Beginner photographers and retouchers who are looking for free alternatives to Adobe subscription software until their hobby turns into a freelance business, may be delighted to know that Darktable, a free open-source alternative to Adobe Lightroom previously only available on Linux and MacOS, is now also available in Windows.
It is not perfect yet, but for a price point of $0.00, its users can probably tolerate the few patches, bugs and limitations.
How Darktable Shapes Up Against Lightroom
Its users report the following:
- The system is stable despite the aforementioned issues;
- The system stands out compared to other free options. The dashboard becomes littered at times, which is irritating when you don’t quite know what you are looking for yet. However, one can learn their way around it fairly fast;
- Darktable is almost a clone of Lightroom. The various tools group logically, and there are sliders to make changes to the images. Let’s just say Adobe Lightroom inspired it. Once you get your mind around it, you’ll most likely start thinking, hey, this is actually more streamlined and simple;
- When the systems are compared side-by-side, you can notice some subtle differences in image brightness, though;
- Darktable has a built-in invert module, which allows you easily convert negative scans into positive images. Lightroom does not have such a feature;
- Even though the interface is a bit different, you are able to do much of the same edits you would be able to in Lightroom;
- While Lightroom is more feature rich, Darktable is a fantastic program and you don’t have to pay a subscription fee to Adobe.
A List of Darktable Feature Highlights
You can check its online user manual if you are interested, but for now we’ll summarize the basics:
- Non-destructive editing, just like in Adobe Lightroom;
- Core functions are on 4×32-bit floating pixel buffers;
- The system is fast due to GPU accelerated processing;
- Color management supports a variety of applications;
- The system is available in 21 popular languages. There are 61 User Manuals: you can take your pick from Albanian, Catalan, Czech, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese (Brazilian and Portuguese), Russian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, and Ukrainian.
Image Editing Operations:
- Image adjustments by saturation, brightness, contrast;
- Highlight darkening, and shadow lightening;
- Rotate and crop to improve image perspective;
- Basecurve presets for major camera brands;
- Sliders to simulate exposure controls;
- Three ways for white balance adjustments.
There’s much more to learn in terms of tone and color adjustments, as well as special effects, and if this raised your curiosity, you can learn more directly from the suppliers: General Features.
Final Thoughts, But Just for Now
While Darktable isn’t an Olympic champion yet, it is a definite runner. It is not likely to replace Lightroom any time soon, however, with an off-the-shelf price of $0.00, it is definitely worth considering if on a tight budget.