I just started using RAW files (to be more correct I set my camera to RAW+JPG). Then I opened the raw file in RawTherapee and without doing any changes I exported it in jpg next to the jpg file generated by the camera. I expected these two files to look the same, but they did not.

The one was a little overexposed and other had changes that I cannot describe. I thought that RawTherapee does not work well.

So then I tried Darkroom. I opened the raw file with Darkroom and exported in jpeg. This file also had a little different exposure compensation compared with the original jpg, and with the jpeg from the RawTherapee.

Then I also tried Photoshop and again got a little different image.

I expected all these editors to produce the same jpeg but they do not. Why is that ? I noticed that for the same raw file, they auto set different values for some of the parameters like exposure compensation, contrast, blacks, and other. Maybe there is some setting that I need to set to tell the editors to produce the jpeg exactly as the camera did or maybe I am missing something ?

EDIT: Inside the metadata of the raw file there is a tag MakerNotes. This tag contains nikon data that is described here: http://www.exiv2.org/tags-nikon.html It has a lot of camera settings that are stored inside the medatada in the raw file. So I tought that the raw editors can read this data and preset the sliders to this values as a starting point.

EDIT: I found this link that answers my question: https://photographylife.com/how-to-get-accurate-nikon-colors-in-lightroom

EDIT: I just found out that if you import canon or pentax raw file in lightroom it looks very close (not to say exact) to the image that you see on your rear lcd on your camera (the image that you expect to see) but this is not the case with nikon because nikon algorithms are proprietary and canon and Pentax gave the algorithms to adobe. So it seems that the issue is purely technical and just for nikon. There is a debate about this here: http://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/3197480?page=5


4 Answers 4


You can get different JPEGs from the camera, depending on the camera settings.

In many ways, raw converters are like film developers. It would not be reasonable to expect exactly the same results even from 2 different mini-labs printing the same negative, using the same paper and the same chemistry. But the sole reason for the existence of different film developers is to produce different images.

Every cameramaker changes their in-camera JPEG engine once in a while, sometimes between camera generations, sometimes with a firmware upgrade.

If you are not into reproduction, there is no right or wrong; there is "I like this more", "I like this less", "I do not like it at all",... There are also bugs, like premature clipping of the highlights, wrong black levels, incorrect midtone calibrations, poor colour transforms, ignoring sample variation. Decisions "in bad taste" happen too, (even) with the raw converters recommended by the cameramakers (that includes in-camera converters). Fortunately, off-line converters are rather flexible, and it is not hard to get what you want out of them.

If you happen to like JPEGs out of camera, you can use the recommended raw converter, as MBaz so rightfully points out; or you can try Adobe emulation based on reverse engineering of in-camera results, those are available under "Camera Calibration", in "Camera Profile" drop-down. Choose there something other than "Adobe Standard" and see how you like it.

  • Actually even more. In many cameeras you can enable optimizations that are applied to the JPG - while the RAW file is left unaltered. This can go as far as correcting shaddows (DRO on Sony) for the JPG. Processing the RAW file obviously will result then in a different image - until you do the same modifications to the RAW file in the processing software.
    – TomTom
    Nov 9, 2015 at 9:59
  • I think that the film analogy is not appropriate because film development is analog. In this case the difference is because of different values applied to the output from the raw data. It is theoretically possible to get the same image from different raw editors if the same settings are applied to the output. But as I understand different settings by different editors are used to generate the jpeg file.
    – darpet
    Nov 9, 2015 at 14:05
  • 1
    Inside the exif metadata, under MakerNote tag, nikon actually puts a lot of camera data exiv2.org/tags-nikon.html But I am not sure that the raw editors understands them in details.
    – darpet
    Nov 9, 2015 at 14:12
  • 1
    Another aspect is that software makers have to effectively reverse engineer the RAW file format that the manufacturer uses. In addition, I wouldn't say that the camera profile represents the JPEG - it represents the program manufacturer's view of a "neutral" image that represents the captured data accurately. (Simple case in point: Canon Picture Styles are ignored by every third party software.)
    – DetlevCM
    Nov 9, 2015 at 14:42

If what you want is to reproduce the same JPG the camera produces, your best bet is to use the RAW converter supplied by the camera's manufacturer. Each manufacturer has their "secret sauce" to produce distinctive JPGs. Most stand-alone converter, especially open-source ones like RawTherapee and DarkTable, do not have any insight into how each camera processes the RAW files.

