Your digital darkroom

Ansel is an open-source photo-editing software for digital artists, designed to help you achieve your own interpretation of raw digital photographs.

Ansel screenshot

It is grounded in the legacy of Ansel Adams, pianist and photographer, who pushed darkroom craftsmanship like never before to serve his photographic vision.

The negative is the score, and the print is the performance.



Distribution-agnostic executable


Windows 10 & 11 installer

Build from source

Best performance for your hardware

Minimal recommended configuration :
CPU Intel i5 (4 cores) / 8 GB RAM / GPU Nvidia GTX 850.

The links above always point to the latest nightly build of the “fairly stable” branch. If you want a particular version or need to roll back, you can find all intermediate versions on Github.

Why Ansel ?

Many solutions already exist to produce ready-to-consume photographs for masses, from smartphones filters to out-of-cameras JPEGs, followed recently by AI-driven automagic applying caricatural dramatic toy filters. These make photography easier than ever, but are the produced images really your images and, in any case, the images you expected ?

Pressing the camera shutter merely started a process ending when the on-screen picture looks like the one you had in mind. Ansel proposes to put the artists back at the center of the creative process and enables them with an interface to manipulate images with precision and nuance, using state-of-the-art color science and independent color controls.

Ansel lets you interpret your raw photographs much like a music instrument, when most software tries to automatically play the score for you, but mechanically and soullessly.

What can Ansel for you ?

Ansel allows you to manage your collections of pictures, to edit your raw digital photographs and film scans non-destructively and to export the result to common file formats. It stores your editing histories as text and lets you go back in time at any editing step you like, anytime.

Color work

Ansel ships a recent color science, compatible with HDR : the chromatic adaptation CIE CAT 2016, the HDR color space JzAzBz (2017) and the perceptual color space darktable UCS 2021, developed specifically to manipulate color saturation without the fluorescent effect.

Color calibration
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Fix white balance and get high-fidelity colors in just a few clicks, by calibrating colors with a Color Checker directly in the darkroom.

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Give ambiance and character to your pictures by polishing their color palette with nuanced and fine-grained controls, in RGB, Ych or HSB color spaces, for creative and corrective purposes.

Color matching
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Force the chromatic adaptation such that any selected object matches a predetermined color, input from CIE Lab coordinates (for logos and brand colors), or by sampling the color of the same object in another shot, as to even the color rendition over the series.

Hue qualifying and keying
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Use the hue, chroma and lightness qualifiers to quickly define masks and apply selective effects. Combine parametric masks with drawn masks and boolean operations. Refine and feather the edges of masks by blurring or using clever edges detection.

Tonal work

The tonal working methods are designed to manipulate luminance without affecting hue nor saturation, in order to respect the color work, done apart.

HDR tone mapping
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Recover deep shadows and compress the dynamic range while retaining original saturation and hue, with gamut mapping to ensure the colors fit in the output color space. (Photo : Andreas Schneider)

Zone-system editing
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Balance densities based on exposure zones, by preserving local contrast thanks to an edge detection algorithm, and select the exposure zones to affect directly from the picture, through the interactive cursor. (Photo : Andreas Schneider)

Image reconstruction

Lens deblurring
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Unleash the power of multiscale, gradient-based machine learning to rejuvenate old lenses, recover focusing mistakes or add emphasis on your subject, but without the typical edge artifacts, over-sharpening oddities or added noise.

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Restore some depth in foggy and hazy shots by bringing back textures and saturation in colors, without overaccentuating already sharp details.

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Remove chromatic noise, soften and blend lumaninance noise.

Highlights reconstruction
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Salvage both color and texture in highlights, recover blown areas by propagating gradients while the gamut-mapping watches your back to ensure colorful highlights can still be printed at their proper hue. You don’t have to bleach highlights to hide problems anymore.

Specialized features

Automatic perspective correction
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Let the machine learning detect automatically vertical and horizontal lines and compute the best geometric correction to rotate, straighten and crop the picture, optionnaly taking into account the kind of lens used.

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Anonymize people, license plates, etc. and play with use conditions of socially prude network without defiling your pictures too much.



Ansel is based on darktable 4.0 and is fully compatible with darktable 2.x up to 4.0 database and XMP files. Coming from darktable ?


Ansel uses Rawspeed and Libraw to decode raw photographs. New cameras may need up to 24 months to be fully supported after their commercial release.


The software is integrally translated in English, French and simplified Chinese. Partial translations are available in German, Spanish, Portugese, Ukranian, etc.

Darktable, but better

Ansel is what Darktable 4.0 could have been if its developers were not so busy turning it into an usability nightmare. Ansel is a Darktable 4.0 variant where 30.000 lines of poorly-written code and half-broken features have been removed, and 11.000 lines rewritten : it runs faster, smoother, uses less power and requires less configuration. Enjoy an app focusing on getting work done and stability.

A software by Aurélien Pierre

On the following picture, I made the styling, the make-up, the lighting, the shot, the editing, the retouching, the software color filters, the documentation to use them, the website to talk about them in 2 languages, and even the colorspace used for saturation adjustment. You will find very few people with this kind of full-stack understanding of light and color able to also write efficient computer programs and read academic research papers on applied mathematics. Yet, you will find a lot of image editing applications and a lot of guys trying…

I have given 4 years of my life to the Darktable project, only to see it destroyed by clueless geeks playing code stashing on their spare time, everyone pushing his own agenda with no sense of design, in a project where nobody is responsible for anything and where we work too fast on everything at the same time. Ansel development is driven by results and achieved by proper color science throughout the pixel pipeline. Things are done at a pace that ensures the quality of the code. The design is based on the user feedback I gathered from giving individual editing/retouching lessons with Darktable over the past 3 years, and on the 2 user surveys I ran in 2020 and 2022. The software is only a mean to an end and it infuriates me when it gets in the way of creativity and productivity. Having one designer leading the project and managing priorities should hopefully prevent that.

Developing it still takes an average of 45 h/week for not even minimal wage, and if you think open-source imaging options need to be made better, well it will not happen by itself (and don’t expect the guys who created the problems to be the ones fixing them).

Source code

Ansel software and documentation are released under the GNU/GPL v3 license and versionned with Git. The website is copyrighted but still publicly visible. The work repositories are hosted on Github and are mirrored on Gitlab for backup.


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