Darktable vs. Lightroom Q&A (part 1)

category: darktable • 3 min read

Q: Is Darktable a free alternative to Lightroom?

Yes and no. How’s that’s for a waffle?

  • Free: Yes, you can download it from https://darktable.org. It’s free.
  • Is it an alternative to Lightroom? Yes and no. Darktable will process your images and even do a better job at it than Adobe’s Lightroom. Then why the no? Because it’s very different than Lightroom. Lightroom concentrates on make it easy by giving photographers less control on how to process photos. Darktable gives a lot more control to the photographer to process their images.
  • Darktable has the same concept of layers as Photoshop.
  • Darktable allows the photographer to choose the demosaicing (converting the raw image into a jpeg).
  • Darktable has pre calibrated noise reduction by camera and by ISO. If your camera is not calibrated, then all the tools for making your own calibration are there.
  • Darktable and Lightroom have the similar concept of virtual images, collections and smart collections, just the terms are different.

Q: How can get the same jpeg look in Darktable as with my existing Lightroom jpeg?

Simply: No! Even Lightroom doesn’t match previous Lightroom version. Adobe has tried to keep the newer Lightroom version compatible with the older versions of Lightroom but it’s not an exact match. It’s pretty close but not an exact match.


Because Darktable and Lightroom are different products that do things differently. The current version of Darktable does filmic and linear RGB. Darktable gives more more control over the processing than Lightroom. For example in Darktable, you can choose the demosaicing and the base curves. You can’t in Lightroom, Adobe decides, often it’s quite good but you have no control over it.

Q: Why is my Darktable image less sharp then my Lightroom image?

This happens when resizing (either shrinking or expanding) the image during the export. The solution is to apply some sharpening post re-size which Lightroom does automatically when selecting output for screen or printer.

Q: Why is Darktable so much more complicated than Lightroom?

Darktable is not more complicated than Lightroom. People are used to do things Lightroom’s way, then they deem any other way as too complicated.

I remember Lightroom version 1 and version 2. People had so many difficulties using Lightroom that Scott Kelby created a whole industry about writing Lightroom instruction manuals/books and teaching people on how to use Lightroom.

Youtube has a few people doing excellent work showing people how to use Darktable.

There are plenty of others. In Youtube just search for “Darktable”

There is also the forum: https://discuss.pixls.us/c/software/darktable/ where there are many extremely knowledgeable people willing to help.

Q: Is Darktable difficult to learn?

Not any more than Lightroom. You just need 4 to 5 modules. The rest can come later:

  1. Exposure
  2. White balance
  3. Color balance
  4. Filmic RGB

Q: How fast is Darktable?

Darktable is much faster than Lightroom on the better computers. Darktable takes advantage of the better and faster graphic cards. The better the graphics card, the faster Darktable will be, when compared to Lightroom.