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The Advantages of Adobe’s DNG Format for RAW Photos

Adobe created DNG (an open archival format for RAW photos) because, at this point in time, each camera manufacturer has its own proprietary RAW file format. If, one day, one or more manufacturers abandon their proprietary format for something new (like Kodak did with their Photo CD format), will we still be able to open our RAW photos? With DNG, it’s not proprietary—Adobe made it an open archival format, ensuring that your negatives can be opened in the future, but besides that, DNG brings another couple of advantages, as well.

Step One

There are three advantages to converting your RAW files to Adobe DNG: (1) DNG files are generally about 20% smaller. (2) DNG files don’t need an XMP sidecar file to store Camera Raw edits, metadata, and keywords—the info’s embedded into the DNG file, so you only have one file to keep track of. And, (3) DNG is an open format, so you’ll be able to open them in the future (as I mentioned in the intro above). Here’s how to convert to DNG: If you’re using Bridge’s built-in Photo Downloader, then you can have your images converted to DNG automatically as they’re imported from your camera’s memory card. In the Advanced Options section of the Photo Downloader, turn on the checkbox for Convert to DNG. If you want to change the settings (I don’t—I use the defaults), click the Settings button (as shown here) to bring up the DNG Conversion Settings dialog. I leave the compression turned on (the term “lossless” lets you know there’s no loss of quality). Next, I only recommend choosing Convert to Linear Image if you plan to open this DNG in a RAW processing application other than Camera Raw or Photoshop Lightroom, because it makes the file size larger. That’s also why I don’t embed the original RAW file, because it totally cancels out Advantage #1.

Step Two

If you have a RAW image open in Camera Raw, you can save it as an Adobe DNG by clicking the Save Image button (as shown here) to bring up the Save Options dialog (seen in the next step). Note: There’s really no advantage to saving TIFF or JPEG files as DNGs, so I only convert RAW photos.

Step Three

When the Save Options dialog appears, at the bottom of the dialog, from the Format pop-up menu, choose Digital Negative (shown below). Below that are the same three options we talked about in Step One, when converting to DNG while importing your RAW photos from your memory card. Make your choices, click Save, and you’ve got a DNG.

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