If you process photos, you will need to know the differences between the two popular processing software apps. RawTherapee and Adobe Lightroom have useful features for photo processors, but they have subtle differences worth comparing. After you see RawTherapee vs Lightroom, you will be able to decide which is the best choice for your photo skills

What is RawTherapee?

The open-source photo processing software called RawTherapee hit the web in 2010. The free software offered a top-notch, cross-platform raw photo editor that helped photographers develop raw image files. Newbies and veteran photographers used RawTherapee upon release. 


Photo by Caio Licensed Under CC0

Photographers appreciate the features in RawTherapee. There is a learning curve as in other software like Capture One Pro. But with patience and trial-and-error, learning to use the features and tools is manageable. If you have a question, you can ask the supportive photography community that uses the software. There are numerous tutorials and forums available as teaching tools, too. 

There are several features that users appreciate in RawTherapee. They include:

  • Dual demosaicing
  • Automatic curve matching
  • Automated settings to match camera settings
  • Using .DCP profiles
  • Noise-reduction tools
  • JPEG matching
  • Wavelets to help with image editing
  • Viewing previous editing moves

What is Lightroom?

When comparing RawTherapee vs Lightroom, Adobe Lightroom is the most popular photo processing software. Adobe makes this software, and they charge users $10 per month. If you want free photo processing software, Lightroom isn’t the software for you. But, the software does integrate with Adobe tools and storage systems, so that teams can work together seamlessly. 

Like RawTherapee, Adobe Lightroom does have tutorials and guides that help users learn how to use the software like a dark table. 

You can download Lightroom onto PC, laptops, and other mobile devices. When comparing RawTherapee vs Lightroom, more professional photographers turn to Lightroom because of the sharing features and tools. 

Differences Between RawTherapee vs Lightroom 

When looking at RawTherapee vs Lightroom, the number one difference is the price of the software. RawTherapee is free, while Lightroom offers several price points, including a monthly fee of $10. 

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Photo by Ana Paula Lima Licensed Under CC0

Comparing RawTherapee vs Lightroom

The two software apps include popular filters, fast processing, cropping tools, and adjustment brushes. There are subtle differences between RawTherapee vs Lightroom software, including the way they use algorithms to process photos. RawTherapee is like Lightroom and resembles a darktable. RawTherapee is free, and Lightroom free trial lets you see if you want to pay for the software. 

RawTherapee uses two demosaicing algorithms while creating 32-bit high-definition, non destructive images. The software can work with raw files and High Dynamic Range images. The software is incredibly fast, so you can render your images in real-time while also working with multi-frame files and pixel correction, too. 

Lightroom also has similar tools, and the software has several presets to make photo editing software processing faster. The real differences are user preferences, other than Lightroom’s better ability to work with raw files. Most users try both software, learn some skills, then choose a favorite. 

Accessing Presets in RawTherapee 

Because RawTherapee is open-source software, users can modify it for each other. One way they do this is by creating presets for each other. The community that uses RawTherapee supports each other, and the presets are available in the software forums where users also talk about tips and troubleshooting techniques. 

There are several other presets available from online sources. If you know what you are looking for, you search it and pick the option that works the best for your needs. You can also create and save your own presets. There are non-destructive preset software profiles for darktable photos. You can also choose to set your profile as dynamic

RawTherapee offers presets on their software website without rights reserved. These are free to use, like the rest of the presets. It is important to remember that you do not over-modify the image; otherwise, image editing quality decreases. 

Where’s the RawTherapee Manual? 

Because RawTherapee is an open-source software app, it does not have an official manual, making it challenging for new users to master the features and editing tools. 

Fortunately, users have created software tutorials, tips, and tricks for users of all levels. All you have to do is check the RawTherapee wiki for a PDF of the user-created software tips and tricks in several languages, including English. 

Users also created several video tutorials available on YouTube. The videos and manuals offer lessons for users of all experiences. It’s a good idea to experiment with the software on your own, along with watching videos and reading tutorials. Using RawTherapee will help you better understand it. 

Workflow in RawTherapee

If you have ever used Adobe Lightroom, you will see some similarities in the workflow when you first use RawTherapee. The features and tools are similar, so there isn’t much learning curve for dedicated Lightroom users who switch to RawTherapee. 

When you begin using RawTherapee, you open the raw file and double click on it to start editing. The raw photo does not change while you are editing, so you will never have to worry about destroying the original image. The rest of the process includes the following steps. 

First Steps with Colors, Exposure, and Detail 

Once you open the photo you want to edit, Raw Therapee does a bit of magic to match the image editing to your camera’s output settings. Then, you begin making changes in the Color Tab. This tab offers several features, but you should begin by using the White Balancing Tool so you can adjust the tints and temperatures. 

The next step is to work in the Exposure Tab so that you can adjust the saturation and compensation sliders. These two tools, Color and Exposure, are easy to use as you choose based on the image’s appearance. 

After you have the colors and exposures set, you move to the Details Tab. To work in this tab, zoom in 100%. Work with the power icon to manage the noise reduction of the photo. You should only work with your own photos, not rights reserved images. 

Finalizing with Geometry and Composition

The next step in the image processing workflow is to work on composition and geometry. Make sure you correct the lines with the “S” key. Rotate the image to the alignment that you want. The Transform Tab will help you with that process. 

After you have the image aligned, the next step is to crop it with the cropping tool. The settings might prevent you from achieving the look you want, so adjust those as needed. Then, downscale the image to make the file size smaller. 

How to Save Your Photo 

When you finish processing your image with the software, it is time to save it. There is a Save button, or you can press Ctrl + S to get the process started. 

There are default save settings that you can use, or you can adjust the software settings, so your settings save, too. Some users save the image as a PP3 file so they can take one and continue working on it at a later date. 

Final Words

If you enjoy doing your own image editing and processing, choosing between software like RawTherapee vs Lightroom is a matter of choosing free vs a fee. Both have software learning curves, but they both have online tutorials and videos available to users. You cannot get Adobe Lightroom for free, but you can get a free trial

The community that supports RawTherapee makes the processing tool accessible for users of all experiences. The sheer number of tutorials and video lessons makes the software and its features accessible. If you don’t know how to do something on RawTherapee, someone else has created a video or a written tutorial on the subject. 

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