Sidecar Files - Processing Profiles

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Processing profiles (sidecar files with a PP3 extension for version 3, or PP2 for the older version 2) are text files which contain all of the tools and their settings that RawTherapee will apply to an image. Processing profiles come from two quite different sources, though they work in exactly the same way:

  • Bundled profiles come with RawTherapee. Their purpose is to give you a good starting point when you first open an image for editing. They are the ones you see in the Processing Profile Selector drop-down list in the Image Editor. If you are familiar with other raw processors, you may know their equivalent as "presets".
  • Whenever you edit an image, the tool settings you want applied to that image are stored in a processing profile that is particular to that image (ranking information, the history panel contents and snapshots are not stored in these files yet, see issue 473). The rest of this section deals with this type of processing profile though many of the comments also apply to the first.

By default, the processing profile for an image is stored alongside the input image (if you open "kitty.raw", a new file "kitty.raw.pp3" will be created next to it), but they can also be stored in a central cache. You can choose whether RawTherapee should use the cache, write the processing profile alongside the image, or both, from "Preferences > Image Processing". We suggest you store these files alongside your input image files so that if you decide to move the images you can move the processing profiles easily along with them.

Processing profiles evolve from one version of RawTherapee to the next. We strive to ensure backward compatibility, but this is not always possible. Processing profiles can gain new parameters or lose the ones that became obsolete. Tool behavior can also evolve, wherein default values change or in extreme cases the meaning of a value is interpreted differently; an example of this is the noise reduction tool, where a luminance noise reduction value of 10 in RawTherapee-3.0 would lead to a different result in RawTherapee-4.0.10 where the whole noise reduction engine has been greatly improved.

Consolidating processing profiles into a cache allows one to store isolated copies of the processing profiles per specific version of RawTherapee. In such a case, the cache can be used to re-process photos in order to get the same output as originally intended (but e.g. with a new size or output color space) using the same version of RawTherapee in which the image was originally edited. Whether this is desirable is debatable. Consider that you want to squeeze as much out of your raw files as possible. If a year later you want to go back to an old raw file, perhaps getting the same result as you did a year ago is not the best idea, because RawTherapee's capabilities would have greatly improved in that year, and your taste and skill would also have evolved. Nevertheless, by backing up whole cache directories when installing a new version of RawTherapee you retain the option of going back to an older version of RawTherapee in order to get the exact same result.

The File Paths article describes where you can find the "cache" and "config" folders on your system.

When releasing a major new version of RawTherapee, it may happen that we use a new suffix for the "cache" and "config" folders. This means that the new version of RawTherapee will not see your old configuration or processing profiles. Though this sounds undesirable, there are good reasons we may (rarely) choose to do that.

  • Backward-compatibility. There may be changes in behavior between old and new versions of a specific tool. For instance, the effects of the Auto Levels tool have changed (for the better) between versions 4.0.11 and 4.0.12, so if your old processing profiles had it enabled, the results in 4.0.12 will be a little different and may require tuning your old profiles. We tried to preserve backwards-compatibility where possible, but it was not possible to do that everywhere. This should not be a problem, because should you require an identical result you can simply keep using the old version of RawTherapee and use the new one for future work, and, more importantly, your skills and taste have evolved over time, so why would you want the exact same results you had years ago when you can do better now?
  • Some users have not checked "Preferences" in a long time, and their program is tuned for what worked best long ago, not for what works best now. Our defaults are good ones, we keep them up to date to make RawTherapee look and function well out-of-the-box, so sometimes having RawTherapee start with fresh defaults is a good thing, and it will motivate users to look into "Preferences" again.
  • Some users have never looked inside "Preferences" in the first place, and are unaware of some of the features that can be unlocked there. As above, fresh defaults will activate these things.
  • Some old cache and config files can cause RawTherapee to crash. While we patch the specific cases made known to us, it is safe to assume there will always be cases unknown to us which will still cause instability. Starting with clean cache and config folders mitigates this problem.

Do note that if you process thousands of photos, this cache can grow quite large and possibly slow down RT loading times, so this is another argument for choosing "Save processing profile next to the input file" over "Save processing profile to the cache". If you do use the cache, keep an eye on it's size after a few months.