Simply view original photos without preset history stack.

Hey everyone,

I’ve attempted to use darktable from time to time for the past year, but am frustrated by a stack of presets that keep loading onto my RAW images. How do I configure Darktable to only apply the “white balance” to my original image, but nothing more?


Here is my original photo, it’s almost exactly the finish I’m after.


If I toggle off white balance, the image essentially breaks into this green mess;


So I’m wondering, how do I have Darktable simply apply the White Balance preset to all my photos, but nothing more? I’ve clicked around for ever, but could use a couple of simple pointers.

To understand where I’m coming from, I’m taking ~400 photos of runners at Parkrun as a volunteer photographer, using a 12 year old Panasonic Lumix. I’d like to be in a position where I use Dark Table to whip through ~500 photos, delete/reject half of them, crop many of them, and then export to the Facebook group.

But at the moment, were I to open up my photo batch in Darktable, DT starts to apply this stack of presets that are simply not warranted for any of the photos. I just need white balance and crop.

Appreciate any help on this - keen to learn how to configure things so I can just jump in, crop a few hundred images with a coffee, and then upload and enjoy the rest of my morning!

Probably the closest you’ll get is to go into preferences and set your workflow preferences to ‘none’.

That will leave you with just this stack on images you haven’t worked on before:
Ignore the color calibration - that’s only there because of a custom preset I have.
Everything there is an ‘essential’ module, except highlight reconstruction and orientation which are are both useful and lightweight there’s no advantage to not having them.

And welcome to the forum!

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The reason for the extra modules there by default - filmic is a tone mapper so when you have wide dynamic range it compresses it in a ‘minimum change’ kind of way,
and color calibration is the default darktable way of handling white balance - it sets the WB module to a reference value, then you use color calibration to make adjustments.

I use dt set to none as described above as I like to have a really basic starting point.

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Short answer: the stack you showed is the minimum darktable will apply.

Longer answer:
The modules marked with the “semi-filled” circle are always needed, and cannot be turned off.

The others are not strictly needed to show an image, but are in practice always useful (or do nothing when not needed):

  • white balance gives you a minimal white balancing needed for the demosaicing;
  • highlight reconstruction prevents over-exposed areas to be magenta (it does a bit more, in practice);
  • colour calibration is the “final” white balancing;
  • exposure corrects in-camera corrections and usually adds some exposure (most cameras under-expose by 0.5-1 EV);
  • filmic maps the dynamic range to something that can be displayed, and transforms the data from scene-referred to display-referred (basically a log2 transform) (*);
  • orientation makes sure that images are displayed in the correct orientation (using EXIF info).
    So those presets are warranted when you start from a raw file…

For your particular case, I’d suggest shooting RAW+JPG: if all you need is cropping, jpgs are fine to work with.
Otherwise, if your raw images all have the same exposure and light conditions, so that the same settings work for all (or at least a significant number), you can copy the history stack from one image to others (though cropping doesn’t transfer well usually).

(*: there are alternatives to filmic: sigmoid or basecurve. You usually want to apply one of these, as the log transform they apply gives the image more contrast. Without them, images often appear very dull, and lacking in contrast)


But that tends to give a fairly flat image, and my guess is you end up using one of filmic, sigmoid or basecurve in any case.

Perhaps not what @Karlstens is looking for…

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Yes, I almost always use sigmoid actually. Good point. I was kind of replying directly to the OP’s question, without really considering what he may need.

Perhaps a point worth mentioning is that the raw file with nothing applied is very different from the in-camera jpg.

I’ve seen a lot of posts elsewhere in relation to lightroom and photoshop that give the impression the writers think that just because they didn’t move any sliders, their exported jpg is an ‘unprocessed’ raw file. When it most definitely isn’t! With dt though, it is.

For that use case, almost certainly shoot in jpeg, no? The camera will apply its look automatically to the shots and you just crop and you’re done. It sounds like you’re uploading pics to facebook so people can see themselves running rather than capturing something that needs extreme editing to create a spectacular art print.

