The order of processing Raw files does not matter as much as you think it does

posted in: darktable | 0

If you Google “What order should I apply edits to my photo” you will get a series of posts with people telling you to adjust white balance first, sharpening last, denoise before sharpening, etc. This is because the output of one edit will be used as the input of the next edit, so applying them in the opposite order may give you a very different looking photo.

However, if you are editing in a program such as Lightroom, darktable, or RawTherapee, the order of processing Raw files is much less important. This is because you are not physically editing the photo, but specifying a recipe for how the sensor data is converted into a picture on your screen. All three programs apply the steps of this recipe in a predetermined order – you’re role is to turn each step on or off, and fine-tune its settings.

According to the darktable developers:

The order of the processing pixel pipeline is fixed and supposed to “just work”.

There is no way to change this order in darktable. You can find the order in which darktable adjusts Raw files by clicking on the leftmost tab (the one with the power sign) which shows which modules are turned on. They are applied from bottom to top.

The order of Raw adjustments in darktable can be seen in the “power button” tab. Modules are applied from the bottom up.

RawTherapee also uses a predetermined pipeline (detailed here), as does Lightroom.

This is not to say that there aren’t good reasons to apply some adjustments before others. For example, its still a good idea to correct the white balance first simply because getting the colours right will make every other edit much easier.


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