can. Anyway here are my little tips:

  1. try turning up vibrance, either both pastels and saturated together, or seperately. I often turn down saturated and up pastel, particular for people pictures. This especially helps when skin is a bit washed out looking, or if its been blasted directly by a flash, and while the increased pastel makes the face more vibrant looking, turning down the saturated tones makes is less “plastic” looking and it doesn’t get all oversaturated. Also try playing with the vibrance tool vs. the saturation slider to get the balance you want between the two to where you think the skin looks good. I want skin to look vibrant a healthy, but not digital and saturated. Some people might like it a lot less colourful than I do, so you might try just using these tools to remove colour instead.

  2. try flattening the tone curve instead of using the default one that tries to match your camera, then adjust it yourself. Or, leave it at the default but adjust it to remove a bit of contrast before you proceed to other adjustments. The default curve is often too “hot” for skin. I almost always use the second “counter curve,” so I don’t want the first one to be very strong.

  3. try tone mapping with a negative value for strength, this makes skin smoother, which is not something I always like, but if done sparingly, works well for some pictures. I only go slightly below zero, but some people might like to take it further. I also like doing this with high ISO pictures or pictures from bad cameras to slightly tame some of the crappiness.

  4. try the film simulations, and you can also try applying them earlier than usual, before doing many other adjustments, or applying them while the tone curve is flat (or flatter than the default), and turning down the strength if the effect is too heavy. You can also try creating your own, even try copying some from adobe, although when I tried that, they didn’t translate all that well into raw therapee. Of course, try downloading ones you can find online too, I’ve found some good ones by searching around the internets, I think the GMIC site has a list of links to a bunch of CLUTS.

  5. wavelets. This is probably one of the more powerful tools in raw therapee, but I’m not an expert at using it to enhance skin. But that’s definitely something it can do. Look at the levels seperately and see which one has which textures and details on it, then enhance or dehance the levels to taste. You can also work on colour in the wavelet levels, although I’ve never given that a serious try. But sometimes I’ll try to enhance or dehance skin texture in there, and its quite powerful. I also often reduce contrast on the residual image, so I can add contrast without…well, kind of without adding contrast. I mean, I can drag the contrast slider higher, or use more local contrast or soft light or a stronger curve without overcooking everything, because the contrast of the residual image has been lowered. I also often play with the “final local contrast” curve in the Final Touchup part, which I don’t really understand, so I just drag it around until it seems to be affecting the parts I want.

  6. When I have skin in focus and its sharp and detailed, I sometimes like to enhance the texture with microcontrast, but this might be the opposite of what you want to achieve, but if you want to enhance the texture of skin, it will. The person you photograph usually doesn’t want this. But I do.

  7. play with the LAB curves - I often want the skin to be more vibrant, so I’ll raise the yellow or orange in the CH curve, and sometimes raise similar colour in the LH curve to lighten it, which mitigates the added colour. Your taste will vary, but you can mouse over skin and see which colour it is, and then act on that colour as you’d like in the LAB curves. Also remember you can use the L curve there to affect contrast/lightness without doing much to the colour, which might be just the thing for preserving the look of skin. Playing with the a and b curves is a good way to remove (or introduce if you’d like) a colour cast.

  8. Try enabling CIECam in the advanced tab, and if things look better, proceed to play with its sliders to taste. If things look worse, probably just don’t use it.

  9. I find white balance quite important to skin tones, and I find I can get better looking white balance with RT than with Adobe when using the sliders to set a custom white balance, which I usually do just to my own taste and don’t bother much about accuracy. I just drag them around until I like it. If I can’t get it just how I like it, I might use some of the LAB curves or the Color Toning to help make things look right.

  10. My main concern with all the power at hand in RT is that I am careful not to overdo things. If skin looks any good to begin with, be careful not to get carried away.

Unfortunately, a lot of this stuff probably won’t work very well for making presets for general use, but your mileage may vary. I’ve dowloaded quite a lot of CLUTs online and also some presets people have made available as PP3s. But since what makes skin look nice is going to be subjective to some extent, and since RT lacks the ecosystem of millions and millions of people using it and making presets available, you’ll probably eventually want to make some of your own. The way I work, I find I prefer to just copy/paste settings to similar pictures after adjusting one, and I don’t bother to save a preset or anything, since my next batch of pictures is likely to be different, and I’d kind of rather work on them “per batch” that way than try to come up with general presets that would work for a wide range of pictures. I probably should make some convenience presets though just to quickly do settings that I use often, although just dragging the slider is kind of quick enough for me. I do know what you mean though, I had quite a collection of presets in Lightroom, and there were times when I knew right away which one to use for a certain picture. I’m still getting used to RT after over a year. I do find the Astia Generic film simulation probably my most used overall for all colour pictures, but I often spend more time than I should clicking through lots of different ones, which is the problem with presets in general I find: they’re really meant to save you time, but whether in RT or LR or whatever, I often find having so many of them actually can slow me down. FWIW I find with a huge batch of pictures, I’d probably get them all finished more quickly in LR, even accounting for the tedious import step…Raw Therapee gives you so much more power, but to use all that power might take more time/effort. Not that you can’t automate lots of stuff, just there’s more you can do, so there’s more to pay attention to, and some tools, like the wavelet stuff, I find is best used on a per-picture or per-batch basis. But the pictures are better in the end with RT, and I’m doing things in there that I couldn’t in LR, so for me, that tradeoff of having to spend a bit more time is worth it.