An Introduction to DNG File Types

Our awesome partners over at PWD Labs (www.pwdlabs.com) created a post on their blog recently about DNG file types and were nice enough to let us repost the article here. If you have ever wondered what a DNG file is this is a great overview of the DNG file type.

Introduction to DNG File Types

As a photographer you have many choices to make in the realm of digital photography, and image file type is no exception. Your digital files are your photos, so it’s important to choose what’s right for you. At PWD, we primarily see the use of propriety camera RAW files (e.g. Canon has CR2 files and Nikon has NEF files), or we see JPG files. There is, however, a third file type popular in many circles: DNGs. While DNG files are similar in many respects to RAW files, they have their own advantages and disadvantages. Here, we’ll discuss DNGs and their place in the file landscape, though it will be up to you to decide whether they make sense for your workflow.

What is a DNG?

DNG stands for Digital Negative and is just another means of digitally storing your images. Created by Adobe – the maker of Photoshop and Lightroom, – the DNG format is an attempt to replace, and improve on, the many different types of proprietary camera RAW formats currently in existence.

How do you get DNGs?

A few camera manufacturers offer cameras which capture straight to DNG. However, Canon and Nikon have yet to get on board with this. Canon and Nikon photographers who want to store their images as DNGs need to take the extra step of converting their CR2 or NEF files to the DNG format. This can be done using Lightroom or any number of other imaging programs.

What data do DNGs contain?

DNGs can be considered RAW files because they contain all the raw image information gathered by the camera’s sensor. Like RAW files, DNGs have a huge edge on JPGs in terms of editability and image quality.

However, DNGs differ from RAWs in how the file is set up. If you’re familiar with the RAW/XMP workflow, you’ll know that any changes made to a RAW file are stored as text instructions in a separate XMP file. You then need both the XMP and the RAW file to see the adjusted image. DNGs are different in that they package everything together into a single file. A DNG contains both the raw image data (the equivalent of the RAW file) and the metadata (the equivalent of the XMP file).

This packaging can be taken even further. One DNG file can contain some or all of the following elements: the raw image data, the metadata, a JPG preview file, and even the original camera RAW file (just in case you ever want to go back to your original RAW format). Needless to say, the file sizes of DNGs can vary greatly depending on what you pack into them. And what you pack into them depends on your own personal preferences.

Comparison of file types

The following table compares a few attributes of DNGs, RAW files, and JPGs.

Do you use DNG files? Let us know by adding a Facebook comment below or ask any questions about file formats and lets start a discussion!

If you are looking for someone to do your color correcting to save some time or a custom lab check out PWD Labs at www.pwdlabs.com. I have used them in the past and found their quality to be amazing and excellent in customer support. You can check out a review I did of their service a little while back here: Getting help with your post production.

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Author: Mark

Mark is a fine art wedding and portrait photographer from Northern California. He has been passionate about photography since childhood and started his studio 12 years ago to bring a fresh style of photography to the wedding and portrait world.

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2 Comments

  1. Thank you for this post. I’ve been considering trying DNG, and I just may on my next import.

  2. With all the conversion issues as major brands introduce new units, this is very timely for many and should provide some reassurance. Nice job

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