TECHNIQUES

7 ways to get the best from your images using DPP

Discover the benefits of Canon's RAW processing and photo editing software Digital Photo Professional, including the powerful Neural Network Image Processing Tool.
A laptop sits open with a landscape image being edited in Digital Photo Professional software on screen, with a Canon EOS R3 camera and RF 15-35mm F2.8L IS USM lens on the desk alongside.

Canon's RAW processing and image editing software Digital Photo Professional (DPP) is designed to make the most of RAW files from Canon cameras, and the powerful Neural Network Image Processing Tool can even enhance images automatically using deep-learning AI.

Post-processing is an integral part of many pro photographers' workflows – an indispensable step if you shoot RAW – but are you getting the best results? Canon's own RAW processing and photo editing software Digital Photo Professional (DPP) is more capable than you might have realised.

Why use DPP? DPP is the ideal RAW processor because it has been developed specifically to work with files from Canon cameras, with optimal support for features such as Picture Styles, Auto Lighting Optimizer and lens aberration corrections. This is probably most noticeable if you shoot RAW with the Monochrome Picture Style: open the file using other software and it will open as a colour image, not mono. You can remove or modify the Picture Style in DPP too, of course, or replace it with another, but the critical thing is that other RAW processors, while they might apply their own approximations, actually don't understand your image settings – and that includes custom white balance, advanced noise reduction and other settings. They just won't be applied as you intended.

The latest version of DPP, 4.17, goes even further, introducing a powerful new Neural Network Image Processing Tool. Based on artificial intelligence with deep-learning, this subscription-based tool automatically analyses different areas of images and applies a range of selective enhancements to achieve unprecedented levels of quality. It can also help save you time, making it ideal for busy professionals and any demanding photographer with little time to spare.

A photo of a woman wearing a straw hat in a garden, with the foreground bokeh being adjusted in Canon's Digital Photo Professional software.

Canon's Digital Photo Professional software can do some amazing things with images taken using Dual Pixel RAW, a format supported on Canon cameras such as the EOS R5 and EOS R6 Mark II. These include making micro adjustments to the position of maximum sharpness and shifting areas of bokeh in the image.

If you want to fine-tune your image, then DPP still has advantages over many popular third-party RAW processors. For example, DPP includes exclusive advanced features such as the Depth Compositing tool for focus stacking (combining a set of bracketed images into a single image with greater depth of field, meaning more is in sharp focus, whether it's a macro subject or a landscape). Also, if you've used a camera capable of shooting Dual Pixel RAW, DPP can interpret the DPRAW depth map and make micro adjustments to the position of maximum sharpness. Plus, where other software might give you the option to apply your "previous conversion" settings to the next RAW file you open, DPP can save custom sets of adjustments as Recipes, including as many or as few settings as you choose, which can be applied to other images at any time.

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Here we'll look at just a few of the key functions in DPP, with expert insights from Canon Europe Senior Product Specialist Mike Burnhill and advice on how to use DPP to get the best from your images. DPP is regularly updated to support new Canon cameras and features – so do check for the latest version and download it to get the best from your images.

A view over the shoulder of a user with Digital Photo Professional software running on a laptop, with a Canon EOS R7 camera on the desk alongside.

With the Neural Network Image Processing Tool in DPP 4.17, the Digital Lens Optimizer is significantly improved, compared with the equivalent in previous versions. The new system incorporates corrections based on mapped data for individual Canon lenses at all available settings, coupled with pictorial information from individual areas within any given image. With the ability to pick out lines and edges as well as other highly detailed areas within images, the Neural Network Image Processing Tool delivers super-sharp diagonal lines and shapes without making them look jagged or blocky. It works especially well in macro and extreme close-up shooting, revealing unprecedented levels of detail.

1. Unleash the power of Neural Network Image Processing

Neural Network Image Processing is a revolutionary new system based on deep-learned artificial intelligence. It made its debut on image.canon in 2022 and is now featured in DPP 4.17 on a subscription basis. The tool intelligently analyses different areas within any given image, then applies selective enhancements based on neural network demosaic, lens optimisation and noise reduction algorithms.

"Some areas in an image can have much more fine detail than others," Mike explains, "like a person's hair or a bird's feathers compared with a blue sky. The system can 'recognise' the subject matter within different parts of an image and work out how to process them individually for the best results. Moiré patterning and colour haloing can arise in areas of fine texture, but Neural Network Image Processing can can fix these while also enhancing sharpness to maximise fine detail. By contrast, relatively undetailed areas like sky don't require any sharpening, which can lead to an increase in image noise. Artificial intelligence enables the system to adapt automatically, like a painter using different brushes for separate areas of an image.

"Instead of working on a pixel-by-pixel basis," Mike continues, "the AI takes in the bigger picture and looks at larger areas within an image. It can 'see' facets like diagonal lines and shapes, then apply automatic enhancements to refine levels of detail without making them look jagged or blocky. For noise reduction in detailed and less-detailed areas, it will automatically and selectively apply luminance or chrominance noise reduction as necessary to retain optimum sharpness and texture with minimal graininess or the appearance of colour speckles. In practical terms, the enhancement of fine detail and reduction of image noise can make it look like you've shot an image at ISO 6400 instead of ISO 25,600."

