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Monday, August 27, 2007

Canon DPP - Digital Photo Professional for RAW & JPG

I'm sure a lot of folks haven't even tried, or considered trying, Canon's DPP (Digital Photo Professional) software that comes bundled with Canon DSLR's. I know I didn't until a photographer friend I respect a lot told me that's what he is using to process most of his Canon CR2 RAW files.

So I decided to check it out, and I quickly decided it wasn't for me. Like most things in life, change isn't usually welcome. We get set in our ways and used to the way we do things. DPP seemed slow, and the interface didn't appeal to me.

Almost a year later, another conversation with my same friend had me deciding to try DPP again. This time I decided to give it a more thorough testing, and actually process an entire wedding with it. My initial reaction was similar to the first time I tried it... I didn't care for it. BUT, I forced myself to experiment some more and give it a fair shot. Boy am I glad I did!

What I soon found was that DPP is the fastest way to get the best looking results from my Canon files. Whether from my 20D, 30D, 40D, or XTi, DPP wins every time for image quality. I tested it again and again against other RAW processors including ACR, Bibble, and Capture One. DPP kept producing the best image files with the best color.

Skin tones are awesome with DPP... better than anything I've been able to get using any other RAW converter. And the workflow is actually very fast once you get your head wrapped around it. Now that I've gotten used to using DPP and developed my own workflow with it, I can fly through a wedding of 1,000 to 2,000 images faster with DPP than I could with ACR, Lightroom, Bibble, or Capture One.


This is the biggie folks. DPP is giving me the best quality images I've yet to see from Canon files, and once I forced myself to give it a fair chance, my workflow is faster than ever using DPP.

Another plus using DPP is that you can get the same look from a CR2 RAW file as you would've got shooting in-camera jpgs. How many times have you fiddled and fiddled with a RAW image trying to get it to look like it would've had it been an in-camera jpg? I know I have many, many times. Not now.

DPP recognizes your in-camera settings when it loads the CR2 RAW files and will give you the same jpg as you would've got shooting jpg with your camera. This alone is awesome! No need to shoot RAW + Jpg anymore! Just shoot RAW and let DPP do your conversions, without any adjustment if you want it to look as you shot it in-camera, or with adjustments if you want to make corrections.

The other BIG thing I've just recently noticed with DPP, is that it gives you a degree of highlight recovery for jpgs, not just RAW CR2 files. As you know, jpgs hold up pretty well to basic adjustment and exposure increases, BUT they don't offer any degree of high-light recovery. That's a big reason why most of us professional photographers shoot RAW. We're not always perfect, and it's nice to have some high-light recovery latitude if you've made a boo-boo.

Until now that is... DPP will give you some high-light recovery with jpgs. From my experiences, it's not nearly as significant as the degree of high-light recovery you'll get from a CR2 RAW file, but it does give you some, which is better than none.

Try it for yourself. Shoot some jpg images with varying degrees of over-exposure. Open them up in DPP and see how much high-light recovery you can get. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

While I'm on the subject of high-light recovery, I should mention that it is the one area where DPP does not beat the rest. Adobe's Lightroom, from my observations, is currently the best at high-light recovery from RAW files. DPP is good, just not as good as Lightroom. I'd say DPP will give you a full stop to 1 1/2 stops of highlight recovery, depending on the image, whereas Lightroom will usually give you 1 1/2 to 2 stops, depending on the image.

So, if you aren't using DPP, give it a try. If you've tried it before, and decided against it as I had, try it again. Give it a good chance. You may just change your RAW workflow for the better. :-)

Best of all... it's free!

(Update: Read my latest article on Lightroom vs Canon DPP here.)