Digital Photo Professional: Canon’s image processing software
© George Cairns
Canon’s Digital Photo Professional (DPP) is a free, and surprisingly powerful, image organising and editing application that ships in the box with every EOS camera. You’ll find DPP on the EOS Digital Solution Disk alongside other very useful Canon developed software, such as EOS Utility. CPN writer George Cairns takes a closer look at the capabilities of the DPP software up to version 3.13.0.
If you consider your RAW images files as digital negatives then, like traditional negatives, they need to be processed in order to reveal their true colours and tones. DPP has all the digital darkroom tools you’ll need to claw back highlight or shadow details, banish colour casts and crop to improve composition.
Digital Photo Professional is specially designed to work closely with your Canon EOS camera and lenses, thus enabling you to correct more challenging problems such as chromatic aberration and lens-related artifacts such as distortion and vignetting. In this article we’ll take you on a comprehensive tour of the powerful features of this Canon image processing software.
Keeping up to date and setting up
At the time of writing the latest incarnation of Digital Photo Professional software is version 3.13.0, but it’s well worth keeping DPP up to date. The latest version supports new Canon lenses and recognises RAW format files from the more recent Canon EOS DSLR cameras. If you’ve got an older version of DPP already installed on your computer it’s free to update it. Indeed, if you’ve lost your software disk, you can download and install DPP for free.
To download an update for DPP (or install it from scratch) just click here for the Canon Europe Download Centre, then enter your country, product type and camera model details and select the ‘Software (drivers and applications)’ option. The menu will offer a variety of downloads such as ImageBrowser EX, EOS Utility and EOS Digital Solution Disk Software, so scroll down and click on the appropriate link to download DPP for Mac or Windows. While you’re there, you can also download a copy of the EOS Utility software. You will also find a copy of DPP’s manual, which will help you to further maxmise all of the functionalities of the software.
Once DPP and the EOS Utility have been installed, plug your Canon EOS camera into your computer. If you’ve already opened DPP you can choose ‘Tools > Start EOS Utility’ from the main window’s menu. In EOS Utility, go to ‘Preferences’ and choose ‘Linked Software’ in the drop-down menu. In the ‘Linked Software’ menu, choose ‘Digital Photo Professional’. Click ‘Register’, choose the file types that you want DPP to open as soon as the EOS Utility has imported them, then Click ‘OK’.
Quality control – ratings and check marks
As your digital collection continues to grow it can be an increasing challenge to manage it. By default most image processing apps display photos according to shooting date and DPP is no exception. However, DPP enables you to sort imported images by assigning ratings or check marks to them.
In DPP browse to a folder of imported shots in order to view them as thumbnails. You can choose ‘View > Large Thumbnail’ for a closer look, but to get a better idea of a shot’s quality choose ‘Tools > Start Quick Check tool’ (or click the ‘Quick Check’ icon). Here you can zoom in to check the focus – and even discover which autofocus point was used when capturing the shot. You can summon the shot’s metadata too, which helps you discover if a fast ISO speed setting is likely to add noise, for example.
You can use Quick Check to indulge in some quality control. Add a star rating (from 1 to 5) to highlight your favourite photographs, or assign a numerical check mark to sort shots by theme or type (such as landscape or portrait). Assign ratings and check marks to thumbnails in DPP’s main window.
Once you’ve rated or check marked your imported shots you can then use the ‘Sort’ menu to display the highest rated images at the top of the main window, or display them by their numerical check marks. You can also choose ‘View > Thumbnail with information’ to list metadata alongside each image. The handy histogram enables you to spot any images that might need exposure adjustment. You can also save specific files from any folder into the ‘Collection’ tab so they can be easily found later.
Processing your RAW pictures
After sorting through your photographs you’ll discover that some images may need a bit of processing to make them look their best. Although DPP will happily edit JPEG files you’ll get the best results by working with RAW files.
If you’re faced with a particular problem, such as a tilted horizon, then you can choose ‘Tools > Start Trimming/Angle Adjustment’. This enables you to quickly crop the shot using a variety of preset aspect ratios, as well as using the Angle slider to straighten any uneven horizons. An optional overlay grid enables you to see true horizontal and vertical lines so that you can adjust the angle with precision. When editing in RAW format you can restore cropped detail at any time, as DPP makes non-destructive changes to the original RAW files.
To access more of DPP’s RAW processing tools, click on the ‘Edit image’ window icon and then click on the ‘Tool palette’ icon. In the Tool palette you’ll find four tabs – RAW, RGB, NR/ALO and Lens – that will unleash a host of powerful image processing tools.
The RAW tab enables you to adjust the camera settings. The White Balance or Picture Style preset that you used to capture the shot is indicated by a little camera icon. You can use drop down menus to experiment with other White Balance or Picture Style presets and change the colours and tones of your shot in a couple of clicks. You can also manually tweak properties such as colours, tones and sharpness using the RAW tab’s sliders. Alternatively, you can warm up or cool down a shot and banish colour casts by clicking an eyedropper on an area that should be white.
