Darktable trial for a retro look or style

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Darktable exercise

Lately I have been trying to learn some “new” RAW editors, including Darktable.  This exercise was an attempt to give a crowd shot (happens to be Scottsdale, AZ) the faded tones expected from an old print.  I also worked up this image in ACDSee, Affinity, and Luminar, but ended up preferring this Darktable output.

The big adjustment was to pull back the original saturation, plus contrast.  Darktable has both sliders in its “Basic adjustments” module, as you would expect with most editors.  Yes, Darktable uses the label “module”, instead of “tool”.
This screen capture also shows the other modules that were used.  Briefly, from top to bottom –
  • fill light – Odd choice of label, this module is not at all like the usual Fill slider found in other editors.  Unlike the usual Fill it can be set to a very narrow band on the tonal curve.  Plus the center for that band can be anywhere on the curve, not just the shadow end.  Plus the direction of the tonal boost can be either brighten, or darken!  So this is best described as a sweepable one-band brightness EQ tool.  Here I did use its darken mode to put some life back into a shadow that had been faded by the overall reduction in contrast.  I liked this better than trying to finesse the tone curve.
  • base curve – Basic tone curve.  But wait, it also has a list of presets that try to emulate various digital cameras.  With one click on that list you can set the overall tonal style for the image.  Really, just like the Camera Profiles found in other editors.  Very useful, without touching the tone curve itself.
  • contrast equalizer – Darkroom has a lot of unique tools that are very hard to describe.  I used this to perk up the highlights.  Versus the “fill light” that I used for the shadows.  I’m still not sure which tool (sorry – module) works better!
  • color look up table – Pick any color on the image and now you can tweak the brightness, tint, saturation, etc.  I used it to restore the faded skin tones.

So there you have it.  Darkroom is on its way to becoming one of my favorite editors.