Using Raw Therapee Post Processing Profiles

Posted on 21 March 2009, 20:04

I was having a chat with Mark, a mate of mine who has recently got into bird photography, about post processing and about RAW conversion in particular.

I suggested to him that – despite the de facto market supremacy of Adobe products like Photoshop – there were some very good alternatives out there, especially Raw Therapee (RT).

He told me that not only had he tried RT, but that he’d even downloaded my custom “PP profile” – but didn’t know what to do with it, or how to get the best out of RT.

He makes a good point. It’s all well and good for me to say “use my PP profile”, but it’s no help if you don’t know why you need it or where it goes!

Let’s do something about that, then…

RT is, and I make no bones about this opinion, a better RAW converter than pretty much any other out there in terms of ease of use and the quality of the end result: I’ve seen several reviews that concur with my experience that it produces more fine detail from files and with less noise, than Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) or Lightroom (which uses the ACR conversion engine).

But to get the best out of it, you do need to tinker under the bonnet a bit.

That’s where my custom profile comes in…

An RT profile is simply a text file which contains the starting positions for the various adjustment parameters within RT.

It is a topic of much debate on the RT forums whether by default (using the “Neutral” profile), RT “under exposes” images.

This is simply not the case, in my experience.

Yes, the Neutral profile is certainly too dark as a default (recent suggestions are that this is down to whether the image that comes off the camera is “Gamma equalised”, which makes sense to me), but the beauty of RT’s profiling system is that you can create your own profile to suit your RAW files, preferences and intentions which you can then select as the new default.

Simple and clever.

My custom profile can be downloaded here and I invite you to do so.

Once you’ve got it (it’s only a 2kb download) You need to know how to use it.

Well, User-created RT profiles are stored in:

Documents and Settings/[user]/Application Data/.RawTherapee/profiles

which is where you should save this file, with the suffix “pp2”.

Remember that PP files are just text files, so you can create a file in any text editor, populate it with your preferred settings and save it in the relevant folder as newdefault.pp2 (or whatever).

Next time you open RT, it will be available from the drop-down at the top left of the RT window.

It can also be made the permanent default simply by opening the RT “Preferences” dialog.

This screenshot shows you what to look for.

So you’ve downloaded and installed my PP file. What does that get you?

Well as I suggest above, the Neutral profile is far too subdued, so my profile adjusts for it without any noise penalty.

I can’t emphasise this point enough. Use this profile and you will get images that are very close to perfectly exposed in noise terms. Note that I do not use RT’s noise reduction at all.

You will also get what I have found to be the ideal “capture sharpening” setting for my files.

There’s not much else to it, really: it simply provides a very usable starting point for further adjustment of your RAW files which will – if you give RT a fair chance – impress you as a matter of routine as long as you’ve done your bit with the camera in the first place!

Then, if you’ve found some PP settings of your own that you prefer to the ones I use, it is simplicity itself to save them from within RT – either as a new PP file, or by writing them to the existing profile.

Told you it was simple!

What do you think?

  1. Ian Riches wrote on 16 April, 12:12 PM:

    Thanks for this profile. It makes things a bit quicker using Raw Therapee 2.4 RC2 with my 40D.

    One question though:

    With the default profile (which gives a dark image), if I untick highlight recovery, I get a very similar image to when I use your profile.

    When using your profile, ticking and unticking highlight recovery makes very little difference, even on a grossly overexposed image. It does do something – the histogram changes slightly – but the images do not change to my eye.

    I am misunderstanding something? Why does highlight recovery seemingly not work with your 40D profile?

    Thanks again for the profile. It’s very useful for my non-overexposed images.

  2. Keith Reeder wrote on 16 April, 02:45 PM:

    Hi Ian, thanks for your observations.

    I must admit that I haven’t noticed the behaviour you mention (presumably because I haven’t looked for it!) so I’m going to head off and have a play.

    And now that I have…

    I routinely use Highlight Recovery (one of my favourite RT features) and – using the Default profile (which I’m beginning to think I might have already edited in the dim and distant past, as it looks pretty good – it’s the “Neutral” profile that looks dark on my machine). I can see a very clear difference in highlights and shadows if I activate Shadows/Highlights and adjust the relevant sliders.

    I see the same effect on images using my own profile.

    I’ve posted up a couple of quick-and-dirty screen caps here and here showing the difference (which I think is pretty clear – although I could’ve cropped them better so that toggling between the two was easier!)

    This is the (already edited?) Default profile, but as I say, it’s exactly the same with my own.

    Which operating system and version of RT are you using, Ian?

    (Oh – and if the above seems a bit rambling you’ll have to excuse me – I’m off work with a really bad ear infection which has spread to surrounding skin and tissue in my neck and face, so I’m not at my best right now…)

  3. Ian Riches wrote on 17 April, 06:59 AM:


    Thanks for the reply. I use RT 2.4 RC2 on two machines – a Vista SP1 laptop and an XP SP3 desktop.

