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04-21-2022, 02:31 PM   #1
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(This) Idiot's question on Rawtherapee

I've tinkered with Rawtherapee a bit and I think it is the program I want to start using more as I prepare a few images for larger sized printing. However, there are also times when I feel like I haven't got a clue how the program works, or more importantly how I should be working with it. One challenge with the program as a whole is that there is so much to the interface, that simply tinkering with all the options is only partial helpful as you also need to remember where you found each useful option.


So here's idiot question #1:
Let say I open an image, crop it to what I think I want to print then do all my other changes to this contrast, sharpness etc. etc. until I get something I like. But then just before I print, I decide I want to use a somewhat different crop, but still retain all the other changes I made. If I go back in the history and readjust an earlier setting, it erases everything subsequent in the history. So is there a way to tweak something in the history while retaining all subsequent steps. I believe I understand snapshots which allow you to fork off future steps into different directions, although maybe they let you do more things than that. And related to this, say I want to apply a sequence of changes to a second image. Can these steps be saved and applied as a sort of "macro"?

I know there's a few tutorials out there, but if anyone knows of a good one that not only shows you how to do things, but why you might apply certain filters, that too would be helpful to me as I explore.


Thanks.

04-21-2022, 02:57 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by MSL Quote
I've tinkered with Rawtherapee a bit and I think it is the program I want to start using more as I prepare a few images for larger sized printing. However, there are also times when I feel like I haven't got a clue how the program works, or more importantly how I should be working with it. One challenge with the program as a whole is that there is so much to the interface, that simply tinkering with all the options is only partial helpful as you also need to remember where you found each useful option.


So here's idiot question #1:
Let say I open an image, crop it to what I think I want to print then do all my other changes to this contrast, sharpness etc. etc. until I get something I like. But then just before I print, I decide I want to use a somewhat different crop, but still retain all the other changes I made. If I go back in the history and readjust an earlier setting, it erases everything subsequent in the history. So is there a way to tweak something in the history while retaining all subsequent steps. I believe I understand snapshots which allow you to fork off future steps into different directions, although maybe they let you do more things than that. And related to this, say I want to apply a sequence of changes to a second image. Can these steps be saved and applied as a sort of "macro"?

I know there's a few tutorials out there, but if anyone knows of a good one that not only shows you how to do things, but why you might apply certain filters, that too would be helpful to me as I explore.


Thanks.
I've been using RawTherapee for a couple of years now. . . and I think I've just about got it figured out. It's one of those programs where picking up the basics is not as hard as it looks, but really mastering it is more involved than you would even guess.


Strangely, snapshots are not saved between RawTherapee editing sessions, or even when switching between photos during a session. This makes it impossible to use them in most of the ways that you naturally would want to use them. As I understand, making snapshots persistent is something that's been a goal for RawTherapee's developers for a long time, but it never seems to happen. Even more inexplicably, there's another editor which is a fork of RawTherapee, called ART, that does have persistent snapshots!

You might consider finding ART and giving it a spin. I tinkered with it for a while and then went back to RawTherapee, but maybe I just already had learned where the tools were in RawTherapee and didn't want them shuffled around. I might give ART another chance sometime too.

Back to your editing question. . . In the example you gave, I would make the new crop, export the image, then back up in the history to right before the crop, which would effectively restore the older crop value. But again, whether you are using snapshots or simply backing up in the editing history, RT will forget everything if you switch away from that photo!


To apply a set of adjustments to multiple images, you can use the copy-and-paste buttons in the upper-right corner of the window. An ordinary click copies everything you've done to the current image, but a Ctrl-click brings up a panel with a bunch of check boxes where you can check off the adjustments you want to copy and apply. You can also save these adjustment sets to disk as named presets, and load them as needed. The use of presets in RT is worth some study.


As for tutorials, RawTherapee is crying out for an entire book to be written on it.
04-21-2022, 03:36 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by MSL Quote
If I go back in the history and readjust an earlier setting, it erases everything subsequent in the history.
I've had many tries at coming to grips with Rawtherapee, and given up on it. I know some find it to be a good package, but I've never managed to get past it's cumbersome way of working.
I use darktable, and can change any setting in any module as and when I like, no such onerous constraints as described above.
If you haven't tried it, give it a try, but as with all software it takes a while to shake off wanting to do things the way you've become used to, but you might find it simpler to use.
You certainly won't have the constraints you've described.