Noise Reduction and Auto Lighting Optimizer
In the Edit Image window you’ll find a handy Noise Reduction/Auto Lighting Optimizer (NR/ALO) tab. This enables you to reduce chrominance or luminance image noise in either RAW or compressed images by tweaking slider settings.
There’s also an Auto Lighting Optimizer control that enables you to quickly auto correct problems with brightness or contrast. This tool does the same job as the ALO feature in your Canon DSLR (it is in all current EOS DSLRs), which is designed to even out contrast by selectively adjusting areas of the image. It is especially useful when using flash or with backlit subjects as it can detect faces in the frame and brighten those areas to achieve a better result.
ALO analyses contrast in captured images and modifies both shadows and highlights via tone curve adjustments to minimise loss of detail in contrasty light conditions. In-camera there are three levels of setting strength – Standard, Low and Strong – which can be used at any ISO speed, as well as the ability to turn the setting off (known as Disable). The in-camera ALO results can be further fine-tuned in DPP.
RGB and tone curves
One of DPP’s most powerful image adjustment tools can be found in the ‘Edit image’ window’s RGB tab. Here you can place points on a tone curve and then drag them up or down to change the shadows or highlights in an image. It’s quite easy to go over-the-top when manually editing points on a curve, so you can try and improve contrast automatically by clicking on the tone curve assist icons.
Digital Photo Professional’s relatively new Compositing tool (first seen in DPP 3.11) opens up some creative layering possibilities. After selecting your main image you can import a background shot and then use the Composite Method drop down menu to adjust the way the photos mix together (in a similar way to Photoshop’s layer blending modes).
Available from the Tools menu of DPP, the Compositing Tool allows multiple images to be combined with specific controls to determine how each individual layer will build on the ones lower in the overall composite. There are four fixed types of composites: Add, Average, Lighten and Darken, plus the useful Weighted option that provides precise control over which layer of the composite is more or less transparent.
In practice the Weighted option is often the most flexible setting. Image layers can be individually adjusted for position relative to other image layers, if required. You can use the Weighted slider to make one image more dominant than the other and adjust the position of the overlapping images by tapping on arrows. You can build up multiple layered effects by clicking ‘Continue’ and importing new shots.
High Dynamic Range (HDR) image processing
With some of the newer EOS DSLR cameras featuring built-in High Dynamic Range (HDR) imaging functions (first introduced in the EOS 5D Mark III in 2012), DPP additionally offers HDR image processing for all EOS camera owners. Similar to the in-camera HDR processing of the EOS 5D Mark III, the HDR command in DPP processes and combines three images to create an HDR composite. The source images for the HDR process can be captured using the camera’s auto-exposure bracketing function.
DPP’s HDR menu command has controls that allow fine-tuning of brightness, colour and details. It takes the chosen images and processes them using the default ‘Natural’ profile to produce quite subtle results. If the images were taken with the camera mounted on a tripod then they should all be aligned, but if the camera was handheld then the HDR Tool can be set to automatically align the frames.
Brightness, saturation and contrast sliders can be used to adjust tone and colour, plus strength, smoothness and fineness alter the detail enhancement, so there’s plenty of control over the final image. You can also select from different presets such as Art Standard, Art Vivid, Art Bold and Art Embossed. Since the presets change the settings of each of the six sliders they let a photographer quickly achieve their intended results. You can fine-tune any of the sliders once the preset has been applied.
In the Lens tab of DPP, there are two different tools that are designed to overcome a host of lens-related aberrations. Older versions of DPP feature a handy Lens aberration correction panel that targets and fixes problems relating to Peripheral illumination (darkened corners), Chromatic aberration (colour fringing around high contrast edges), Colour Blur (noticeable red or blue blurs at the edge of bright areas) and Distortion (curved lines at the edge of wide-angle shots).
Digital Lens Optimizer (DLO)
The newer versions of DPP software (from 3.11 onwards) also include the Digital Lens Optimizer in the Lens tab, thus enabling you to counteract a wider range of lens aberrations and, in turn, produce better looking shots. The Digital Lens Optimizer is a special kind of image processing that achieves ideal optical characteristics by processing optical aberrations, image softening due to lens diffraction and the effects of using a low-pass filter with a CMOS image sensor. Currently 64 different lenses are supported, in combination with many Canon EOS cameras. To get the Digital Light Optimizer (or the Lens aberration correction feature) to work, you first need to download your lens profile to DPP. Canon advises you to turn off any sharpening in the RAW tab before applying the DLO. You can then sharpen the shot, but you won’t need to sharpen it as much thanks to the improvement produced by the DLO.
