A before and after shot of a field of long grass, dark and unedited on the left, showing the lighter version on the left, edited in DPP.


Editing RAW images with Digital Photo Professional

Making the transition from shooting images as JPEGs to be used straight out of the camera to shooting RAW may seem like a big step, but it's an essential part of any photographer's journey. Editing photos doesn't need to be a painstaking activity – with a few tweaks you can turn an average image into a work of art. The best news? It's easier than you think.

When you set your camera to shoot RAW, it saves all the image data captured by the sensor, without any processing in-camera – that's why RAW files are so much larger than JPEGs. This gives you the flexibility to make extensive image adjustments in post-processing and get the maximum quality from them. Digital Photo Professional (DPP) is Canon's software for editing RAW images from EOS cameras and advanced PowerShot models that can shoot in RAW. Here we will show you some of the key editing tools in DPP to refine and enhance your RAW photos.

DPP is regularly updated and the latest version may have additional features, so check for updates and download the latest version before you begin.

When you launch DPP, you'll see the main window with previews of your photos. Select one or more images, then click the Edit Image button at the top-left or go to the View menu and select Edit Image window. (DPP has many keyboard shortcuts to speed up working – you'll find these in the manual.)

The main screen of Digital Photo Professional, with previews of 15 nature images.
DPP's main window displays previews of your images, and you can select one or more to edit.

Adjusting image brightness

An eagle pictured in flight, with shadow and highlight clipping displayed in DPP.
Adjust the brightness of the entire image, or selectively tweak shadows and highlights.

Snow and beach pictures sometimes turn out too dark because the camera has attempted to compensate for the extreme brightness common in these conditions. If you have an image that is a bit too dark or too light, you can adjust the brightness in DPP. The Brightness Adjustment slider in the tool panel will change the overall brightness.

To help identify which parts of the photo are too dark or light, click the Shadow/Highlight warnings button at the foot of the window. By default areas with completely black shadows will display a blue overlay, and areas with completely white highlights a red overlay, although you can adjust the levels at which the overlays are displayed.

Scroll down the tools panel to find the Shadow and Highlight adjustment controls in the Advanced section. Use these to lighten the shadows and reduce the highlights without affecting other tones in the image.

An eagle pictured in flight, in a brighter, edited image using DPP.
By tweaking the Shadow and Highlight adjustment controls, this image is now more balanced.

Adjusting the white balance

A close-up photo of a pink rose, with the white balance tab open in DPP.
Apply a different white balance setting to warm up the colours in your image or cool them down.

The appearance of colours changes according to the ambient light, so a neutral white piece of paper looks bluer (cooler) in the early morning light and more orange (warmer) at sunset. Your camera's White Balance setting can adjust for this, so as to capture true colours or to add a colour cast for creative effect. On a dull day, for example, you may want to warm up your photos to make them more appealing. An advantage of shooting RAW is that you can alter the white balance after the shot is taken.

When you open a RAW photo in DPP, by default the software uses the white balance setting with which the photo was captured, but you can change this to any other white balance preset simply by selecting it from the drop-down list. Select Click White Balance and you can click on a neutral tone in the image to reset the overall white balance of the picture by reference to that. Experiment with white balance to find what best enhances each photo.

A close-up image of a pink rose with colours enhanced by white balance.
This before and after image shows the difference between a warm and cool image. Note that the rose looks more orange on the left-hand side of the image and bluer on the right.

Change the look of your photos with Picture Styles

A picture of a black eagle stood on grass open in DPP with the Picture Styles tab open.
Apply a whole set of adjustments at once by using Picture Styles.

Picture Styles determine the overall appearance of your pictures by applying preset groups of adjustments. Some are designed to smooth and even-out skin tones for more flattering portraits, some to create more of an HDR look by making images sharper with enhanced contrast and saturation, and so on. When you open a RAW image in DPP, it applies the Picture Style you used when taking the photo, but you can change Picture Style and change the appearance of your photo. To turn a photo black & white, for example, use the Monochrome Picture Style.

Try the standard styles to see what works best. You can also use the Picture Style Editor to create your own unique Picture Styles and apply them to your photos.

A black-and-white picture of an eagle open in DPP.
This image takes on a whole new feel when the Monochrome Picture Style has been applied.

Improve your composition and framing

A macro photo of an insect on a flower being cropped and levelled in DPP.
Reframe an image and improve its composition by cropping and rotating.

Sometimes when you take a shot it's not perfectly framed or composed, but you can use the Crop tool in DPP to focus attention on the main subject. Click the Crop tool and in the panel you can set a fixed aspect ratio or opt to crop freely. Click on the image and drag across to define the part of the photo you want to use. Reposition the selection by clicking inside it and dragging. Move your pointer outside the selected area to rotate the image to level a tilted horizon or add a dynamic twist to your shot.

A macro shot of an insect on a daisy.
By cropping and rotating this image, the subject is brought into focus more clearly.

