OSXcellence – Darktable Review

The photo library genre of app is stronger now than it has ever been, with Adobe and Apple adding more and more features to their respective flagship software, Lightroom and Aperture. So all-singing and all-dancing are these heavyweights, that many editing apps have been made redundant, their features being replicated and integrated into these mammoth photo organisers. But with this increase in functionality comes an increase in price; what if you want something that will process your RAW files and allow you to organise your pictures, without having to take out a mortgage to afford it? Perhaps you should look at darktable.

Despite being an open source project, darktable looks the business. The interface is sort of….well, dark really. It also happens to be clear and highly usable. But how darktable looks is very much a by-the-by, because the real interest here is the amazingly powerful array of organisation and editing tools.

Once you’ve imported your images to darktable, you are presented with a bewildering number of organisation options; from keywords, to collections, to image exposure comparison, there shouldn’t be a time when you can’t find the image you’re after. All the standard organisation functions found in more expensive offerings are present and correct, though, like star ratings and colour labelling, and I have to say, all of these functions work incredibly smoothly and rapidly.

And then there’s the RAW editing – wow! Darktable is equipped with an incredible number of adjustments, including tone mapping, low/high pass filtering and colour zoning. I’m not getting carried away here, there really is a vast number of adjustments available. It is tempting to say that you get lost in this sea of features, but that would be unkind to the developers – the navigation is very Lightroom-like, and only the sheer volume of options is any cause for confusion.

As with other library apps, tethered shooting and geolocation are also integrated, and work as well as any app, at any price, you’d like to mention.

I’m astonished by darktable, and I wonder why I haven’t heard of it before. It is an extremely polished product, producing great results, and built to encompass the best bits of Aperture, Lightroom and Capture One. I’ll admit there is the odd feature lacking; Aperture‘s loupe, for example, would be nice, although an equally brilliant solution is integrated – if you’re using a trackpad/Magic Mouse etc, you simply scroll to zoom in and out, which, might I add, is an operation completed by darktable with ease. In fact, darktable never once told me that it was “loading” or “processing.”

I seriously recommend you give darktable a try – it is every bit as good as any of the software giants’ offerings, yet it is free.


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Mark Myerson loves photography, and in particular, hanging around waterfalls! Landscapes and nature have always been his staple, but he relishes any opportunity to take pictures. He also works closely with many local charities, regularly providing photographic coverage of fundraising events.

Mark is also a self-confessed tech-head and OSX lover – Apple is his favourite fruit!

Mark is the owner of Mark Myerson Photography, a Devon-based business that provides a large variety of photographic services to the local community and beyond. Whilst Mark Myerson Photography specialises in event, commercial and pet photography, almost every type of photographic assignment has been covered by the company.

If you have any photography or OSX-related questions, you can contact Mark via the links given below.

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