Software defaults, looks and starting points - Not software specific discussion

A recurring topic on pixls is the question of out of the box results. The questions often include comparisons to commercial software or sooc jpegs.

There has developed a sort of derisory attitude towards sooc jpegs. Of course we develop raws because the jpegs are limiting but the comments reek a bit from either the curious elitism of self made raws or the defensive arguments of butt hurt developers. (excuse my language I do intend it to be friendly)

Sometimes the arguments are couched in ideas about the sooc or commercial output being technically wrong somehow.

I’ve repeatedly mentioned that most of the camera brands have a looong history of “colour science”, camera defaults and tweaks. And that the commercial software companies spend huge effort on developing out of the box experience. Adobe seemingly being somewhat trapped by compatibility and consistency.

Those defaults, settings and colours are designed to look good and provide a huge value for the companies when successful. Many then proceed from this base to do something completely different but having a great out of the box look is hugely helpful.

All pixls software have a default look and work on it but somehow the discussions about it are stunted. There is perhaps comfort in pretending that users will just whip up a completely unique look that they set up as default and that the software is just an open framework allowing for infinite creativity.

My suggestion is to try and apply some of all the knowledge of these forums to look at and decipher the sooc jpegs, the commercial defaults etc. Analyze a bit more carefully what people are looking for and how defaults could be tweaked to approach a better default. The topics are being discussed in play raws etc. but not so much in the context of out of the box settings.


One claim I’ve read time and time again to justify a really flat default goes: “you should start with a neutral look and go from there”. No citation because I’ve seen it countless times here.

But I disagree with this strongly.

We’re not doing lossy edits. No data is thrown away if the default looks punchy, you can always turn down the sliders, just like how you can always turn up the sliders too.

But you are turning away people who want to be wowed on their first impression.


I’m not sure that’s true, though perhaps there is a derisory attitude towards people who get the raw file and learn some raw processing software, only to use it to reproduce what their camera did already.

I think I’ve seen both plenty of times.

If we focus on your second point. It’s understandably frustrating for devs as it’s sort of a critique of the software and likely not the goal the dev had in mind. Particularly not considering all the different sooc styles.

I’ve been through that process myself and honestly still think my sooc jpegs look better in some areas but I just can’t quite get there.

It should be easy to understand why someone would want a sooc rendering but with much better detail, different white balance, perfect exposure, better handled noise etc. It should also be understood that it’s close to impossible to achieve perfectly.

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There is no problem with sooc jpegs. If you like them and they please you and give you the results you want, then that is great.

The problem from the community is fatigue, we have had these conversations before, and people either understand the conversation or they don’t. When they don’t understand, that is where the conversation devolves.

I don’t think people know how insulting it is to be told that “your application could be great if you’d just do XYZ!” Meanwhile many of us are getting fantastic and pleasing results from the current tooling.

Software isn’t all the same and we are spoiled for choice when it comes to FOSS raw editing software.

This would be fine if we sold a product, were being paid, and trying to get more users. But we aren’t. Suggesting or telling other people what to do with their free time isn’t nice and probably shouldn’t happen in this content. And this is after developers, packagers, support people, and others have spent hundreds and hundreds of hours on things.

We don’t need to appeal to the masses. If you don’t like the tooling don’t use it.

If you want to spend your time chasing sooc jpegs, you should do that, but telling others what to do just doesn’t cut it.


I’m not telling anyone what to do, particularly not devs. I was trying to suggest that we are collectively working on these questions in 100’s of threads producing knowledge in discussions. But the question of what makes a good default and how it can be designed tends to get stuck.

As I said, clearly work is being done on it all the time.

This again ? -_-

Yes, what’s the point of annoying opensource contributors if it is only to reproduce what you already paid for ?

That great out-of-the-box experience leading in legendary fights to revert the software opinion of “good looking” when you are not happy with it (cf people who start editing in Capture One by muting saturation and contrast).

The day my hammer starts having opinions of its own, be sure I will get a refound. Tools obey, users decide.

I own Nikon D850 camera and it has the following presets:
Monochrome (with YORG filters)

Besides, I can also choose the following Active D_Lightig options:

Extra High and

It would be wonderful if you could integrate all these presets and corresponding combinations for my camera.

Look good to whom ? Are we talking about Kodak’s take on mainstream middle-class amateur photography : “you press the button and we do the rest ?”

“People” don’t exist. The “average photographer” does not exist. There are defined groups of people, with different skills sets and expectation, that are irreconciliable with each other.

Forget knowledge (especially on a forum of week-end vocational photographers), just see how the RAW vs. OOC JPEG auto curve matching fail in Rawtherapee and darktable alike: non-smooth curves, non-portable results.

