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Infobank

Image download: Digital Photo Pro (DPP)

Are you shooting RAW or JPEG files? How much time you want to spend on your computer and how you want to use your images should determine which format is right for you.

Put simply, if you have the time and inclination to tweak your images afterwards on your computer, or if you are trying to extract every last piece of shadow and highlight information from your image, then RAW is probably the best for you.

However, your image editing software cannot read RAW files. Before you can work on them, RAW files need to be converted into readable files. Canon’s editing software Digital Photo Professional (DPP), which is provided free with digital EOS camera, is a user-friendly application that will convert RAW files to readable files.

Using DPP

Shooting RAW files is no different to shooting JPEGs. But when you get back to your computer and import your images you will find processing is quite different:

  • On opening DPP, you will see a series of buttons along the top of the screen and a folder tree on the left hand side.
  • Locate the folder into which you have imported your files and click on it so the images appear as thumbnails in the right hand frame.
  • Select the image you wish to work on and click the Edit Image Window button in the top left hand corner.
  • This brings up a new window with a selection of buttons along the top. These allow you to control the view of your image. For example, you can turn on a grid to aid composition or zoom between 50, 100 and 200%, or fit the image to the window.
  • On the right hand side of the frame you will find two tabs which give you a range of options to modify your image. The first tab called ‘RAW image adjustment’ gives you access to a brightness adjustment for modifying your exposure up to ±2 stops. There is also a white balance adjustment where you can either select from a range of presets or use a colour wheel to fine-tune the result.
  • If you have set up a fully colour managed workflow you can select either ‘shot settings’ or ‘faithful settings’ in the colour adjustment box. This ensures that colours are converted either completely accurately (faithful settings), or using the camera’s interpretation (shot settings). Unless you need to accurately colour match for commercial reasons, the shot setting is probably the best option.
  • In the next tab, RGB image adjustment, you have access to a tone curve adjustment. Here you can modify the tone curve of each colour channel, the red, green and blue channels. Brightness, contrast, hue and saturation sliders allow you to further change the look of your final image.
  • Should you wish to crop your image, DPP also includes a trimming function which is accessed from the Tools menu. There is a range of preset cropping shapes to select from, or you can leave it unconstrained so you can crop to any format. The presets are useful if, for example, you want to produce an A4 portrait print of an image. If you have several shots that you wish to crop in the same way, you can save the crop and apply it to future images.

The browser window with folder tree. Find and select your images here.

The Edit image window. Perform your basic RAW image adjustments here.

The Edit image window lets you view a histogram.

In the Edit image window you also have access to the RGB image adjustments.

The batch processing area of DPP. Choose your output settings and click Execute.

The trimming window lets you crop images.

Processing images

Once you have finished modifying your image, you need to convert it to a file format that can be read by other imaging programs. DPP gives you the option of either JPEG or TIFF (both 8 bit or 16 bit). To convert the image:

  • Click on Convert and Save in the file menu. This gives you the option of where to save the file, the file format, how much sharpening to apply and the output resolution.
  • If you want to batch process a selection of images you have worked on, you need first to select them using Ctrl+Click. Clicking on the batch process button in the top right corner will bring up a window where you have the same output options as single file processing.
  • Once you have modified an image, additional icons appear along the bottom of the thumbnail. These tell you what changes you have made. For example, if you have made an exposure compensation the icons will tell you how by much.

Feature packed

DPP is regularly updated. The emphasis is on functionality and ease of use.

One of the most notable recent additions is the copy stamp tool. This is a lot like the clone stamp in Photoshop. It allows you to clone out areas of dust spots in RAW rather than having to convert the image to TIFF or JPEG first. If you do not intend to manipulate your images in an editing program afterwards, it will save you time.

The stamp tool lets you remove dust spots.

DPP and Mac

DPP is fully compatible with Macintosh computers. Unusually, the Windows and Mac versions look identical, with essentially all the same features. Even the buttons are in the same places on both platforms.

Why rename your files?

Digital cameras assign file names to images in a sequential order to make them easy to find and organise.

If you do not want to keep the file names automatically assigned by the camera, there is a batch file renaming facility built into DPP that allows you to start the cataloguing process as soon as you import the files onto your computer.

For example, instead of a file name of _MG_7161, you could name it London001. This gives you a file name that actually means something, will speed up your file searching in the future, and eliminate the long number strings you tend to get from the camera.

RAW or JPEG?

Digital Photo Professional is a RAW file converter − you only need to use it if you are shooting in RAW format. However, although RAW offers some advantages, it is not necessarily the best option in all photographic situations. In fact, in some cases, shooting JPEGs may be more suitable.

RAW files are the equivalent of a digital negative. Just as with negative film, which you can print in many different ways to your own personal taste, you can modify the look of a RAW digital file after you have taken the shot.

When you capture an image with your digital camera, the image processor saves all the information associated with that shot − the colour space, sharpness, white balance settings, colour tone and contrast, among others. If you have elected to shoot the image as a RAW file, this information is stored as a header file, which is attached to the image. When you view the image, this header file information is applied to the image but, with the appropriate software, you can easily modify it. In effect, ‘re-developing’ your image.

However, you need to remember that shooting in RAW means you have to spend time on the computer afterwards. If you either don’t have the time or do not want to spend the time converting your images, then you will be better off shooting straight to JPEG.

When shooting JPEG, the camera captures the RAW file but then ‘develops’ it with the header file information − exactly what you would do on the computer afterwards in DPP. So why not just shoot JPEG all the time?

If you do not always get the exposure spot on or you are shooting in difficult lighting conditions, you will find the ability to modify your final result very useful − in which case you should be shooting RAW. Similarly, RAW should also be your format of choice if you want to extract as much shadow and highlight detail from your images as possible. That said, if you are confident that you get it right in camera, RAW will hold no real advantage.

Also, you should remember that with no compression, RAW files will be larger than JPEGs and will take up more space on your memory card and your computer. Shooting RAW will also reduce your camera’s burst rate (the number of shots you can take before the camera’s memory buffer is full) as the bigger files will fill up the buffer more quickly. This means that if you are photographing sport, for example, JPEG is likely to be best.