Digital Photo Professional is one of the best tools for determining the camera settings you used when a photo was captured. Using DPP in my 1-2-1 sessions often reveals where a photographer can use better camera settings for their photos.

Digital Photo Professional (DPP) is the free software that Canon creates for processing EOS camera RAW files. It’s often discounted by photographers who find the workflow less than ideal, but it is a valuable tool to get the optimum quality out of RAW images and determine exactly what settings were in use when a photo was captured.

What information is available?

Every time you take a photo the camera stores not only the image, but a huge amount of camera setting information in the image, be it RAW or JPG. However when an image is edited and resaved – even with DPP – then the detailed settings are lost.

Exposure settings

All these photos were captured with the same shutter speed and aperture; 1/2000sat  f/2.8. Most editing software preserves and shows the basic shutter speed, aperture and ISO, some also keep camera model, lens and focal length. Rarely is this enough information to allow a deep diagnosis. Though understanding if a suitable shutter speed to freeze subject or avoid camera shake has been used can be determined.

Autofocus settings

When I work with clients remotely I often ask to see a few example files straight from camera. These give me the deepest look in to what actually happened to make the photo. From this photo I can see where the AF active AF point was placed, plus the details of active AF settings at the time. If I saw something like this with no AF square illuminated then it would be a prompt to ask about back button AF. Often people new to back button AF release pressure on the button just as they take the shot that can mean it’s out of focus and no illuminated AF point is an indicator of that.

What causes the noise in my images?

Here’s an example from a photographer who was concerned about the noise level in their images at modest ISO settings. This was especially noticeable when the shadow details were brightened. The same photographer with the exact same camera previously had no issues with their style of editing and shooting, but something changed to make the images harder to edit.

Using the detailed shoot information I saw that drive mode was set to high speed continuous +. For this particular camera that means that internal signal processing is reduced from 14-bit to 13-bit or even 12-bit. The camera was an EOS R5, and when set to high speed continuous + drive mode the bit depth drops to 13-bit internal processing, but if electronic shutter mode is also selected – not possible to see from the info – then it is just 12-bit. With 14-bit data, there are 16,384 tonal levels, with 13-bit 8,192 and for 12-bit just 4,096. If the image requires significant lifting of shadows then a photo with 12-bit internal processing has greater gaps between similar tones. Gaps that are further increased by lifting the shadows, which makes noise much more visible.

Interpreting the information is key

The key is to understand the details of camera settings and their effects, or it’s like having a map and not knowing how to interpret it. This is why deep understanding of how each camera works, what the effect of current settings is, and what alternatives help the photographer improve is vital.

Advent Calendar of Tips

This year I’m writing a quick tip each day up until the 25th of December, here’s some of the others I have already posted.


About the author

Full-time photo tutor and photographer. I love to share my knowledge and skills to make photos, videos and teach others. I write books and articles for photo magazines and I always have at least one Speedlite flash in my camera bag