import, rate & tag images

When you want to edit some new images in darktable, the first step is to import them. This will create entries for the imported images in darktable’s library database so it can keep track of the changes you make to them. There are two main methods for importing images:

import images from the filesystem
You can import a single image or a directory full of images (optionally recursing through subdirectories) from the filesystem. When importing images, darktable will read the image’s internal metadata and any accompanying XMP sidecar file. If an image has already been imported, it will be ignored (though any updates to the sidecar file will be loaded). The location of each image is recorded in the library database, but darktable will not copy or move the files anywhere. If you want a program that will copy files into a specific directory, you can use a separate program like rapid photo downloader for this.
import images from a camera
To import images from a camera, first connect the camera to your system with a USB cable. If your system tries to automount the camera’s files, you should choose to abort the mount operation, otherwise the camera cannot be accessed from within darktable. If you don’t see your camera listed in the import module, press the “scan for devices” button. Once your camera is detected the import module should offer the ability to import images or tether your camera while shooting. Unlike when importing of images from the filesystem, darktable will physically copy files imported from the camera into a specified directory following the file naming pattern defined in preferences > import.

Once images are imported, they will appear in the lighttable view. By default, the images will all be given a one-star rating.

There are many different ways to manage a set of newly imported photos, such as giving them tags and adjusting their ratings. Please refer to the lighttable section of this guide for a full list of digital asset management features.

One example workflow might be:

  1. Set the lighttable view to show photos with exactly a 1 star rating.
  2. Perform a quick first-level screening of your photos. If any photos are badly out-of-focus or otherwise useless, reject them with the R key, or give them a 0-star rating. If a photo looks reasonable and should pass to the next phase, press 2 to give it a 2 star rating. Any photos that no longer have a 1 star rating will automatically disappear from view. Continue in this manner until you have completed the first level of assessment.
  3. Now set the lighttable view to show only photos with exactly a 2 star rating. Go through these photos more carefully, and decide whether to promote them to a 3 star rating, or put them back down to a 1 star or rejected rating.
  4. You can now spend some time performing a quick edit on your 3 star photos, to see if they are worth keeping. If you are happy with the results, you can create a tag for the photo, and promote it to a 4 or even 5 star rating.
  5. Go through your 4 and 5 star photos, perform any final edits on them, print them out, publish on your portfolio site, etc. and bask in the copious amounts of critical acclaim you will receive!
  6. If space is at a premium you might want to consider permanently deleting your rejected or 0-star images. Select these images in the lighttable and use the ‘trash’ option in the selected images module. You should probably only do this on photos you are certain you will never need again (badly focussed, significantly overexposed etc.).