The system also improves DPP's correction of lens imperfections. "We've digitally mapped our lenses for their behaviour at different apertures and focus distances, and for the different focal lengths of zoom lenses," Mike says. "But again, the AI in our neural networking system takes things to another level, analysing the image to see exactly what's happening and making the best possible enhancement. Along with enhanced sharpness and minimal noise, it can automatically correct chromatic aberrations, distortion, and peripheral illumination."

A picture of two men at the footplate of a steam locomotive, in colour and in mono in Canon's DPP software.

If you're shooting in monochrome, perhaps even composing that way in the EVF of mirrorless Canon EOS R System cameras, then DPP's ability to work with the camera's Picture Styles is an incredibly powerful feature – third-party software will simply ignore the metadata settings instead of giving you what you intended.

The Copy Recipe window in Canon's DPP software, showing the settings that can be included in the Recipe or not included.

When you've got one image just right, DPP makes it easy to apply the same settings to other shots taken in the same session or any others: save your bundle of adjustments as a Recipe and apply them with one click at any time. Go to the Edit menu and select Copy selected recipe settings – this makes it possible to specify exactly which adjustments are included in the Recipe.

2. Work with HEIF files and HDR displays

In January 2020, the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III introduced the HEIF image format, which offers wider dynamic range and broader colour gamut than JPEG, plus compatibility with the latest HDR displays found on mobile devices, monitors and HDTVs. The file format is now available on a number of other cameras, including the EOS R3, EOS R5, EOS R6, EOS R7 and EOS R10.

If you shoot HEIF, your image files, like JPEGs, are processed in-camera. "HEIF files are pretty much the same as JPEGs but with 10-bit data, so they have greater dynamic range, and they're able to be pushed more without posterisation," says Mike. With the Canon HEVC codec, a free download, you can edit HEIF files in DPP and even save RAW files as HEIFs.

An HDR monitor, particularly one that supports the wide Rec.2020 colour space, will give you the best experience of the extended gamut and smoother gradation in the highlights of HEIF files. But if you don't have one of those displays, DPP can effectively simulate the effect on older monitors (SDR monitors, as they're now being called).

Cross-section showing the autofocus system inside a Canon EOS R3 camera and RF lens.

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A before-and-after view of an interior shot with a warm colour cast being corrected in Canon's DPP software.

DPP has a range of powerful tools for correcting colour casts, from one-click quick fixes to precise colour temperature adjustment and advanced colour balance controls.

3. Remove colour casts

To correct a colour cast in your images, a simple and highly effective method is to neutralise the cast using the White Balance adjustment eyedropper, which is available in both the Basic and Tone Adjustment palettes in DPP. Select the eyedropper and click on an area in the image that should be white, has detail and is not blown out. All the colour in the image will be adjusted with reference to this. If there isn't any white in the image, you can use an area that should be a neutral grey instead.

For fine-tuning or for creative effects, you can use the Colour Temperature slider or even specify the temperature in degrees Kelvin (in increments of 10K). Or you can adjust the Blue-Amber and Magenta-Green sliders in the Fine-tune panel, or drag in the colour field next to them.

If you're working tethered (remotely with a cable) and have the complementary EOS Utility installed then you can use DPP to colour correct for the precise ambient conditions in which you're shooting. "DPP 4 reads the white balance from RAW files as written by your Canon camera," Mike explains, "so you can select a point to set white balance in the Image Preview on the computer screen, which is then registered in the camera itself and saved in the camera's RAW files."

The new Neural Network Image Processing Tool has the added bonus of being able to automatically fix false-colour issues.

A before-and-after view of a photo of a young girl running along the beach, with selective colour adjustments being made in Canon's DPP software.

A general saturation boost would risk making the subject's bright clothing too garish. Instead, selective colour adjustments have been used to boost the sky and sea colours and refine other hues in the image.

4. Selective colour adjustments

Instead of a general colour cast, you'll frequently want to adjust specific colours – to intensify a dull sky, for example, without making skin tones look unnatural. To do this, go to DPP's Colour Adjustment tool palette, where you'll see a bank of eight colour swatches, each with three adjustment sliders next to it. You can use these sliders to adjust respectively the Hue, Saturation and Luminance of the specific gamut of colours in the adjacent swatch. Click the backward-pointing arrow button beneath each colour swatch to remove any adjustments you've made to that gamut.

Selective adjustments are a good way to fine-tune colours that may not be quite as you remember them. "Skies, foliage and skin tones are all obvious examples, and each can be adjusted separately without the others being affected," says Mike. "To darken the sky, for example, move the Aqua and Blue L (Luminance) sliders to the left away from the centre position.

"At the top of the palette are two sliders for Hue and Saturation," Mike adds. "These make global adjustments – so while they can be effective in their own right for a quick boost in saturation, for example, they're best used after selective adjustment as a master control."

A landscape photo in Canon's DPP software with a red overlay on highlights in the clouds and blue on clipped shadows in the dark foreground.