Working with RAW images, the Digital Lens Optimizer is designed to correct seven types of lens aberration:
- Spherical aberration – image blur that occurs in the centre of the image.
- Field curvature – blurring at the edge of the image produced by the lens’ curved focal plane.
- Astigmatism – blurring in the radial and circular directions at the image periphery.
- Comatic aberration – colour blurring appearing at the edge of the image in a radial direction (like a comet’s tale).
- Sagittal halo – this appears in the periphery of the image as a circular blur.
- Chromatic aberration of magnification – misaligned and blurred colours at the periphery of the image.
- Axial chromatic aberration – this is mainly purple coloured blur that occurs in the centre of an image where there are strong specular highlights.
- You can apply the DLO by clicking ‘Tune’, ticking the Settings box and then increasing the strength of the slider. Click ‘Save’ when you’re happy with the results.
Lenses compatible with DPP’s Digital Lens Optimizer function
- EF14mm f/2.8L USM
- EF14mm f/2.8L II USM
- EF20mm f/2.8 USM
- EF24mm f/1.4L USM
- EF24mm f/1.4L II USM
- EF24mm f/2.8 IS USM
- EF28mm f/1.8 USM
- EF28mm f/2.8 IS USM
- EF35mm f/1.4L USM
- EF35mm f/2 IS USM
Standard and medium telephoto lenses
- EF40mm f/2.8 STM
- EF50mm f/1.4 USM
- EF50mm f/1.2L USM
- EF85mm f/1.2L USM
- EF85mm f/1.2L II USM
- EF85mm f/1.8 USM
- EF135mm f/2L USM
- EF300mm f/2.8L IS II USM
- EF300mm f/4L IS USM
- EF400mm f/2.8L IS II USM
- EF500mm f/4L IS II USM
- EF600mm f/4L IS II USM
- EF16-35mm f/2.8L USM
- EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM
- EF17-40mm f/4L USM
- EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM
- EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM
- EF24-70mm f/4L IS USM
- EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM
- EF28-70mm f/2.8L USM
- EF28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM
- EF28-200mm f/3.5-5.6 USM
- EF28-200mm f/3.5-5.6
- EF28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM
- EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM
- EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM
- EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM
- EF70-200mm f/4L USM
- EF70-200mm f/4L IS USM
- EF70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM
- EF70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM
- EF70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM
- EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM
- EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM EXTENDER 1.4x
- EF100mm f/2.8 Macro USM
- EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM
- EF-S10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM
- EF-S15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM
- EF-S17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM
- EF-S17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM
- EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 II USM
- EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 USM
- EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 III
- EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 II
- EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
- EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II
- EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
- EF-S18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
- EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM
- EF-S18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
- EF-S18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM
- EF-S55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS
- EF-S55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II
- EF-S55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM
- EF-M11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM
- EF-M18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM
- EF-M22mm f/2 STM
Cameras compatible with DPP’s Digital Lens Optimizer function
- EOS-1D C
- EOS-1D X
- EOS-1D Mark IV
- EOS-1Ds Mark III
- EOS-1D Mark III
- EOS-1D Mark II N
- EOS-1Ds Mark II
- EOS-1D Mark II
- EOS 5D Mark III
- EOS 5D Mark II
- EOS 5D *1
- EOS 6D
- EOS 7D
- EOS 70D
- EOS 50D
- EOS 40D
- EOS 60D
- EOS 700D
- EOS 100D
- EOS 650D
- EOS 600D
- EOS 30D *2
- EOS 500D
- EOS 450D
- EOS 550D
- EOS 1100D
- EOS 1000D
- EOS 400D
- EOS M
- EOS 5D requires firmware version 1.1.1 or higher to be installed.
- EOS 30D requires firmware version 1.0.6 or higher to be installed.
* Details of compatible lenses and cameras above correct as of 20 September 2013.
Once you’ve organised your photographs and edited them to your satisfaction using DPP’s collection of image processing tools then it’s time to share them with colleagues or clients. You can export an edited RAW image as a JPEG or TIFF using the Convert and save command in the File menu. To speed up your output workflow DPP offers a Batch process tool icon in its main window toolbar. This enables you to take a folder of RAW files and output them to a more shareable JPEG or TIFF format. You can also re-size them en-mass, change their resolution and give them new file names too.
When working in tandem with the Canon EOS Utility software, Digital Photo Professional can empower you to organise, fix and share your images effectively. Because DPP is designed to work closely with your Canon EOS camera’s menu settings and lenses, you should be able to produce better looking results than you’d achieve with third party packages – especially thanks to the powerful Digital Lens Optimizer in the Edit image window’s Lens tab. If, for some reason, you’ve so far ignored the EOS Digital Solutions Disk that came in the box with your EOS DSLR it’s a good idea to download and take all of the available software for a test run. You will be pleasantly surprised by how powerful and useful it is.