Cheers,
Terry
04-21-2022, 04:39 PM   #4
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For cropping, it's simple. Just repeat the crop command. RT is non-destructive, meaning you can change a setting, change a different setting, then go back and manipulate that first setting a second time, and you'll see it populate the history tree as a new item.

The copy profile answer above works, but you can also right click the thumbnails at the top filmstrip and use the copy profile option there too. That way you don't have to fully open a photo into the editor to copy the profile.

The way I use RT is simply start on the first tab and work my way down. Exposure, lightness, darkness, curves, highlights, shadows, etc. Then go to the next tab and repeat. Once done, I'll look it over and go back to fine tune things if needed. In my case, cropping is usually the last thing I do. This works for 99% of my photos, and I only change the order if I have a specific need.

04-21-2022, 10:42 PM - 1 Like   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by MSL Quote
Let say I open an image, crop it to what I think I want to print then do all my other changes to this contrast, sharpness etc. etc. until I get something I like. But then just before I print, I decide I want to use a somewhat different crop, but still retain all the other changes I made
This advice is not specific to RT, as I don't use it......

My work flow involves processing the raw file in a raw converter (ACR or Silkypix DS Pro) until I get the image I want, then saving the image as a full size TIFF.

The TIFF file is then my "master copy", which I can return to anytime. If I am going to post on the web I will crop and downsize the resolution to a web-friendly size, and apply output-sharpening. I then save this as a JPEG, leaving the original TIFF unchanged.

If I want to print, I will crop the original TIFF and resize to the optimum PPI as required by my commercial printers. Output sharpening for print is applied last, and is always at a higher level than for web use. I then save this as a JPEG, again leaving the original TIFF unchanged.

Hope this helps.
04-22-2022, 12:41 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by tduell Quote
I use darktable, and can change any setting in any module as and when I like, no such onerous constraints as described above.
If you haven't tried it, give it a try, but as with all software it takes a while to shake off wanting to do things the way you've become used to, but you might find it simpler to use.
You certainly won't have the constraints you've described.
There is an excellent youtube channel which has a lot of instruction videos - one video for each module: Bruce Williams Photography - YouTube
04-22-2022, 10:01 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by tduell Quote
I've had many tries at coming to grips with Rawtherapee, and given up on it. I know some find it to be a good package, but I've never managed to get past it's cumbersome way of working.
I am one of those who generally likes it but will agree that it is a monster of a program to master with lots of knobs and options to play with. That said I am someone who has spent most of my adult life working on the very esoteric detailed aspects of systems so clunky GUI interfaces often are a dramatic improvement over the command line, and yes I still do some image editing from the command line as there are some tools that still really are command line only to get the best out of them (enfuse and starnet++).

04-22-2022, 10:50 AM - 1 Like   #8
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To manage multiple edits and tests you need to save and load pp3 files.

An important design choice in RT is not to use a database and rely on your file system. This includes forking edits and having multiple versions. There are robustness and flexibility advantages to this way of working. Particularly for advanced users. You can move rename and manage pp3 files with your operating system file manager and other tools. Remember that the default pp3 file that is active when opening the file has the same basename as the raw file.

When you have reached a point in your edit and want to try something else like export to different crop, try black and white etc you should save the pp3 file. I suggest appending descriptive text before the pp3 extension. If your raw file is named 22022_0320-Session01.DNG i suggest naming such as this. This means you can find the right one when you need it.

22022_0320-Session01_BW.pp3
22022_0320-Session01_square-crop.pp3
22022_0320-Session01_lighter-edit.pp3
22022_0320-Session01_lighter-high-contrast.pp3

At any point you can then load the pp3 to switch between edits. Remember to have the Processing profile "fill mode" set to replace or append according to your requirements. You manage pp3's using the Processing profiles menu in the Editor. Folder, disc, copy and paste icons. By ctrl clicking the load and save buttons you can save and load *partial* pp3's a grid of checkboxes will appear enabling only certain settings to be saved and loaded. Once finalized you can move the superceded edits to an archive folder. You can also organize your saved edits hierarchically in folders and subfolders anywhere on your harddrive if you prefer a less cluttered file system.

