The concepts of Darktable

When starting to use a program like Darktable, it is important to learn a bit about how it works, and not just which buttons to push and sliders to adjust. This will give you a better overview and lets you learn faster. In Episode 7 of my Youtube series “Darktable Insights” I go through some of the most important concepts of Darktable.


The interface is divided into two main views; Lighttable and Darkroom. Lighttable view is where you import your images, organize them, and where you spread them out on the table to pick the ones you want to work with. You also handle metadata, and you can do so on multiple images at the same time.


When you want to work on a single image, you open it in the Darkroom view. In the old days the darkroom was where you developed your film and made prints. See the analogies? On the right hand side of the Darkroom view are all the tools for editing the image. The first time you open Darktable, there are just a few, but a large collection of tools is easily available and can be enabled when needed or when you feel comfortable with using the default ones and need new challenges.

Those tools are called modules, and they appear in a set order that cannot be changed. This order is chosen by the developers to give the best possible workflow and image quality. Every time you make an adjustment, all the modules must be calculated again for the adjustment to be visible on your screen. When the first module has been calculated, the result is sent to the next module, then on to the next and so on until all active modules have been calculated, and the image can be drawn on the screen. This is only done for the visible pixels, so when you export an image at full resolution, the rendering will take longer than it does while you are working.

File structure

When importing images from your memory card, the files are obviously copied over to your hard drive. Other than that, Darktable never moves or changes these files unless you specifically tells it to. That is, you can delete files (put them in the Trash Can), or copy or move them between folders. The files are always accessible through your system’s file manager, but to keep Darktable happy, if you move them around, do it inside of Darktable, not in the file manager.

The reason for this is that Darktable keeps a database of all the RAW files, their location and all edits you have done. If you move a file with your system’s file manager, Darktable won’t know about it and will consider the file as being lost.

Darktable also keeps a separate file, called a sidecar file, with each RAW file, containing all the edits. And if you make duplicates of an image, you still only have one RAW file, you just make extra sidecar files for that image.

To see all of this in practice, take a look a the video here:

When you’ve finished processing your photos why not start earning some real cash for them on Clickasnap?

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