Also, the automatic RAW to JPG conversion you're doing just uses each particular software's idea of what the default processing should look like, and their defaults are all different.

RawTherapee (which is what I use) has a number of processing presets you can apply to get slightly different results, such as vivid vs neutral vs subdued color. You may want to explore these and find the one that is most similar to what you're looking for.

Personally, I use a completely neutral preset -- the only processing it does by default is correct lens distortion.


When you take a picture with your camera it makes choices about how to process it. Think of things like white balance, contrast, noise reduction, etc. When it captures a picture it makes those adjustments and saves them as a jpg and throws away a lot of information. When you capture the picture and it is saved as a raw picture there is very minimal processing. Basically, that means you are expected to do the post-processing, so adjusting white balance, noise reduction, etc. So when you decided to export the raw without any adjustments you are exporting a flat unprocessed picture. If you like how your jpeg looks you might not want to waste hard drive space on storing the raw. If your jpeg file needs more advanced adjustments like recovering shadows,highlights there is a lot more latitude so you should be able to improve upon how the jpeg looks. I used to switch raw+jpeg for this reason. I decided to switch to just raw because I found that I was spending a lot of extra time deciding between keeping the raw or jpeg.


I just started using RAW files (to be more correct I set my camera to RAW+JPG). Then I opened the raw file in Rawtherapee and without doing any changes I exported it in jpg next to the jpg file generated by the camera. I expected this two files look the same but they did not.

Very false expectations.

Doing that simply fails to grasp the entire idea of shooting raw. The camera makes adjustments for JPG, such as adding white balance, and adding settings like contrast and Vivid, etc.

But there are no adjustments made to raw files. The whole idea of raw is that it includes absolutely no settings, so that we can choose those settings better after we can actually see the image, when we can see what it needs, and see how well our choices correct it, and maybe try other things too. This is a huge plus, and a big deal, but if you are not going to do that expected processing, then don't shoot raw. The entire point is that the camera does not automatically adjust raw files.

We make adjustments to raw images after we shoot the image, later at home, after we can see what we are doing.

We make adjustments to JPG in the camera, before we shoot the image, and hope it comes out reasonable, sight unseen.

I will offer this: http://www.scantips.com/lights/shootraw.html

  • > The whole idea of raw is that it includes absolutely no settings -- that's a bit too strong. Noise reduction may affect raw, ISO setting affects raw most of the cases, and settings like highlight priority, active D-Lighting affect raw because they indirectly affect exposure.
    – Iliah Borg
    Nov 9, 2015 at 2:37
  • OK, but those are exposure stuff. Yes, exposure does affect raw. However camera tonal adjustments do not. Yes, raw editors can have selectable defaults, always applied (not necessarily present or like the camera settings). Yes, Nikon raw software can apply Exif settings to the processed raw image. But Yes, the whole idea of raw is there are no tonal settings done until they are done in the raw software. Shooting Raw and then outputting JPG with no settings work is absolutely the wrong idea. We shoot raw because the settings later to make it perfect are so easy and good and fast.
    – WayneF
    Nov 9, 2015 at 3:22
  • We shoot raw for all different reasons. Noise reduction is not exposure stuff, by the way. ISO setting is also not exposure stuff; exposure is about capturing light, not about conversion factors. On a side note, "no adjustments" in neither universal, nor eternal truth. Nikon D1, for example, applies white balance to raw data before recording it. Raw is what a manufacturer calls raw. If you are insisting that raw data is not affected by any camera settings, it is simply not quite accurate.
    – Iliah Borg
    Nov 9, 2015 at 5:02
  • @darpet : D3200 does not apply WB to raw data, WB values are only recorded in metadata.
    – Iliah Borg
    Nov 9, 2015 at 13:13
  • @WayneF: I know that the expectation is wrong, that is described in the question. And why my question fails to grasp the whole idea of the raw file ? I did not said that the camera adjusts the raw file but asked why different raw editors did not produce the same image as the camera by default (just opened the file and export), when the camera settings are inside the metadata of the raw file.
    – darpet
    Nov 9, 2015 at 18:23

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