A key thing to realize is that you really don't need to be familiar with more than a fraction of the tools. Forget the ones you don't understand until you need them or have the time and energy to explore them. RT has a multitude of ways to approach a single problem. Pick one until you feel the need to change.

Last edited by house; 04-22-2022 at 10:57 AM.
04-25-2022, 06:36 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Tony Belding Quote
Back to your editing question. . . In the example you gave, I would make the new crop, export the image, then back up in the history to right before the crop, which would effectively restore the older crop value. But again, whether you are using snapshots or simply backing up in the editing history, RT will forget everything if you switch away from that photo!
If I understand this correctly, I would still lose everything I did after the crop, which in the example I gave is what I'm trying to avoid.

QuoteOriginally posted by Tony Belding Quote
To apply a set of adjustments to multiple images, you can use the copy-and-paste buttons in the upper-right corner of the window. An ordinary click copies everything you've done to the current image, but a Ctrl-click brings up a panel with a bunch of check boxes where you can check off the adjustments you want to copy and apply. You can also save these adjustment sets to disk as named presets, and load them as needed. The use of presets in RT is worth some study.
Thanks. These are features/functions I hadn't found out about yet, so very useful to know this is possible.
04-25-2022, 08:21 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by tduell Quote
I use darktable, and can change any setting in any module as and when I like, no such onerous constraints as described above.If you haven't tried it, give it a try, but as with all software it takes a while to shake off wanting to do things the way you've become used to, but you might find it simpler to use.
I've tried it once or twice, but I founder it harder to jump into than anything else I've tried. I think this is mostly because I haven't invested enough time into it yet, and to some extent, that was the inspiration to starting this thread as I was reluctant to commit too much time to either Rawtherapee or darktable if they both had significant shortcomings in the user experience.

---------- Post added 04-25-22 at 11:26 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by mir Quote
There is an excellent youtube channel which has a lot of instruction videos - one video for each module: Bruce Williams Photography - YouTube
Thanks for this, as I hadn't come across him yet.
04-26-2022, 07:23 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by house Quote
To manage multiple edits and tests you need to save and load pp3 files.An important design choice in RT is not to use a database and rely on your file system. This includes forking edits and having multiple versions. There are robustness and flexibility advantages to this way of working. Particularly for advanced users. You can move rename and manage pp3 files with your operating system file manager and other tools. Remember that the default pp3 file that is active when opening the file has the same basename as the raw file.When you have reached a point in your edit and want to try something else like export to different crop, try black and white etc you should save the pp3 file. I suggest appending descriptive text before the pp3 extension. If your raw file is named 22022_0320-Session01.DNG i suggest naming such as this. This means you can find the right one when you need it.22022_0320-Session01_BW.pp322022_0320-Session01_square-crop.pp322022_0320-Session01_lighter-edit.pp322022_0320-Session01_lighter-high-contrast.pp3At any point you can then load the pp3 to switch between edits. Remember to have the Processing profile "fill mode" set to replace or append according to your requirements. You manage pp3's using the Processing profiles menu in the Editor. Folder, disc, copy and paste icons. By ctrl clicking the load and save buttons you can save and load *partial* pp3's a grid of checkboxes will appear enabling only certain settings to be saved and loaded. Once finalized you can move the superceded edits to an archive folder. You can also organize your saved edits hierarchically in folders and subfolders anywhere on your harddrive if you prefer a less cluttered file system.A key thing to realize is that you really don't need to be familiar with more than a fraction of the tools. Forget the ones you don't understand until you need them or have the time and energy to explore them. RT has a multitude of ways to approach a single problem. Pick one until you feel the need to change.
Thank you for this detailed set of instructions. I was aware of RT saving .pp3 files as you worked, but I hadn't thought about reloading them, or even tinkering with them offline and reloading as way of tuning parameters and then reloading different ones.
04-29-2022, 05:40 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by MSL Quote
Let say I open an image, crop it to what I think I want to print then do all my other changes to this contrast, sharpness etc. etc. until I get something I like. But then just before I print, I decide I want to use a somewhat different crop, but still retain all the other changes I made. If I go back in the history and readjust an earlier setting, it erases everything subsequent in the history. So is there a way to tweak something in the history while retaining all subsequent steps. I believe I understand snapshots which allow you to fork off future steps into different directions, although maybe they let you do more things than that. And related to this, say I want to apply a sequence of changes to a second image. Can these steps be saved and applied as a sort of "macro"?
I think you've indeed missed the point of non-destructive edits so far: The history simply does not matter in the way it matters for image editors. The final appearance is only dependent on the settings in the modules, irrespective of how you arrived there. So you only go back to the history if you deliberately want to undo the changes in the settings in between. If you for instance applied some exposure correction, then a 'graduated density' filter (same tab at the bottom) and as a result of dimming the sky want more exposure correction, you do not need to go back to history to your exposure correction step, but simply drag exposure correction slider a bit further. This will show two changes in settings of exposure in the history, but it's only applied once in the processing pipeline, only the final exposure compensation value is applied.