Reducing image noise

A photo taken on a river at dusk, with image noise being corrected in DPP.
Tackle image noise in pictures captured in low light or at high ISO settings.

Image noise occurs when you take pictures in very low light conditions, or with high ISO settings, or both. It appears like a mottled pattern of small dots over dark areas in the photo (luminance noise) or in individual colour channels (chrominance noise). DPP reads the ISO and exposure information stored in the RAW file and automatically optimises noise reduction settings for an effective balance of smooth, clean images with good detail. You can fine-tune the settings in the Adjust Image Detail tab to determine the final look of your pictures – too much noise reduction will make details appear fuzzy. It's always best to zoom in to properly view noise and the result of any noise reduction.

A photo of a river taken at dusk with image noise reduced in DPP.
Reducing image noise in DPP can sharpen your shot.

Sharper shots

A close-up photo of a colourful butterfly on a leaf as shot in DPP.
All digital photos will benefit from some sharpening, but don't overdo it!

All digital images benefit from sharpening, which enhances the contrast at the edges of details to make them appear crisper, but sharpening can't fix an out-of-focus picture.

DPP has two sharpening tools. For a quick lift, use the basic Sharpness tool, but for more control try Unsharp Mask, which enables you to adjust the Strength, Fineness and Threshold separately. With three parameters you can define the amount of sharpening, and adjust what parts of the image it affects. You don't need them all to match – experiment to see the effects of adjusting each parameter. Over-sharpening will result in the appearance of a halo effect along contrast edges – again, always zoom in to assess the results. Images will need less sharpening for viewing on-screen and more sharpening for crisp, detailed prints.

A sharp close-up photo of a colourful butterfly on a leaf as shot.
Sharpening this image has given it a more rigid edge, and makes it stand out more clearly from the background.

Use recipes to speed up your editing

The options in DPP for saving image adjustments as a recipe.
Save a whole set of adjustments as a recipe and apply them all at once to other images.

The settings you've chosen when processing your RAW image can be copied and then pasted to other images. This speeds up the process of working with many similar shots. Go to Edit > Select and copy recipe settings, choose the settings you want to copy from the photo, and click OK. Then from the image browser window you can select another image or multiple images and paste the recipe to all of them using Edit > Paste recipe.

Recipes can also be saved to a file on your computer for use in the future – simply go to Edit > Save recipe in file and then, to apply the saved recipe to a new image, go to Edit > Read and paste recipe from file.

The changes you make to your images are automatically saved in the RAW file when you quit DPP. This means you can reopen the file at a later date and still copy the recipe. This is true even if RAW files are moved to a different location – the recipe goes with the RAW file.

Creating processed images to share

The options in DPP for batch processing images.
Save your edited RAW file as a JPEG or TIFF image to share or print.

Once you've finished processing a RAW file, you'll need to save the final edited image. There are two file formats you can choose, JPEG and TIFF. JPEGs are smaller files that are easy to share and can be opened by any software. TIFF is for the maximum quality, and is ideal for producing large prints. For a single image, go to File > Convert and save, or for multiple images select the ones you need and go to File > Batch process. Choose the file type, JPEG or TIFF, and the location to which the images are to be saved. With batch processing you can resize and rename images too. You can continue to use DPP while batch processing happens in the background.

Organise your photos with star ratings

When you've got hundreds or even thousands of photos to sort through, you'll want some way to organise them. In DPP you can use check marks, star ratings or both to rapidly find the best ones in the future. To quickly add these, select the Quick Check tool, click an image thumbnail to highlight it and then simply tap the number keys 1–5 on your keyboard to add the corresponding star rating or check marks. If star ratings were added in-camera, they are also visible in DPP but can be changed. Check marks are only visible within DPP. You can sort, select and filter images based on their assigned rating. It helps to be consistent in your ratings to identify your best photos, so that over time your best pictures are always easy to locate.

Canon's free cloud service image.canon is the perfect place to store your photos directly from your camera and then transfer them to other web services or your devices – the latest Wi-Fi equipped Canon cameras can even upload images automatically.* RAW images transferred to image.canon from compatible cameras* can be automatically downloaded to your computer for editing with DPP.

The main screen of DPP, with previews of 15 nature images including star ratings and check marks.
Use check marks, star ratings or both to organise, sort and find your images.

As with every new skill, practice makes perfect. Experiment with the tools listed in this article and push the adjustments to extremes to help you get to grips with what each tool is capable of doing. Once you've edited a few images, you'll soon start to recognise what you need to do to improve the shots you take. By learning how to correct imperfections in your images, you may become a better photographer too.

Written by Brian Worley

*Not all Canon cameras support automatic background transfer, and not all are capable of directly uploading RAW (CR2) images. Other compatible Wi-Fi enabled Canon cameras offer easy manual transfer direct to image.canon. For a full list of compatible cameras, please visit http://image.canon. Compatible cameras must be connected to the internet via Wi-Fi.

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