I have been a Photoshop user for several years now, a Lightroom one for over six months, I discovered darktable and today I first heard about RawTherapee.

From what I understand, Lightroom is (or at least, was) the go-to program for photographers, but in light of these recent 'discoveries' I made, I would like to know what the differences between them are. So far, I've gathered that:


  • Photoshop, Lightroom & rest of Adobe CC = expensive
  • darktable & RawTherapee = free?
  • gimp = free

I also assume that RawTherapee has some advantages in RAW capabilities judging by its name.

I have also heard (and started using) Adobe Bridge, which turned out much better than expected.

Also, what is the difference/usability/point in Adobe Camera RAW, as to me it seems similar to Lightroom, darktable and even is incorporated into Photoshop itself.

I do not want to turn this into an "iPhone vs Android" debate, where everyone takes up sides and says the other is terrible, because of reasons. I am a relatively new hobbyist photographer, and would like to know what the differences are like nowadays. Several questions have already been asked, such as this one, yet they are rather outdated.

All your help is much appreciated - perhaps some re-wording to this question is necessary.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, "tell me which one" questions definitely lead to the debate you're worried about. I think we might be able to do something along the lines of "What are the key differences between different RAW processing solutions" \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Apr 5, 2018 at 19:05
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ We might also get better results — each answer more comprehensive, at least — if we split this up into one question for open source software and another for proprietary. (I, for one, have used Lightroom, but can tell you all about darktable, Rawtherapee, and Lightzone) \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Apr 5, 2018 at 19:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm maybe I should just talk to you then :) Ok, I'll either rephrase my question or just ask a new one. I'd still like an answer though \$\endgroup\$
    – bearmohawk
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 6:16

1 Answer 1


Partial answer only (no experience with photoshop c.s.):

Darktable and RawTherapee are both "global" editors for raw files. With that I mean that all operations work on the whole image (or on rather coarse selections). Both are quite capable, and both need some experience to get the best out of them.

For edits that require very precise selections, or in general more complicated editing, you'll need the GIMP, which is a bitmap editor. With such an editor, it's possible to be precise down to a pixel. Also, it's the only one that has layer capability. But it cannot deal with raw files. (There is a plugin that links to RawTherapee for the GIMP).

In practice, that means you'll want both the GIMP and one of Darktable or RawTherapee. Note that to the best of my knowledge, Darktable is still in beta for its windows version.

None of these three programs are really useful for cataloguing your image collection, though. If you want a free program for that, have a look at Digikam.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Darktable is venturing off of this path, though, with a spot-removal tool.... \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Apr 5, 2018 at 19:10
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ But that's still a rather coarse selection \$\endgroup\$
    – remco
    Commented Apr 5, 2018 at 19:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm Synonym Nazi: Coarse (without detail), not course (field of study.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Stan
    Commented Apr 5, 2018 at 20:10
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @Stan Homonym Nazi: a synonym is another word with a similar meaning, a homonym is a similar sounding (or similarly spelled) word with a different meaning. In your attempted correction you're probably looking for the latter. :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 5, 2018 at 21:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SaaruLindestøkke YES. And like other thing nazi I was wrong. Great comment. \$\endgroup\$
    – Stan
    Commented Apr 5, 2018 at 21:45

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