I am running into an issue with working on RAW images in darktable where the images are not being rendered in the same way that Lightroom renders them. For example, the following is a crop from an unedited image (with the default history reverted to base):

darkroom image

Now this is the same image, rendered by Lightroom without any changes made to the image:

enter image description here

The main issue is the coloring around bright objects, which is problematic only in darktable and not lightroom.

We see all sorts of differences in the image, which makes me curious if this is normal? Or if someone has found a way to create a style that emulates the default import styling of lightroom?


Edit: Added in my attempt at making them closer to the lightroom render.

enter image description here

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    People probably get tired of me saying this, but if you want what your camera settings were dialled into, rather than pure guesswork, then use your camera manufacturer's own app. it's the only one that didn't have to reverse-engineer the settings.
    – Tetsujin
    Aug 15 at 11:16
  • @Tetsujin what do you mean by that? I don't know what software would emulate Lightroom for a Sony camera.
    – user134909
    Aug 16 at 1:14
  • Googling 'sony camera software' says "Imaging Edge". See photo.stackexchange.com/questions/96952/…
    – Tetsujin
    Aug 16 at 7:30
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    Thanks @Tetsujin didn't realize Sony offered that, I've only ever used their import tools. The image is more true to the camera image, but my goodness is their software lacking compared to DarkTable or Lightroom :,)
    – user134909
    Aug 17 at 0:13

3 Answers 3


Raw image files contain enough data to create a near infinite number of interpretations of that data that will fit in an 8-bit jpeg file.¹ Anytime you open a raw file and look at it on your screen, you are not viewing "THE raw file." You are viewing one among countless possible interpretations of the data in the raw file. The raw data itself contains a single (monochrome) brightness value measure by each pixel well. With Bayer masked camera sensors (the vast majority of color digital cameras use Bayer filters) each pixel well has a color filter in front of it that is either red, green, or blue.² For a more complete discussion of how we get color information out of the single brightness values measured at each pixel well, please see RAW files store 3 colors per pixel, or only one?

How the image you see on your monitor when you open a raw file will look is determined by how the application you used to open the file chose to interpret the raw data in the file to produce a viewable image. Each application has its own set of default parameters that determine how the raw data is processed. Since each application uses a different set of instructions to process the raw information contained in the file, each result will be different.

One of the most significant parameters is how the white balance that is used to convert the raw data is selected. Most applications have many different sets of parameters that can be selected by the user, who is then free to alter individual settings within the set of instructions used to initially interpret the data in the raw file.

¹ Sure, you could take a picture that contains a single pure color within the entire field of view. But most photos contain a wide variation of hues, tints, and brightness levels.

² Except the "red" filter is really more of a yellow-orange color, the "green" filter is more a yellowish-green color, and the "blue" filter is a violet-tinted blue color. In other words, the colors of the filters in a Bayer mask do not correspond to the three colors our RGB monitors emit and blend to reproduce the response in our retinas that many other colors do. In fact, the colors of the filters in a Bayer mask are much closer to the three colors that each of the three types of cones in our retinas are most sensitive to than they are to the three "primary" colors we use for our RGB color reproduction systems.

  • I would totally upvote this if I could! Not sure if this is something you know, but where are these interpretations of the data defined in software like DarkTable? It is a profile of sorts for each camera or a global setting for the application? Or is there a common library that is used for the math? Just curious if each programs' interpretation could be profiled so it can be recreated in other software. Not that one is right, but rather so that RAWs can be rendered consistently between programs if desired.
    – user134909
    Aug 17 at 0:33
  • "It is a profile of sorts for each camera or a global setting for the application?" It's both. Each app has a profile for each camera that defines differences in color filters and sensitivity. Each app also has a default set of instructions that are applied using the camera profile to compensate for those sensor differences. "Or is there a common library that is used for the math?" Not sure what you're asking here, but there is no common library shared across different apps. By changing the settings from the various initial renderings, you can usually get each to look very similar.
    – Michael C
    Aug 18 at 9:16
  • Gave you the approved answer because this was super informative! Thank you
    – user134909
    Sep 3 at 3:57

For me this is normal behavior. You have two teams which have different information about the camera characteristics, colour presentation, colour profiles, demosaic, etc. So at the end the result is different. It's not free against paid software because you will see different rendering of final image between Lightroom and CaptureOne too.

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    Thanks for explaining, based on the issue with this image do you have any suggestions on how to improve this distortion in light areas in the image? I have been playing around with it and got it close but it is still pretty blown out, and I cannot get it quite like lightroom. I will add my edit to the post :)
    – user134909
    Aug 15 at 6:13
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    @user134909, you can try to play with microcontrast. This may (or may not) balance the things. But IMHO you do not need to try to emulate LR view in Darktable. Just accept unique result :) Aug 15 at 6:18

This is completely normal. You cannot expect any two raw converters to display raw files in the same way by default.

All raw converters have some default set of effects that they apply to the raw data. Each of them was developed by a separate development team that made different decisions what would look good and natural.

There are certainly ways, in each of these raw converters, to apply various effects to get closer to the rendering in another raw converter.

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