There is nothing to analyse in people’s preferences. Kodak had a whole lab in Rochester where Hunt and al. researched extensively what folks deemed “good looking” because film emulsions were pretty much fixed renditions, so they had to nail them once for all. These days are long gone. Everything is fluid now.

We don’t have the ressources, the time nor the skills to conduct such researches.

And I don’t care what the big companies are doing. They are there to make profits and sales. Eastman understood way ahead of his time that profits are in the unskilled, the untrained and the amateurs. Those users have plenty of commercial options. Now, what do the other have ? You know, the non-profitable fringe of the market that doesn’t need hand-holding ? They have endless cycles of tutorials and dumb software that want them to stay beginner for life.

There is no point in redoing opensource commercial software with less ressources. It’s doomed to fail. Salvation comes from allowing what they don’t, catering to the crowd they choose to forgot.


the starting point of different people cannot be unique and whatever they expect, the risk not to catch this, is high.

In the beginning, my starting point was, when I learned, that the modification of the ooc jpgs are missing information, which are given in raw. Of course I tried to copy the ooc and then started (with RawTherapee) to increase for a better result.

What I did: I created a personal profile which comes very close to the ooc-jpeg and start my edition from there.
But: I also understand if somebody just wants a different view maybe a LUT or sth like this, my approach of course wouldn’t help.

What I want to say: whatever you propose to a new user, use a neutral profile or use the automatic or just try and error… may be it won’t help him to get into the software.

May be it will be possible, to create some defaults, which everybody can happily start with, but I think, trying and clicking through the existing ones, already should give an idea to the user.

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Doesn’t this already exist in Darktable with the basecurve style workflow for the most part? RawTherapee can do the tone curve matching with one click and isn’t half bad at it either. I haven’t used Adobe Camera RAW in years but last time I checked Lightroom’s color presets were at best a an educated guess as to what the camera OEMs were trying to accomplish. I usually set it to neutral because it tended to mess things up, the rest of the modes were functionally useless.

I happen to like the look of my camera’s output as well and use that in conjunction with the RAW files for a “JPEG+” mode where I maybe just need a little extra room in the highlights or want to make a slight tweak without bending a JPEG too far. Most of the time I’m not looking to engineer my own “look” from scratch and quite frankly I don’t like the HDR look some of the tools produce. Just not my thing. IIRC there used to be some presets or something for the Fuji camera film simulations for Darktable way back when. Not sure if they’re still around or whatever.

I dunno, maybe I don’t know what you’re asking for but it seems like this is already a thing?

They are still there, in the Lab color look-up module.

As @CarVac said it’s just as easy to mute saturation as it is to increase it. I know because I tend to mute it.

That’s a discussion and a process I presume. As always the doers will have more say.

The rest of your post is again mainly straw men and false oppositions. Clearly you seem to assume that a good default would be some kind of cracked up velvia sim. Why you make that assumption I have no idea but perhaps other discussions have led you to that conclusion.

All software have a default look. You can’t pretend that’s not the case. Filmic’s default look has improved a lot so if that not done on purposed that quite the happy accident.

It’s unfortunate if discussions feel like impositions or demands on devs.

I think there is some articulation to be done on whats a good starting point and why. It’s sort of happening here and in 100 other threads but it’s a bit tense for some reason.

It exists in all software. Filmic just as much as Rawtherapee. It’s just what the default is that differs. I even find tiny differences between Rawtherapee and Art. And yes the matching, contrary to what @aurelienpierre suggests works great.

I have no opinions on the filmic defaults that the discussions seem to focus on. It seems quite good to me when i test.

It’s the discussion about defaults that is interesting and could use some broadening and deepening.

I’m actually now feeling a strong sense of déjà vu about this thread. We’ve discussed this before.

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Whoops! I was quoted! I must mention that besides the presets listed in the quote, I have to write to Nikon that I miss some more. Besides portrait and landscape, I still need fashion, product, architecture, sports, street, wedding, animal, journalism, and some others. :ok_hand: :laughing:

Be ready when I get those. :wink:


I see these same threads on audio forums. People just like to argue. It’s a constant back and forth between neutral/technical and gear adding to the color of the music. Just look at any thread about headphones and HD600 fans yelling about flat response with people who like V-shaped sound so so on.

For default presentation I like options which most software gives you. You can set up darktable to give you a flat look or the basecurve look by default. As you say the matching isn’t half bad to a lot of the camera JPG settings. Similar discussions were had back when RAW started being widespread 20 years ago. “Why does this look bad compared to the JPEG” “Because it’s unprocessed, etc.” I feel like the tools are there and can be set either way. I’m not sure what we’re getting at here?

