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Technical

Inside Canon Digital Photo Professional 4.0

© George Cairns

August 2014

Digital Photo Professional (DPP) version 4.0 is the latest release of Canon’s free RAW image management and editing software, and this incarnation is heralded as the first major update since the software was launched. Canon has responded to feedback from Digital Photo Professional users and incorporated feature requests and suggestions into version 4.0 to create a better looking package that offers a smoother, faster workflow. In this article CPN writer George Cairns examines how DPP 4.0 is better equipped to support your photographic workflow – as you import, browse and develop large numbers of RAW images – and investigates new features, such as the ability to make selective hue, saturation and luminance adjustments for eight colour gamuts.

Before we continue we must point out that at launch (in June 2014) this more functional and powerful version of Digital Photo Professional currently only supports the full-frame EOS-1D X, EOS 5D Mark III, EOS-1D C and EOS 6D DSLR cameras (though support for more models will be added in due course). It is designed to work with 64-bit native systems, so that you can squeeze more colour and tonal information from your full-frame RAW files. For this reason you’ll need to be running 64-bit versions of Windows 7, 8 or 8.1, whilst Mac users will need OSX 10.8 or upwards. To find out more about how to acquire DPP 4.0, and what the software is capable of, read on...


How to download DPP 4.0

You can download a free copy of Canon’s Digital Photo Professional 4.0 software by clicking here. Just click on your camera – the EOS-1D X, EOS 5D Mark III, EOS-1D C or EOS 6D – and select DPP 4.0 from the software options to download. While you’re in the software download options you should also download a copy of EOS Utility 3.0. As well as enabling you to import image and video files from your Canon camera, the latest EOS Utility software boasts tighter links to Digital Photo Professional 4.0.

If you have a WiFi-enabled camera, such as the Canon EOS 6D, then it’s very satisfying to use Canon’s EOS Utility 3.0 software to browse and import selected in-camera thumbnails wirelessly into Digital Photo Professional 4.0. You can also remotely control your Canon DSLR directly through DPP 4.0’s tool bar panel, which helps streamline the process of using the Live View window in a studio setting for example.

New-look interface

Due to a re-design from the ground up, Digital Photo Professional 4.0 has a slicker looking interface. Its dark grey panels look more contemporary than the lighter grey look featured in earlier versions, which helps you to focus more easily on your image’s colours and tones. DPP 4.0’s dark grey look echoes the appearance of other image editing apps, such as Photoshop CC and Lightroom 5, which helps to reinforce its pedigree as a powerful RAW processing package.

If you’re a long-term user of Photoshop or Lightroom then you may not have previously given the free Digital Photo Professional software a glance. Now that DPP 4.0 has been unveiled it’s well worth taking a look as it has much more to offer than its previous incarnations. Because DPP 4.0 is designed by Canon to process Canon-sourced RAW files you can enjoy a level of functionality that’s unavailable in third party apps, such as the option to discover which focus point was used to capture a specific picture. DPP 4.0 processes your pictures using original Canon algorithms, which makes it more compatible with your Canon .CR2 files.

Organising & viewing image files

© George Cairns

With Digital Photo Professional 4.0 you now have six different thumbnails sizes to work with and you can sort your shots according to a wider range of attributes.

As photographers we face the problem of managing our ever-growing collection of still and video assets. Digital Photo Professional 4.0’s new interface is designed to make it much easier to organise your files. You can now choose to display thumbnails of your imported images in six different sizes, so that you can get a balance between viewing large batches of thumbnails at once or seeing the content of fewer thumbnails more easily.

The new Thumbnail Control Panel enables you to display a range of properties alongside each thumbnail, from a simple file number to a more informative histogram and metadata panel. You can view your thumbnails in a grid view and use a secondary window to display a section of the currently selected thumbnail at 100%. This enables you to see if an image is in focus as you browse through the results of a shoot. Up to four secondary windows can be displayed. You can even drag specific thumbnails around to place them close to similar shots, regardless of when they were captured or what sorting system you’ve chosen.

© George Cairns

A new feature for DPP 4.0 is the ability to use a second window to magnify the image. A much requested and very useful added functionality.

Digital Photo Professional also provides dual display support, so you can place the preview window and the floating tool palette on the main screen and view the thumbnails on the secondary display.

The latest incarnation of DPP offers other ways to view and organise your imported assets. Instead of using multiple windows or dual displays you can get set your thumbnails to scroll horizontally (or vertically) in the Multi-Layout view and display the currently selected shot in a larger preview panel (similar to the Filmstrip view used by Adobe Bridge). In this panel you can view the entire image, zoom in for a closer look, summon the focal points used by the camera to capture the shot and activate a shadow/highlight warning to discover under-exposed shadows or over-exposed highlights.