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‘the photo you just took’ does not exist .
A raw file is sort of the values of your camera as a light meter. It NEEDS processing to be somewhat viewable.
And there is no ‘correct’ rendering. Every raw program is different.
And the jpeg from your camera , has a lot of things applied that are not ‘in’ your raw file .

  1. if you really want just white balance by default, you can. In the settings there is some part about processing where you can toggle the default workflow. If you set it to none. You get nothing as far as I know . Enable white balance and make sure it loads ‘as shot’.
  2. if you make a preset on a module , you can enable to load that preset by default. This way you can tweak a lot of things to get loaded by default on a new picture .
  3. I would at least enable defaults for things like denoising , lens correction , sharpening, and maybe even highlight reconstruction
  4. maybe you’ll see you want exposure as well. Some cameras underexpose on purpose the save highlight information. This then gets corrected in the jpeg. You don’t get that correction, so a bit of exposure might be needed.
  5. there are topics around here to help people setting up Darktable to be more like the jpeg from their camera as a starting point. Maybe look there too?

Steps 0-5 in the history stack are technical modules that are always required. All raw editors will apply similar processing when first opening a raw file, even if they don’t show it in the UI. DT, however, has a philosophy of not hiding these things from the user.

Filmic RGB and Color Calibration are specific to DT. Filmic is responsible for bringing the HDR scene-referred image data into the SDR display-referred range that your monitor can display correctly. Color Calibration is the “modern” way of doing white balancing. For technical reasons the classic WB is still needed, but should be left at default settings if using color calibration.

Is that from darktable or the camera JPEG?

If it’s from darktable, you just need to adjust the white balance (luminant color really) in color calibration, apply the crop, and finish by setting white and black relative exposure in filmic.

If it’s the camera JPEG, then that’s your camera’s rendering, using the camera’s raw engine, embedded as a JPEG in the raw file, not the actual raw image. Getting a similar result from darktable requires work on the user’s part, since DT has a different engine and has no way of knowing how the camera raw engine functions. Some programs (such as Lightroom) will try to approximate the camera JPEG rendering, but it will always be an approximation.

That’s how all raw files look without any WB applied, so nothing strange there. This article explains it in more detail:

There are ways to do so, but I guarantee that it’s not what you want - it will not look good.

Assuming you like the camera JPEGs, I would recommend using those instead of the raws. Then you just need to crop. DT works for this as well.

But to learn how to actually use DT, I recommend you start by watching this tutorial:

It’s based on an older version, so you can skip the part where he explains how to change the settings, and the filmic UI has changed a bit since then, but the concepts are the same.

Once you understand that basic workflow, I recommend this channel:


Lots of great suggestions everyone and hopefully it clarifies things for the OP but 500 to 600 pics rapid culled to post on FB … screams use jpg to me… I think also he was not clear that the preview image was initially a JPG and that he had the perception that the other modules were somehow messing that up and only wb was needed… I’m quite certain he would not be happy with a raw image with only demosaic and wb and no color tone contrast and or sharpness added that would be included in that JPG preview…


I don’t use RawTherapee myself as I am a dedicated DT user, but I wonder if RawTherapee might suit the OP’s need better. I seem to remember it opens the RAW file more faithfully to the cameras JPG. I might be mistaken about this.

But I agree with others that the JPG file would be best for just cropping and posting to the internet. The RAW files are better for the shots that deserve or need extra editing. Anyway there have been some great answers by others in this thread and I hope the OP finds what he is looking for.

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You are correct, rawtherappee has a feature called auto-matched tone curve that approximates the tone curve from the embedded jpeg in the raw file.


How to turn off things


Such incredible help from everyone, so glad that I joined to ask. Thank you! And yes, I feel that many of you are correct in suggesting that perhaps I simply rely on the JPEG output of my camera, rather than RAW alone.

