Free RAW Editor: Raw Therapee

Raw Therapee (THe Experimental RAw Photo Editor) is a treasure for digital photographers who shoot in RAW. It supports many RAW files types from the most popular Digital SLRs, details on supported cameras can be found on their site.

Raw Therapee opens and edits RAW files. Just point it to a directory of RAW files and it will generate thumbnails of RAW files (and JPEG files) from that directory. Double click on a thumbnail to bring it into the main editing window. Now you can make a wide range of modifications:

  • White Balance
  • Exposure
  • Highlight Recovery
  • Shadows/Highlights
  • Sharpening
  • Color Boost
  • Color Shift
  • Luminance Curve
  • Luminance Noise Reduction
  • Color Noise Reduction

These are the main options on the right hand side of the screen. On the left is a history panel listing each change you make. This is very handy, it allows you to simply click on an earlier action to see what the image looked like at that stage. And if you want to revert to that point, simply click on that action and continue working.

Raw Therapee Screen Shot

It is not a great way to manage your photo collection, Picassa does a much better job of that, but it is substantially better at making adjustments to an image. My work flow still starts in Picassa to quickly review my photos. I then delete the hopeless images and pick a few for further editing in Raw Therapee. Once editing is complete in Raw Therapee, I save the photo as a PNG. This is easily done with the “Save Image” in the lower right corner of the application and can be customized in the program options.

My initial response is that it is at least as capable as Photoshop (I have CS2), but probably better for ‘developing’ and image and certainly a lot faster. But it’s not a fair comparison, Photoshop is designed to do more then develop a photo. Raw Therapee is really in the same league as Lightroom and Aperture. I can not speak to how it compares to Aperture because Aperture crashed the first time I used it and I decided I did not need that in a photo editor and ended my evaluation there. I did use Lightroom during a 30 trial and really fell in love with it. I would purchase that Lightroom if it were not so overpriced. It is especially annoying to know that Lightroom was based on a free application.

The million dollar question: how well does Raw Therapee compare to Lightroom? I would prefer to use Lightroom, it has a broader set of tools. But, I use Raw Therapee because of the price. It’s free, but a program of so much value, I am glad to give the developers a ‘donation’. It is still under development so it might well become a threat to Lightroom.

Raw Therapee is available for Windows and Linux.

P.S. I’ve moved my blog over to Blogger. And I have a section for Photography News and Reviews. WordPress and Blogger are both great and I can’t really say one is better than the other.