© George Cairns

Here you can see a customised version of the Vertical Multi-Layout window of DPP 4.0, with floating Tool (right) and Navigator (left) palettes. The Folder panel at the left has been minimised.

© George Cairns

This image shows using the Horizontal Multi-Layout window in DPP 4.0 with docked palettes. The filmstrip at the bottom has been minimised, but will pop-up if you place the cursor in that region.

You can summon the Tool palette while working with a grid of thumbnails in the Main window or tweak the currently selected thumbnail’s colours and tones while in Multi-Layout mode. You can also drag the cursor to select a batch of thumbnails for batch processing. Little touches like these indicate that the software has been designed to accommodate the user’s need to interact with their assets in an intuitive way.

As well as presenting your images in a wider range of ways, Digital Photo Professional 4.0 helps you to separate the wheat from the chaff more efficiently. You can assign star ratings or check marks to indicate favourite shots and then use the new Filter option to display shots that have been assigned specific star ratings. You can also choose which file extensions to display (enabling you to add or remove video clips from the thumbnail grid for example). If you do need to view the content of a video clip, simply double click on it to launch your system’s video player.

© George Cairns

In the Multi-Layout and Edit Image view modes you can display a range of information, such as showing clipped shadows and highlights. Note the vertical ‘Quick Check’ panel of images on the left hand side.

The souped-up Sort menu lets you view shots in ascending or descending order according to properties such as Aperture Value, ISO Speed or Camera Model Name. If you shoot a RAW and JPEG version of a scene your thumbnail window can quickly become very cluttered with duplicate thumbs. Fortunately you can group RAW and JPEG versions into a single space-saving thumbnail. It’s this kind of attention to detail that shows that Canon has been listening and responding to user feedback.

The Collection panel has been enhanced and you can now store up to 20 custom-named collections. Collections enables you to quickly gather files from various folders and external hard drives into one easy-to-find location, so you can spend less time hunting through multiple folders looking for specific files. You can drag and drop specific Folder panel items into the Collection panel (or click the ‘Add Collection’ button). Thumbnails in the main window can then be dragged into a collection for easier access.

All-in-all it should now be both easier and quicker to import and organise your images using the overhauled DPP 4.0. The software is also designed to generate quicker previews for folders containing large numbers of files, which helps to speed up your image editing workflow.

Processing your pictures

After importing and sorting your RAW shots then you’ll be ready to process them to perfection using Digital Photo Professional 4.0’s digital darkroom tools. There are several different ways to access the image editing tools, so you can choose which approach suits you best.

© George Cairns

In the Multi-Layout view of DPP 4.0 you can pin a shot in one window and compare it with others in an adjacent window as you click on various thumbnails.

© George Cairns

The Recipe window describes all of the edits made to an image in DPP 4.0. Photographers can choose specific settings stored and apply to other shots.

While browsing the contents of your thumbnails in the main window’s Multi-Layout mode, you can pin a shot into one window and then open another image in an adjacent window. This ‘elimination comparison’ function helps you to quickly compare similar shots. Alternatively, you can display a ‘before and after’ version of an edited shot side-by-side (or tile them vertically). You can also summon the Tool palettes and start tweaking colours and tones while working in the Multi-Layout mode.

The Edit Image button takes the currently selected thumbnails into the Edit Image window. This enables you to access the same image editing tools as you could in Multi-Layout mode, but using a more tidily docked Tool palette (though you can also summon and dock the Tool palette in the Main window). The Edit Image window also removes the distracting Folder browser and Collections panel, so you can focus on improving the look of the selected photograph in a cleaner layout.

© George Cairns

When editing a RAW file you are free to experiment with different camera Picture Styles until you get a look you’re happy with. This example shows the use of the Mono Picture Style to add a wash of sepia to a retro subject.

© George Cairns

If you choose an incorrect in-camera White Balance (WB) setting then you can remove colour casts by applying other WB presets. If there’s no suitable preset you can then activate the Color Temperature slider to recover more natural looking skin tones.

© George Cairns

Another new feature in DPP 4.0 allows items in the Recipes to be copied over to another image.

Whatever window you prefer to edit in, you can minimise the various panels at the top, bottom and sides by clicking a little triangle icon. This allows you to produce a clutter-free workspace. To temporarily summon a particular panel just move the cursor over it. This layout optimisation is reminiscent of the way that Lightroom’s workspace behaves.

As well as toggling open the usual shooting information and XMP/IPTC details you can now view a Recipe that describes all of the edits made to the image in DPP 4.0. You can also now choose specific settings that are stored in a Recipe and apply these to other shots.

