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I am looking for an alternative to Mac Photos and have stumbled upon darktable. I've played around with it and sort of have the hang of how to select pictures in lighttable and how to edit them in darkroom. But now looking at a pile of pictures and trying to replicate the flow I have used in Photos, I'm realizing one key piece is missing. I don't want to individually enhance each picture. I want some sort of algorithm to analyze each picture and determine the best way to enhance it for me. Photos has this feature and I think it works really well for my very basic needs. You just select a picture and push a button and boom the picture looks "better". Sometimes I need to do more than it can do or undo something I don't like. But maybe 95% of the time it works for me.

Note that nearly all of my images are taken as JPEGs from either my phone, a waterproof camera, or my Sony α6000. I'm not using RAW and don't plan to.

Is there some similar module that I could add to darktable to do this same sort of thing? Or is there an alternative product I should consider that would do that for me?

I know some will comment that I should use RAW or that I should edit each picture individually but it's just not going to happen. That's not the level of effort / interest I have in photography, sorry (not sorry)! My needs are basic and my time is limited so I'm looking for the simple/quick/easy way to improve the pictures. And maybe Mac Photos is as good as it gets so I should stick with that. But if not (and hopefully not), somebody has a suggestion about a better way to go with darktable or something else. Thanks!

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I'm afraid if you are looking for a one-click-and-be-done feature, darktable might not be the right application for you. It has a few functions for automatic white balance or exposure adjustment but that's it. Its strength lies more with the high level of control that you get over all the adjustments but to my understanding that is quite the opposite of what you are looking for.

That said, there are some things you can do with darktable to speed up the processing:

  • If you have a series of photos taken under the same conditions, you can save some time by editing only one of them and then copying the adjustments to all the others (using the "copy" and "paste" buttons of the "history stack" panel in the lighttable view).
  • Use built-in presets (via the hamburger menu icon of the module). Many modules already have some very useful built-in presets. For example I found that the "clarity" preset of "contrast equalizer" often works very well for enhancing JPEGs (you can adjust the strength via the "mix" slider after applying the preset). Likewise the "diffuse or sharpen" module has several good presets for sharpening or adjusting local contrast, "color balance rgb" has presets for various levels of saturation and so on.
  • If you happen to often apply the same settings for some modules (e.g. for saturation or contrast enhancement), you can save these settings as a custom presets and even have them automatically applied on your new photos.
  • If you have a combination of modules with certain settings that you want to reuse, you can save them as a "style" (see the "styles" panel in lighttable).
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for detailing those features. I had already successfully figured out the copy/paste history and found that worked well for when the pictures were all taken in the same conditions. But the thing I'm looking for is a "smart" auto-enhance. Something that can analyze each picture to see what adjustments would be best for just that picture. And therefore, not only does copy/paste require an initial first picture manual tweaking but then wouldn't necessarily work as well on each subsequent picture. \$\endgroup\$
    – ktbos
    Mar 14, 2023 at 13:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ The hope is that somebody knows of a "module" add-in for darktable that has that ability to analyze a picture and apply the right settings. Or failing that, an alternative software that has that sort of capability. \$\endgroup\$
    – ktbos
    Mar 14, 2023 at 13:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think such a smart auto-enhance feature is somewhat contrary to the philosophy behind darktable, so you will likely find a more satisfying solution with an other application (I don't know one that I could recommend, though). \$\endgroup\$
    – luator
    Mar 14, 2023 at 14:10
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There’s nothing like that in Darktable.

It is a different type of tool for other workflows. Indeed it has quite the opposite intent of the kind of app you are currently using because it lacks builtin easy buttons and modules designed to be good-enough.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That's not a lack. That's a feature. [grin] \$\endgroup\$ Mar 20, 2023 at 13:02

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