    I think we’re talking about slightly different things at the moment. You are referring to the shadow/highlight tools, which are generally excellent, but occasionally give me some strange artifacts when cranked up to high settings.

    I was talking about the option directly above that, highlight recovery. I’ll see if I can post some examples somewhere later.

    Hope the ear is getting better!

  4. Keith Reeder wrote on 17 April, 09:53 AM:

    Ah – sorry Ian, you’re right, I was on completely the wrong tack.

    I see what you mean about the other dialog: I’d always assumed that this needed to be ticked as a matter of course in order that the Highlights/Shadows tool would work – I was wrong!

    And to think - I'm always the fella that tells other people to RTFM..!

    As you say, on the Default profile, switching it off and on has a notable effect, but on my profile, next to nothing.


    I’m going to do some digging around under the bonnet and see what I can figure out.

    Thanks for pointing this out, because I’m bored stiff sitting in the house while my lug ‘ole gets better (which it is, slowly), and this will give me something to occupy a bit of time..!

  5. Keith Reeder wrote on 3 May, 09:01 PM:

    Hi again, Ian.

    Well I’ve tried to figure out what’s going on here – and I’m completely stumped!

    I have to say though that since you brought this to my attention, I’ve realised that the Default profile with the Highlight Recovery box ticked produces really nice results - not much help really, but it's good to know..!

  6. Steve wrote on 30 January, 11:43 PM:

    Hi. I am unable to download the file from the filesharing site. It the link only brings me to the main page. I would like to download it and give it a shot.


  7. Keith Reeder wrote on 31 January, 05:41 PM:

    Hi Steve,

    try clicking here.

    If you right click and select "Save As...", you should get it.

  8. Steve wrote on 31 January, 05:43 PM:

    Hi. I was unable to download the .pp2 profile file that you uploaded. I am looking for some .pp2 files for rawtherapee (I already have 2.4.1 installed).



  9. Keith Reeder wrote on 31 January, 05:49 PM:


    realised my mistake as soon as I posted, Steve – I’ve corrected my previous comment.

  10. Steve wrote on 31 January, 06:10 PM:

    Thanks Keith. I downloaded and just loaded it in Rawtherapee. I’ll experiment with it. Thanks.

  11. John Wright wrote on 14 December, 01:32 PM:

    Hi Keith,

    The link to your profile seems to be out-of-date, can you setup a fresh link? Thanks!

    BTW, is RT 2.4.1 able to read the 7D raw files?


  12. Keith Reeder wrote on 31 December, 09:41 PM:

    Hi John,

    yeah, my RT profile itself is miles out of date. I don’t use it any more – or 2.4.1 – precisely because 2.4.1 can’t read 7D files.

    You can convert ‘em to DNG first of course, but – honestly – RT 3 is so much better than RT 2.4.1 that, even though it’s still a little buggy (as befits an alpha software release, I guess) there’s no real point persevering with 2.4.1 IMHO.

    RT 3 has so many new and improved features (not least being some fantastic demosaicing algorithms and excellent noise reduction options – and in mentioning them I’m just scratching the surface) that 2.4.1 is history as far as I’m concerned.

    That said, I’ll see if I can find a copy of my 2.4.1 profile just for completeness, but I’ve a feeling it might be on my old PC…

    Added: I've managed to track a copy down. The article is updated, and it's here too.

    I do intend to write a piece about RT 3, along with a how-to and some hints and tips, but there’s so much going on in the software that it’s taking some writing!

  13. John Wright wrote on 14 January, 04:27 PM:

    Thank you Keith. I just read the article about RT3. I’m pretty excited to try it.

  14. Keith Reeder wrote on 14 January, 04:47 PM:

    Yep, and they’ve added another two highlight recovery tools since I wrote the piece!

    To be honest there’s still work to be done to speed up some of the processes (it can take longer than you’d expect to save a file as full-sized TIFF, for example) but honestly, in terms of what it can actually do it’s a thing of wonder.

    I’m going to write another piece shortly with some recommended settings for various scenarios (high ISO, blown highlights, banding noise in lifted shadows etc) so watch this space.

    In the meantime, if you fancy a dabble, this version has been fast and stable for me, and has most of the latest features.

    Ignore the DOS box that comes up when you first fire RT 3 up – it’s just there for debugging purposes.

  15. Dennis Suitters wrote on 19 June, 11:43 AM:

    Hi Keith, thanks for the awesome profile and tips. I do think though, that a lot of Linux (Debian myself), may want to know where to place the profile file.

    I had to search around a bit for where the settings a profiles are kept in Linux (Debian at least). I found them located in “~/.config/RawTherapee/profiles” (without the quotes).

    A quick “locate RawTherapee” in terminal should find it, for those that can’t find it in other distro’s.

    Hope that helps any Linux user’s who’ve been trying to load your profile.

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