What Is A DNG File? (+ How To Convert To DNG)

In this article, you will learn what DNG files are and how they differ from the most popular image file formats. You will also learn how to easily convert your RAW files to DNG using both Lightroom and a free Adobe DNG converter.

What Is A DNG File?

DNG, which stands for Digital Negative, is a type of open-source RAW file format developed by Adobe, the same company that developed Lightroom and Photoshop.

DNG files contain unprocessed data captured by a camera sensor, and they offer all the benefits of a regular RAW file, including the possibility to post-process it in programs like Adobe Camera RAW.

What Are The Advantages Of DNG Files?

A major advantage of DNG files is that they are compatible with most photo editing software available on the market. Thus, you are not limited to Adobe products or the camera manufacturer’s editing software when using DNG. 

Plus, because multiple companies and developers continuously update and enhance DNG technology, DNG files are more likely to have support in the future than many RAW files out there.

And one of the most significant advantages of DNG files is that you can use them without needing a subscription to any software since they are open source.

Is JPEG Better Than DNG?

Both JPEG and DNG offer plenty of advantages. But their differences can lead you to prefer one over the other.

JPEG is a compressed file format, so it doesn’t retain all data originally captured by a camera. Thus, you can’t bring out certain details on a JPEG image when editing it because a lot of information is lost during the compression.

A DNG file, on the other hand, holds all the information captured by a camera. Thus, you can edit it to bring out certain hidden details or colors.

Beyond that, editing JPEG files without affecting their quality can be hard. That’s because most JPEGs have artifacts due to compression. In most cases, however, they are not visible. But the more you edit a photo, the more likely you are to make those flaws visible.

Even though JPEGs are inferior to DNG files in terms of quality, they offer advantages that DNG doesn’t. 

JPEG is the most universal image file format, so nearly any camera, online platform, or photo editing software will open it. DNG files, on the other hand, are not as universal, so some cameras and software handle them poorly or don’t work with them at all.

Moreover, JPEG files are way smaller than DNG, so if you want to fill your memory card with images, use JPEG; otherwise, you will spend a great deal of time deciding what pictures to keep.

Is DNG Better Than TIFF?

Like DNG files, TIFF files aren’t compressed; thus, they keep all the original details of an image. 

However, TIFF doesn’t offer all the editing options available for DNG since TIFF is not a type of RAW file. On top of that, TIFFs are typically larger than DNGs.

Despite DNG files being better in quality than TIFF, TIFF files have advantages that DNG doesn’t. 

For example, TIFFs can store multiple JPEG files and also allows you to store layers in them. Both these options are not available for DNG files.  

DNG Vs RAW Files

Both DNG and RAW file formats store unprocessed data from a camera sensor. However, the differences between those file formats can impact your workflow.

There are many RAW file types, and each type is camera-specific. These files are compatible with their correspondent camera editing software and a few other software, such as Adobe Lightroom.

DNGs, however, are compatible with more image editing software and cameras than a regular RAW file. 

Another difference between DNG and RAW files is that you can’t edit RAW files directly, so every time you edit a RAW file, a new XMP file is created for your edits. This takes up more space on your computer and makes it difficult to share such files.

A DNG file, on the other hand, registers edits in the file itself. That saves storage space on your computer and makes it easier for you to share DNG files.

Beyond that, DNG files are smaller than RAW. A DNG file is generally 15-20% smaller than a RAW file. Despite their smaller size, they aren’t compressed, so when you convert your files to DNG, it still has all the data required for you to edit them. 

Another thing to consider is that it takes time to convert RAW files to DNG, versus RAW files can be created in-camera. That doesn’t make much difference if you are only converting a few files, but if you are dealing with hundreds or thousands of photos, you can prepare a coffee or even bake a cake while you wait.

How To Convert Files To DNG

Follow these steps to convert a RAW file to DNG using Lightroom or a free converter.

Option 1: In Lightroom

Converting RAW files into DNG is pretty easy in Lightroom. First, open Lightroom and select the file (or files) you want to convert. 

Then, click on the desired file to select it. To select multiple files, click one file after another while holding Shift. To select all the files in your catalog, press Control + A (Win) or Command + A (Mac).

Then, go to Library > Convert Photos To DNG.

Now you will see a couple of settings that you need to adjust. I will walk you through each option.

First, I suggest you leave the Only convert Raw files checkbox selected because it prevents you from accidentally converting files other than RAW to DNG.

Second, I advise you to select the Delete originals after successful conversion. This deletes the original RAW file after the conversion, preventing duplicate files. Uncheck this check box if you need to keep both the RAW file and the DNG file.

As for the file extension, leave it the way it is because you are converting it to a DNG file.

You have three options for the JPEG preview: set it to None to save storage space, to Medium if you want to save space in your hard drive while still seeing a preview of your file. 

I advise you against choosing Full Size since it consumes more data and, in the end, it doesn’t make sense to use more storage space for that.

Moving down the panel, you have three more options. I suggest you check Embed Fast Load Data because this speeds up the conversion process. The only downside of this option is that it makes the resulting file slightly bigger. Nothing too relevant, though, so it’s worth checking.

You should uncheck Use Lossy Compression because although it reduces the size of a DNG file, it removes a considerable amount of data from it.

Finally, I strongly suggest you don’t select the Embed Original RAW File option. That’s because this option adds a RAW file to the DNG file so you can extract the RAW file from the DNG in the future. This doesn’t offer much use unless you plan to convert back to a RAW file at a later stage. This option increases the file size.

Click OK when you’re finished adjusting all the settings above.

To check that the image has successfully converted to DNG in Lightroom, simply hover over the converted image in your catalog. The DNG extension will appear at the end of the file name.

After converting your files, you need to make sure you export the file in DNG format to save the DNG file on your PC or Mac. Here is how to do it. First, select the images and then click Export.

Next, scroll down the Export panel until you find the File Settings section.

Now, in Image Format, check what format your image is set to. If it’s not set to DNG, open the drop-down menu and click the DNG option. 

Now you can continue exporting your images as normal.

Option 2: Using Adobe Digital Negative Converter

The Adobe Digital Converter is free, and you can download it from the Adobe website.

Once you are on the Adobe DNG converter web page, scroll down until you find the link to download the converter. You can choose between the version for Mac or Windows.

Once you download the file, go to where you installed it on your computer and double-click it to run it. 

After that, follow the instructions on your screen to install the app.

After installing the app, open it.

Then, select the photos you want to convert in Select Folder.

In section 2, choose where to save the new DNG file.

In section 3, name the new file by entering a name in the name box.

You could also choose between the default names from the Name Example drop-down menu. 

Use the Change Preferences button to choose how you prefer your file to be exported. You can use the same export options as mentioned in the previous section. The same settings apply to both Lightroom and the Adobe DNG converter.

Lastly, click Convert to convert your files to DNG.

Article By

Brendan Williams

Hey, I'm Brendan! I'm a professional photographer and photo retoucher who has spent the majority of his career shooting or retouching outdoor lifestyle and social media campaigns for brands like G-Adventures, xoxo Bella, P&G, Fitbit, Chevy, Tourism California, and more. These days I primarily focus my efforts on this site, creating guides and tutorials that I wish I had earlier in my career. Each week I publish new tutorials on Photography, Photoshop, Lightroom, and Canva to help you unlock new skills and bring your creativity to new levels! Everything you learn here is backed by real experience, so you can finally skip the fluff and focus only on what matters.

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