Since it’s mostly darktable users and devs participating and I noticed “basecurve” being used as a shorthand for contrasty and saturated. I just tested one of the files in my download folder with the darktable I had compiled.

The filmic rendering was much more saturated. Contrast seemed similar, the file was a Leica file so I applied the leica-like base curve.

The other thing i noticed was that very agressive noise reduction was applied as default. This makes me even more confused about the obvious subtext that dt has flat unsaturated “low processing” defaults.

Except most “saturation” (actually… it’s chroma) out there are not hue-linear, and usually the original chroma boost comes from the 3D curves applied independently on separate channels (again, not hue-linear). So you only make things worse by pushing hues back and forth with no consistency with the scene colors, what you get at the end is completely unpredictable.

Right. Next hot topic gonna be “what’s good art ?”. Seriously, there is no point. All that is just words between people who should spend more time looking at images and less time staring at threads.

You will get hundreds of methinks that will conclude what should have been the premisse: it fucking depends on the target crowd of the software.

Wedding photographers editing in large batch photos taken in the worse lighting conditions who needs to deliver a picture no matter what don’t have the same problems and expectations as fashion photographers working on small batches shot in proper light, or news photographers editing in their car for tonight’s paper, or week-end dads shooting the dog just for fun.

No valid design discussion omits the scope of the solution to design : what the problem to solve is, for whom do we need to solve it, and under which constraints the solution is supposed to work.

Yup, except having a default look consistent with internal pipeline is quite different from having to emulate some kind of third-party look that somehow passes as a reference.

dt doesn’t have noise reduction enabled by default. I’m not sure what you see or what you did, but the only way noise could be affected when opening a raw with default settings is in the demosaicing algos.


You’re invalidating most non corporate, non engineering design discussions ever had. Including hugely important ones. Sounds good though.

Surely that’s one of the most meaningful discussions to be had. Very expansive though.

Honestly I think all of those could use the same starting point. I can’t see why they their needs would differ when it comes to defaults? They might not produce the same look for the final image though particularly in terms of local editing etc.

I’ll look into it. It had profiled denoise applied. Re compiled latest master and opened some of my weekend dad shots :smile: but my kids looked very pink, pastelly and overly bright so I may have some residual configs messing with things.

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The basecurve presets are there to provide a close look to camera treatments. It’s why I call it a “JPEG+ mode.” I use it quite often and duck out to filmic when I’m feeling the need too. It is going to be more similar to an out of camera JPEG than the flatter looking filmic defaults. At least with my Fuji/Nikon files filmic usually ends up a little more blank slate looking on import.

Personally I don’t think there’s a bad or wrong approach. We’re not curing cancer or solving the mysteries of the universe. Just making pretty pictures so it’s silly to get worked up about it.

If the end result looks good, prints well, gets you paid, makes you happy or is reproducible with your workflow it’s fine. Use the set of modules that work best. Either approach is sustainable but I think it pays to know more than one way to do things in case you get a bad result with your usual approach.

Yes, @aurelienpierre is quite right. Darktable does absolutely no noise reduction (not even hot pixels) on default. I usually create a style for certain noisy situations/cameras etc. for doing that quickly. Not sure what you’re seeing here.

The only thing to add to this is that as long as you capture the photons that make your scene in sufficient fidelity (i.e. good exposure), anything is possible in post-production.

Perhaps that is the point…not the target audience for DT…ie needing to be wowed by a first impression. I don’t think you will find that on the flow chart for 3.8. I think most professionals build an image up from a neutral base. I think they have a process wrt tone color sharpness noise and the interplay of all these factors. There may be many others that don’t want to start from quite that blank a canvas and there are ways to do that as well. The thing is with raw we are just given the data with no formula and all we need are good tools to work with it to build a workflow. Then we can save our own presets. Lets be very honest I look at the playraw forum and some of the edits are certainly interesting. There is creative and then there is WTF were you thinking and that’s alright because somewhere someone is looking at my edit and saying I am not sure what planet he was on. I see final edits with weird colors, washed out or way over done yada yada…again from my eye but the person doing the edit thought it to be an acceptable rendition. Given that how the hell can one determine what a good starting preset is.


Interesting discussion, although the tone isn’t as friendly as I would have hoped. I would hazard to say that even defaults aren’t static. They change as tastes and goals evolve. I believe a more pressing issue is the amount of range and control an app has for raw and image processing. I am more familiar with RT development, so I will give you an example relating to it. I find that over its history, many of its modules have received features that enhance their function and ranges that go beyond their original defaults to accommodate user requests. As they age, they are more useful in helping the user achieve their goal. This is more important than a set of defaults.

That said, having defaults is still a meaningful. They should be there to show the user what is possible with the image at a glance. To me, prettiness is secondary to that.