I’m sure by now that most photographers have at least heard of DNG. For those of you who have not, its Adobes Digital Negative. Now for the last couple of years, several professional colleagues of mine have hounded me pretty hard that I need to convert my RAW files over to DNG. Well, anytime someone told me that I needed to do more work, spend more time in front of the computer, more time not out shooting in the field, etc. . . I kind of politely smiled and nodded but deep down cursed them for even suggesting such a thing.
Well I am here to tell you that I have finally made the switch to DNG. I bit the bullet, made the plunge, and have begun the wholesale conversion of all of my files over to this format. Why you might ask?
- DNG files are better for archiving. I have many thousands of images in my library. With Nikon’s NEF format, this means that I have not 1 but 2 files for each image. The first is the image itself. The second is the sidecar file that contains all of the data that goes along with it. DNG handles this all as one file, not two.
- DNG files are smaller than proprietary RAW files. Just how small you might ask? DNG files are 15-20% smaller in size than Raw files. This adds up.
- DNG files are lossless. This means that no matter how many changes I make to the DNG file, I can always extract the original RAW file from it.
- Compatibility. DNG is here to stay. There are something like 30 different types of proprietary RAW files out there today and lets face it, this is not going to last. Eventually we will probably see software companies moving towards reading one unified type of RAW file. Being that Adobe is something of the end all be all of photo editing, and they are investing heavily into improving the DNG format, that should give photographers reason to take note. The writing is on the wall with this one and has been for several years.
- Its open source. I love open source software. I don’t code the stuff myself, and have no interest in doing so. However, this does mean that the DNG format belongs to the public commons and can therefore be tweaked and improved upon by anyone.
Photographer’s are going to argue over this one, for now, until they turn blue in the face. The DNG vs RAW argument has been around since 2003 when Adobe first introduced the concept of the Digital Negative. It’s a pretty simple thing for me though. Remember when digital photography first popped up and the argument was digital vs. film? Yeah. Its that simple actually. But hey, you don’t have to take my word for it of course. You could always take a look at what some of the giants of nature photography do such as Art Wolfe, John Shaw, and Marc Muench – which is of course DNG. What it really boils down to here though, is that most people don’t like to think 10 years ahead. Life is here and now and the future be damned is the usual mentality.
How to convert your files:
The simplest way to convert to DNG is to have Bridge do it during the download process from your memory card. This is an option in the dialogue box that pops up when you connect a card reader to your computer and choose to download photos with Bridge’s file transfer.
For RAW files that are already on your computer you can convert the slow way by opening your raw file in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) by simply double clicking the file in Bridge. This will bring up ACR where you can make all of your basic RAW adjustments. Instead of clicking “open image” however, on the left hand side of the screen click “save image.” This will bring up a dialouge box with the option to save the RAW file as a .dng file.
Or, you can do it the quick way by batch converting images with Adobe’s DNG Converter (free).
In Lightroom, just like Photoshop, the best way to convert to DNG is while importing your RAW files into your library. For images already imported into Lightroom that you would like to convert, simply click Library and scroll down to the option that says “Convert Photos to DNG. . . ” Like most things with Lightroom, Adobe made this software the most user friendly in terms of managing your images.