DPP's highlight and shadow warning display (red and blue respectively) can alert you to areas that are close to clipping. You can adjust the threshold to give yourself a better guide to the effects of your adjustments as you work.

Deeply shadowed buildings lightened in Canon's DPP software to reveal detail without blowing out highlight areas in the sky behind.

DPP's Shadow slider can recover detail in shadow areas without affecting other tones you don't want to change.

5. Recover shadows

Shooting high-contrast scenes, if you exposed for the highlights to retain detail in them, then you'll likely want to recover information in the shadows, which will appear underexposed. DPP has several tools to help here, but a good option is the Shadow and Highlight sliders in the Advanced panel of DPP's Basic Adjustments tool palette. These sliders provide finely targeted control of brightness levels in the specified parts of the tonal range, where a general Brightness adjustment would affect other tones you don't want to change.

Before making adjustments, it makes sense to enable the shadow and highlight warning to see what areas are close to clipping. "Alter the clipping threshold to give yourself a little extra safety margin," Mike advises. "You'll probably want to experiment, but you can start with setting the shadows to 5 and the highlights to 250 to account for any specular highlights, so these will print closer to black and white."

A before-and-after view of a photo of a church and gravestones being processed in the Digital Lens Optimizer in Canon's DPP software.

DPP's powerful Digital Lens Optimizer can correct a range of aberrations automatically, using lens-specific Canon lens profiles. DPP 4.17 takes this function to the next level, with the Neural Network Image Processing Tool able to analyse the image and apply more targeted corrections and enhancements.

6. Lens corrections

DPP's Lens Correction tools can be used to manually correct chromatic aberration, distortion and other lens-related flaws using simple sliders, which are very effective. But the process can also be automated and additional corrections applied based on the lens metadata using the Digital Lens Optimizer – just download the free lens profile for each lens you've used.

"This function is incredibly powerful," says Mike. "The Digital Lens Optimizer with the lens profile is able to correct for things like diffraction and the low pass filter used by the camera as well as all the lens aberrations for that model of lens. It handles a lot more than most other lens profiles from third parties, such as haloing, coma and axial fringing. The Neural Network Image Processing system in DPP 4.17 takes digital lens optimisation to a whole new level, bringing out the utmost in fine detail and texture while keeping image noise to an absolute minimum."

In DPP's regular Lens Correction tool palette, check that Yes is displayed next to Lens data. If not, click the curled arrow button to the left, identify the lens used to take the image, and click Start to download the missing lens profile. When done, tick Digital Lens Optimizer. Use the slider to adjust the strength of the automatic profile corrections if desired, and decide if you want to add others.

"Enabling them applies the corrections fully, but you can adjust them if you want to," says Mike. "For example, sometimes a little vignetting is desirable. Leave the checkbox enabled and move the slider to make the adjustment. Also, set the sharpening to zero or disable it before running the Digital Lens Optimizer, as it makes it easier to assess the corrections."

A close-up photo of a red admiral butterfly being sharpened in Canon's DPP software using Unsharp Mask.

DPP's Unsharp Mask options make it possible to sharpen images with a fine degree of control and avoid artefacts such as haloing and noise.

7. Sharpen details

"The default sharpening settings differ per camera, based on the low pass filter used and improvements in the in-camera processing that is possible," says Mike. DPP's Sharpness tool, in the Basic Adjustment palette, can enhance the contrast along edges in the image to create an impression of greater sharpness, but Unsharp Mask (available for RAW images) gives finer control.

As DPP retains focus point information from your Canon camera, you can use this to check where it focused. Click the button below the image window with an AF grid icon on it and select Show AF points in focus. Now zoom in to check sharpness at 100% magnification. In the Advanced panel of the tool palette, use the pop-up menu to change from Sharpness to Unsharp Mask.

This has three sliders. Strength determines the amount of sharpening (that is, how much the edge contrast is increased), while Fineness controls the spread of contrast on the edges and can be used to keep haloes and other artefacts in check. Threshold determines how much initial contrast difference there needs to be for something to be considered an edge, so in practice this slider controls the effects of the other two. A good strategy is to keep Threshold to zero at first and move the other two sliders to provide the sharpness you want with the least artefacts, then increase the Threshold slightly to 1.0 or 2.0. "It works the opposite to how you think it might, lessening the effect the further you move it to the right," explains Mike.

If you have taken a shot using the Dual Pixel RAW feature on a camera capable of this, then you can make micro adjustments to the position of maximum sharpness using the depth information in the DPRAW file. Open a DPRAW image that may be slightly front or back focused, then go to the Tools menu and select Start Dual Pixel RAW Optimizer. Tick Image Microadjustment, then use the slider to adjust the point of maximum sharpness forward or backwards until the part of the subject you want to be sharpest is sharp.

With the Neural Network Image Processing Tool in DPP 4.17, fine detail and texture can be automatically sharpened for best effect while relatively undetailed areas of an image will have smooth gradations and a noise-free appearance.

Напишано од Kevin Carter, Alex Summersby and Matthew Richards


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