My Post-Processing Workflow in RawTherapee

I like to read a lot about how other photographers go about post-processing their work. So I thought I’d share my post-processing workflow with you guys.

Import

Image Capture
Image Capture

After having spend a couple of hours taking photos, I’ll import them to my computer. I don’t have any special requirements for importing photos, other than that I want to import the originals from the camera without any tampering by the import software. Since I’m using a Mac, I use the software that comes bundled with every Mac: Image Capture. It doesn’t do anything other than importing photos which is the way I like it. No bells, no whistles. It just works.
I just plug in my SD-card into my Mac and Image Capture will import them for me to my Imports-folder.

Rename

XnView
XnView

The first thing I do after import is renaming all the filenames of the photos. For that I use the batch rename function of XnView. The new filenames will contain the following information:

  • The date and time the photo was taken in the following format: YYYY-mm-dd H.M.S, taken from the exif-data
  • The name of the location or event
  • My own name (so much for modesty… 😎 )
  • The original filename from the camera.

File naming structure

I always retain the original filename set by the camera. Once in a while knowing the original filename comes in very handy. Typically when I’ve done something very, very stupid. 😳

Delete, delete, delete…

Next is the hardest part of the process: deleting all of the bad and mediocre photos. This typically leaves me with 1 or 2 keepers. The rest goes directly to the trash 🚮. Again, XnView comes in very handy. It lets you assess your photos by displaying them nice and big on your screen.

Sometimes I wait a couple of days before I begin deleting photos. I often have good memories tied to a photo that’s only so-so. Waiting a couple of days helps seeing things in perspective.

Convert to DNG

DNG
DNG

The remaining photos I then convert to DNG (digital negative) with Adobe DNG Converter, a free application.

As you might know, there is a lot of disagreement between photographers about whether or not one should convert RAW-files to DNG. There are good arguments in favor of both sides, but for me the the most important reason is that converting to DNG assures me that I will be able to use my files well into the future. I have RAW-files from Nikon, Canon and Olympus cameras and in the future I might buy a camera from a lesser known brand. While RAW-file support for Nikon and Canon will likely be available for a long time, I’m not so sure about the support for Olympus and – for example – Ricoh* cameras.

So for me converting to DNG is all about being future proof and apart from that, I have good experiences with using DNG.

I do keep the original RAW-files, though.

Organize

I then organize my photos by moving the files to my photography folder and placing them in sub-folders organized by location. When the photos are shot in The Netherlands, I file them by town or city, but when the photos are taken abroad, I file them by country.

RawTherapee

RawTherapee
RawTherapee

Finally it’s time for the real fun stuff: post-processing. For post-processing I use RawTherapee. I did use Lightroom in the past, but I got fed up by its sluggishness.
I don’t own the newest computer, but it’s still pretty fast compared to what’s put on the market today. Lightroom is too slow for my taste and it has always been slow for me, even when my computer was one of the fastest around.
Apart from the sluggishness, I really didn’t like Lightroom’s cataloging system. I really like to handle my files myself.

RawTherapee is a very, very powerful RAW-image processing application and it’s completely free to use. You can install it on your computer whether you’re using Windows, MacOS, or Linux.

RawTherapee in Action
RawTherapee in Action

RAW-Tab

I first visit the second-last tab, which is the RAW-tab. I’ll leave the defaults on, but I pay special attention to the chromatic aberration correction, especially when working with color photos. In most cases, just leaving the Auto-correction box checked is fine, but sometimes it’s worthwhile experimenting with the reds and blues sliders.

Transform-Tab

Subsequently, I visit the Transform-Tab. When your camera and lens models are known, you won’t have to tinker with the Profiled Lens Correction or the Distortion Correction. However, sometimes you can achieve nice effects when you play around with the different options at hand.
The Transform-Tab is also the place where you can crop your image. Guides like the Rule of Diagonals, the Rule of Thirds, Golden Triangles or Harmonic Means etc. are very handy when looking for the perfect crop.

Color-Tab

Luminance Equalizer
The Luminance Equalizer

On the Color-Tab I set the white balance, but most of the time I convert my image to black and white there. When converting to black and white I really love the Luminance Equalizer!

Exposure-Tab

On the exposure tab you can use two tone curves simultaneously (🤩🤩🤩) to adjust the blacks, shadows, highlights and whites. I use the first tone curve to create a nice contrast, which gives the image a lot of punch. The second curve I use to fine tune the image.

Detail-Tab

On the Detail-Tab, I adjust the sharpening and apply noise reduction. These tools didn’t do much for me in Lightroom, but in RawTherapee I really get fine results!

Meta-Tab

On the Meta-Tab you can edit the Exif and IPTC-data. To be honest, most of the time I don’t really bother. My copyright information is added in-camera and the rest doesn’t really interest me.

Export

When I’m done processing the image, I export the photo in the desired file format. I always export to a subfolder of the folder the RAW-file resides in.

The Gimp

The Gimp
The Gimp

When I need to do some local adjustments, I have The Gimp as a backup. To be honest, I’ve only once needed to make a local adjustment on a street photo. I do use The Gimp a lot for my personal/family photography.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article. Please tell me about your post-processing workflow in the comments below…

Sander

* Yes, Ricoh does use a DNG-format for its RAW-files, but it does differ from the Adobe DNG.

2 thoughts on “My Post-Processing Workflow in RawTherapee

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