If I recall, the reason I disabled JPEG on my camera was;

  • Reading how JPEG quality suffers through the cropping process, and was thinking that perhaps through the use of RAW format, at least I’d have the most true image after crop - considering Parkrun is mostly sports shots, and I don’t always get lucky with framing.

  • Processing sports shots - as I need to take as many quick shots in short succession as possible - I thought that RAW might be much quicker processing/saving than JPEG.

Below is a sample of one of my Parkrun photos, this guy runs fast, 5km in ~16 minutes! And what you see here is a RAW, where I’ve set the camera up to take this using a zoom lens, a circular polarizing filter that I bought on the cheap and making sure I’m using the angle of the sunshine to aid the shot.

I absolutely love the colours in my photos, the depth of the trees, and focus on the runner… and such framing and colour depth is what I aim to give for all runners of the day. It’s just I take 400-500 photos, and other than manually rejecting/cropping photos manually, I wanted to automate as much of the process as possible to be as per my example RAW photo below.

Looking into RawTherapee now, looks to be an interesting app too - will have to find time to play with both DT and RT. :slight_smile:

Pupper from the same morning to say thanks to everyone!


Glad if we’ve helped!

The first point is a good one, although if you set your camera to it’s highest quality JPEG setting no one is at all likely to notice degradation from the re-saving after cropping. I wouldn’t worry if you’re happy with the jpegs in other aspects.

The second point, speed, is actually the other way round, at least with all the cameras I’ve used or read about. They all process and save jpegs faster that raw files, I think due to the file size.
Seems like the processing to produce a jpeg is actually faster than saving the larger amount of data in a raw.

My personal approach for car rally photography (slightly similar) is to shoot raw and create a simple style in darktable which I bulk apply to all the shots, before going through and doing the cropping.

This is just my personal approach - don’t read more into it than that.
I’d probably just apply the default modules that you get with workflow preferences set to ‘sigmoid’, profiled denoise, and a sharpening preset in diffuse or sharpen. I would possibly set sigmoid to a slightly higher contrast (cos I like that) and I might adjust exposure a little.
Maybe also color balance rgb if I wanted to adjust saturation.

Then save it as a style via the button at lower right of the history module in the darkroom view.

I’m a little hesitant to post this again as I’m aware that it’s not entirely best practice, but I wrote up this article on my basic routine here - darktable Mini-Review - A Quick look at my Favorite Software - 35mmc
Just don’t take it as ‘THE ONLY CORRECT WAY’ :smile:

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How did you process that raw… it looks too bright to be a native raw image. I might be missing something in your workflow but you said that you switched off jpg some time back and have been using raw files… but and I may have missed it you were not using DT or RT were you using LR or Nikon’s software… raw files are generally dull and lacking in color until processed.

That was a copy/paste of the photo from Windows 10 File Explorer preview. I’m not too sure on what post-process File Explorer does before showing the image in the previewer on file selection. If it’s not a native feature of Windows 10, perhaps it’s done via the Microsoft Powertoys plugin.

Windows either shows the camera-embedded jpg in the raw file, or a kind of of basic processing of the raw file with a tone curve (maybe just that) applied. It’s a bit weird…

Pretty sure it will just be the jpg preview… In any case for the purpose that you have noted. I think your camera jpg will be superior. If you are shooting raw and simply pulling the jpg out of it that is not going to have any advantage. Where you might get an advantage with raw as you like the look of the nikon image is to use the software that comes from Nikon. This will likely process the images well out of the gate and likely supports the Nikon picture profiles. Then you can crop that and export your jpg and see if that is any better than the in camera jpg.

I’ve just checked on my Win 11 PC and for my Nikon NEF files, yes, the Photos app just displays the embedded preview.

However on files from my Sony A7s, (which only have a very low-res embedded jpg) the same app initially loads a pixelated preview, then after a second or two switches to what I think must be the raw with some non-standard tone curve applied. It gives rather weird colours.

Oddly enough, files from a Sony Nex5r seem to show a preview in the normal way…