In RAW postprocessing (independently of the software you use: Darktable, Lightroom Rawtherapee, One, ...) is the final result dependent on the order you use in applying the different modules?

I'm pretty sure that you should CROP first (if you need to) because you could cut out areas which suffer from over/under exposure; so you maybe would need to apply lighter corrections to avoid clipping.

NOISE REDUCTION should be the last thing because you will know the noise you introduce only at the end of all the processing.

What about all the other modules? Is there a preferable order?

(BTW: Am I right in supposing the explained order? Why not?)

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ "independently of the software you use" - chances are it actually does depend on the software you are using. \$\endgroup\$
    – null
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 21:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Noise reduction should be done early because some processes would otherwise unnecessarily enhance the appearance of noise. \$\endgroup\$
    – xiota
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 22:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Cropping doesn't matter to areas of under/over exposure because you can just ignore them as you select parameters. Hoever, it would decrease memory and processing load. \$\endgroup\$
    – xiota
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 22:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @xiota, true but not necessarily re cropping. Some software do preview rendering (while editing) depending on the displayed scale. Say, Adobe Camera Raw (at least an older version I had to use lately) does quicker coarser rendering when the displayed scale is under 50% (there are perhaps other thresholds too). It often happened that if I crop early, the scale zoomed in past 50% and things got much slower. Newer versions handle this better, I must say. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zeus
    Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 1:52
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This is NOT a duplicate, at least not of the linked question. Although the title is indeed misleading. I believe the author asks about RAW processing, which may or may not be considered 'post'-processing, but is fundamentally different from 'proper' post-processing. The RAW processing software (presumably) does a single-pass rendering, taking into account all the adjustments at once. The order still matters mathematically, but one can't change it; one can only follow it when editing - which helps. For example, white balance is the first thing to do: all other color adjustments depend on it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zeus
    Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 2:05

1 Answer 1


Yes, the order matters. Here's a quick example using this image as a starter.

I uploaded this to Pixlr and did the following:

  • color vibrance set to 50
  • levels updated to values of 10, 1.5, 240

The changes aren't really important - just know that the first one used color vibrance and then levels and the second used levels and then color vibrance.

enter image description hereenter image description here

The most obvious difference is seen in the background. So, the literal answer to your question is yes, the order does matter as even the exact same changes will appear different if their order is swapped.

That being said, the order means a lot less to actual editing. Obviously, you'll want to save sharpening for the very end and may prefer to crop at the very beginning. Outside of that, you're likely to adjust color, then adjust levels/curves, and then you'll probably go back to adjusting color if need be. You may go back and forward a bunch of times until you are satisfied with your image. At the end of the day, it's your workflow.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is certainly true for normal editing, but not necessarily for RAW processing. The latter (supposedly) does a single-pass render taking all the adjustments into account simultaneously. (Still, mathematically the order matters, but it's built in in the software). \$\endgroup\$
    – Zeus
    Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 1:44

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