Logo für darktable von Klaus Staedlter, GPL

Here it is, the open source alternative to Adobe’s photo workflow software Lightroom – and Darktable is even a real challenger. Its greatest strength is the non-destructive RAW developer with 32-bit colour depth. In comparison, the popular open source graphics software Gimp is destructive and for a long time only worked with 8 bit colour depth. Non-destructive means that the original is not touched when processing the images. Darktable saves the changes for each image in XML files.

A typical Darktable workflow starts with the import of images from the SD card of a connected camera. In the lightbox view, the images can be viewed, selected, keyworded and marked with asterisks. When developing the images in the darkroom view, an exuberant number of modules, organized in groups, are available. Fortunately, modules that are not needed can be hidden. Also the pre-settings of each module can be configured as desired. Unlike Lightroom, Darktable also allows the use of layers. When exporting images, HDR image formats (EXR, PFM) can be selected in addition to “classic” formats.

Since version 3, Darktable has not only got a refined user interface that scales well even on giant monitors, but also a new color management. The developers recommend developing and editing photos consistently in the RGB color space to accommodate the ever-increasing dynamic range of modern digital photography up to HDR. For this purpose, the Input Colour Profile module must be switched to the linear Rec2020 RGB (or linear prophoto RGB) work profile.

The core of the linear RGB workflow is the rewritten Filmic module. In addition, according to an Article by Darktable development team member Aurélien Pierre, only the exposure, white balance and colour balance modules are needed to cover 80 percent of all use cases. However, the remaining 70+ Darktable modules are still on board to ensure backwards compatibility.

By the way, Darktable attacks the commercial competition of Lightroom not only under Linux. In addition to the OS-X version, a build for Windows is now also available.


You can install Darktable directly from Ubuntu’s official repositories:

sudo apt install darktable

Since Darktable is under constant development, consider to use an even fresher package source. The PPA of Pascal de Bruijn, Ubuntu’s official Darktable maintainer, has stopped working. In order order to provide version 3 and newer for various Linux distros, the Darktable developers moved to the OpenSuse Build Service:

VERSION=$(lsb_release -rs)
sudo sh -c "echo 'deb http://download.opensuse.org/repositories/graphics:/darktable/xUbuntu_$VERSION /' > /etc/apt/sources.list.d/graphics:darktable.list"
curl -fsSL https://download.opensuse.org/repositories/graphics:darktable/xUbuntu_21.04/Release.key | gpg --dearmor | sudo tee /e
sudo apt update && sudo apt install darktable


RawTherapee is high regarded and always improving RAW developer, but it used to crash sometimes. Digikam is a popular photo management software for KDE.