Of course, it makes sense to tweak setting in a particular order: If you tweaked a L*A*B curve based on value (such as the CL curve), which comes after exposure compensation, and afterwards add additional exposure compensation this will make you LAB curve adjustments obsolete and you have to readjust the curve.

In your example however, you can change your crop settings at any time you want without going to the history, keeping all other adjustments intact. You will be able to extend the crop region beyond the initial setting - this is the point of a non-destructive edit.
04-29-2022, 06:34 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by JensE Quote
I think you've indeed missed the point of non-destructive edits so far:
I'm not sure I missed the point, so much as I hadn't gotten to this aspect yet. I started a separate thread about whether the order of operations matters, and while your answer is largely correct there are some exceptions for certain programs. See (This) Idiot's second question on Rawtherapee (and other non destructive editors) - PentaxForums.com

QuoteOriginally posted by JensE Quote
Of course, it makes sense to tweak setting in a particular order:
That's probably where my Third question will come from - i.e. the sensible order in which to make changes. However, I'm probably not going to post that one any time soon, as I know a few photographers have tackled this in various videos, and possibly in previous questions on the forums.
04-29-2022, 08:53 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by MSL Quote
I'm not sure I missed the point, so much as I hadn't gotten to this aspect yet. I started a separate thread about whether the order of operations matters, and while your answer is largely correct there are some exceptions for certain programs. See (This) Idiot's second question on Rawtherapee (and other non destructive editors) - PentaxForums.com
I'm afraid some of the answers in this thread here have muddied the waters regarding your question #1. The are two orders, not to be confused with each other:

A. The order in which you change your settings/values/curves in the modules. That is what's recorded in history. It does not matter at all for the end result, neither in Rawtherapee nor in Darktable. All that matters is the final settings/values/curves of the modules at the time you export your image. As explained above, there are more or less efficient workflows to arrive at the settings you like, but in the end, only the settings matter. (It is still a good idea to watch some videos to get an idea of what workflow makes sense.) You get precisely the same output, whether you go straight to the final values or your need 55 iterations of gradual adjustments. The final settings are applied exactly once, at the time of export. Therefore, there is no 'macro' functionality for history steps, but instead there is a way to save or copy the settings for some or all modules, called a '(partial) profile' in Rawtherapee or a 'style' in Darktable.

B. The order in which the modules do their computation based on your settings, to get from the raw image data (PEF, DNG) to the your final (TIFF or JPEG) output. There, the order matters for the end result, and that's what some of the posts have referred to, whereas you had asked about history, i.e. about 'A.' in question #1. Rawtherapee has a fixed (sensible) order for computations, Darktable has a sensible default order. I rarely find a need to change the module order in Darktable, but sometimes, especially with multiple instances, it helps to achieve what I want.


Your question #1 assumed you had to get back in the history (aspect A.) to when you first changed a setting in a module, which led me to the conclusion that you expected the order of changes to matter. But you simply tweak the settings to your liking, including crop in any order you see fit and only afterwards they get applied to the image on export. Of course, you do see a preview while you change things.
04-29-2022, 01:07 PM   #15
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Thanks @JensE for the detailed answer which makes it all very clear.

For background, when I was first tinkering with RT, I would go back in my history to tweak a setting thinking that order mattered, only to lose my subsequent steps. Tinkering after I started this thread showed me I didn't need to do this, as I could just adjust the dials on a particular tweak and it would adjust accordingly without losing the history. This is what led me to wonder about the order in which steps are applied to an image (your part B) and hence my second thread.
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