Using the Tool palette


© George Cairns

Photographers can counteract the effects of lens distortion and/or chromatic aberration and create evenly exposed edges using the Lens Correction tab of DPP 4.0.

© George Cairns

In this image the new Color (Gamut) Adjustment panel of DPP 4.0 has been used to selectively adjust the hue of the blues and oranges.


© George Cairns

The Color Saturation slider (in the right hand Tool panel) enables you to boost weaker colours without over-saturating the stronger ones. You can also target and tweak the yellows and magentas in skin tones using the Color Tone slider.

The Tool palette of DPP 4.0 has now been re-organised so that you can tailor tools to a particular workflow. There are now two rows, each containing three tabs of sensibly grouped tools. In the top row the tabs provide access to lens correction tools, cropping and straightening tools and the dust delete and copy stamp tools. These tools enable you to correct geometric distortion and counteract the effects of chromatic aberration as well as improving composition and hiding sensor spots.

In the lower front row of the Tool palette you’ll see the Basic palette is visible by default. This enables you to make common adjustments to colour and exposure. There’s also a new Color (Gamut) Adjustment palette that enables you to selectively target and tweak the Hue, Saturation and Luminance of eight different colour gamuts. You can use this new palette to produce creative looks in images, such as cross-processed colours.

Making dynamic range adjustments

Digital Photo Professional 4.0 has expanded its dynamic range adjustment tools so that you can claw back missing colour and detail in your over- or under-exposed RAW files.

The Tool palette’s Gamma Adjustment panel enables you to fix problems with exposure thanks to extra adjustment sliders. You can now tweak the span of the shot’s dynamic range to claw back missing colour and detail in the brightest highlights and independently adjust the shadows and mid-tones. In conjunction with the enhanced Shadow and Highlights sliders, the Gamma Adjustment panel helps you to overcome problems created by shooting in challenging high-contrast conditions.

© George Cairns

In this image using DPP 4.0 we’ve adjusted the histogram to increase the image’s dynamic range and reveal more colour and detail in the highlights and mid-tones.

© George Cairns

In the Advanced panel (bottom right) of DPP 4.0 the Highlight adjustment slider has been enhanced so you can recover even more detail in over-exposed areas.

Once you’ve spent time adjusting a particular picture’s colours and tones to produce a certain look, you may want to apply the same adjustments to other shots. You can save the adjustments as a Recipe and apply them to other images in a click. If you’ve cropped your original shot then you may not want to change the composition of other images. The customisable Recipe window enables you to choose (or exclude) specific adjustments when saving a Recipe. Simply select ‘Copy selected recipe’ from the file menu and then choose the check boxes relative to the adjustments you wish to copy. This way you can account for changes between images or you can adjust only one aspect of the RAW processing without affecting adjustments you may have already made.

© George Cairns

Thanks to an adjusted algorithm in DPP 4.0 you can reveal more missing shadow detail. Here the Shadow slider works to brighten the under-exposed shadows.

© George Cairns

DPP 4.0 enables you to render more detail in your photographs. This example shows an increase in the mid-tone contrast to reveal more delicate cloud texture.


Exporting & Output

After editing your RAW files you can export them in ‘e-mail friendly’ formats such as a JPEG (and change the resolution to suit print or screen if necessary). You can also re-size the converted image to specific print dimensions as you save it (for example, as a 7x5 inch print).

If you plan to print the edited image you can change the screen-friendly sRGB colour space to a print compatible one, such as Adobe RGB, which helps you create more printable colours. The five ‘work colour space’ options are sRGB, Adobe RGB, Wide Gamut RGB, Apple RGB and ColorMatch RGB. Selecting the appropriate colour space for your needs will ensure the best results possible and, like all RAW adjustments, can be changed as many times as needed without degrading the image quality.

© George Cairns

You can re-size and change the format of a batch of edited files thanks to the File > Batch Process menu of DPP 4.0. Make sure that you tick the ‘Lock aspect ratio’ box.

© George Cairns

Use the Image Settings palette of DPP 4.0 to set the ‘work colour space’ to a more print-friendly Adobe RGB. This forces the colours into a printable gamut.


In conclusion

Digital Photo Professional 4.0’s slick new look reflects the enhancements to its performance as a powerful RAW processor. You can easily customise the interface to suit your organising and editing preferences and claw back much more detail in an image’s shadows and highlights thanks to algorithmic enhancements running in the background.

Due to its status as no-nonsense digital darkroom it lacks some of the more gimmicky features in older versions, such as the Compositing tool. This puts it on a par with Photoshop and Lightroom’s RAW editors, which don’t support layered RAW editing either. Given that it is now more comparable to Lightroom and Photoshop (and is designed to make the most of your Canon’s captured RAW files), then this free software is well worth exploring.