Canon DPP or Adobe Lightroom?

Or: Why I shoot Raw

I shoot a lot of Performing Arts. That often involves “difficult” lighting: Different light sources, with different color temperatures. And to make matters worse, they are fitted with colored gels most of the time.
While I mostly try to go for “pleasing color”, rather then “neutral skintone” (the lighting was done a specific color for a reason I think), this still poses some challenges every now and then.

Simply setting ‘tungsten’ white balance is an okay starting point, but with certain types or colors of lighting, I need to do quite a bit of tweaking to get the image where I want it.

For that reason, I choose to shoot Raw: Gives me the most flexibility, and allows me to change whitebalance without causing too much harm.

Raw converters

Most of the time, I use Lightroom 2 for editing these images: I prefer the workflow over using the combination of DPP and Photoshop: I can do local edits on the Raw file in LR, and I can save the DNG with all edits included. With DPP/PS, I have to save a layered psd file of each image (which might be about 100Mb or so. With hundreds of images, that eats up HDD space rather fast).
This might not make sense to everybody, but makes sense to me.

DPP offers better noise reduction and sharpening in my opinion, but most of the time LightRoom is good enough for the intended purpose (images for the web).

Sometimes not

Occasionally however, I come across an image that simply will not give decent results in LightRoom. Blue gelled lights often give problems: For one: No way to reduce noise without obliterating all detail on the process. A while back I processed one of those images.

Here’s what it looked like in LightRoom at my default settings (Camera Neutral):
Not the best rendering. Obviously, the purple causes some problems by “blocking up”, and the blue does horrid things as well: Details and sharpness are gone. (notice the faces? A bit further down are the images up close.)

LightRoom, my defaults

One thing that might help some colors (but not blues in my experience) is switching the camera profile. In this case, “Adobe Standard” didn’t exactly help, and the ACR4.4 profile was so bad I won’t even bother posting the screenshot…

LightRoom, Adobe Standard

Adjusting white balance and using specific HSL adjustments helped the image quite a bit, but still, the details in the shadow stayed absent.

LightRoom, Final

Time to try a different Raw converter…


Canon’s own DPP is a very different piece of software then LightRoom: It has no DAM capabilities, and only offers global adjustments. So any local editing must be done in Photoshop. For instance by doing multiple conversions and use masks in PS.
Also, the user interface is very different and seems to be a case of “you love it or you hate it”.
Most importantly however, it rendered this image quite different from LightRoom

DPP “As shot” looks quite “neon”, but it clearly contains more detail:

DPP, as shot

The lack of detail in LR is not caused by noise reduction: If NR in LR is set to 0, the difference is still apparent. Setting Color NR higher then about 7 does obliterate any detail that was left however. Clearly, LR Color NR is not just targeting color noise… Luminance NR doesn’t help the image, but doesn’t destroy it either.

LR, Low 'Color' Noise Reduction

LR, 'Color' Noise Reduction set to 25

In comparison, DPP does much different: you can set a fairly high amount of Chroma NR before you start losing detail, and it actually removes color noise. However, setting a Luminance NR of something as low as 2 visibly removes detail: Avoid this like the plague.

DPP, Without Luminance Noise Reduction
DPP, With Luminance Noise Reduction set to 8

Finishing up

Setting a higher color temperature, different color tone, and using “tune” to shift the image toward green/yellowish helps colors in DPP, although some transitions in the beams of light still look quite harsh. LightRoom does better in that respect.

The most striking difference (apart from the loss of detail in LR) is that the smoke appears to be almost gone in DPP!

DPP, Final

Sometimes neither works alone

So, this appears to be a case were neither Raw converter gives satisfactory results… DPP gives detail, but no smoke. LightRoom gives smoke, better transitions, yet no detail. RIT handles the image like DPP does, apart from the fact that is seems to do some noise reduction by default, with no (working) option to turn it off. So no sense in going that route: RIT is a bit more constricting then DPP (you can only adjust what you could adjust on the camera) and the user interface is horrid.

I finally decided to open both the LR and DPP conversion in Photoshop, and blend them together, thus getting an image that contained both detail and smoke:

Photoshop, Blended

If anyone wants to give this image a try, the Raw file can be downloaded from here.

Please respect my copyright, and only use the image for evaluation purposes.

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One Response to “Canon DPP or Adobe Lightroom?”

  1. Lightroom Blues | Get Colormanaged Says:
    November 11th, 2011 at 16:26

    […] has it’s drawbacks for this kind of shooting. As can be seen in the first two images in a previous blogpost There are more blogposts floating around on the internet, and the main problems are in the […]

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