The RAW Truth About DNG Files

Posted by James Maynard – May 01, 2013

The latest of the great arguments among photographers is the choice of whether to begin the digital editing process in raw or .DNG format. Of course, we are here at Mosaic try to bring you all the information we can about the subject at hand (which we love photography)

Although much discussion is made of .RAW files, there is no such thing as a single “.RAW” file format. Raw is a bucket term for several different types of formats like .cr2, .nef, r3d., and dozens of others. A file that is a perfectly good “raw file” for products from one manufacturer may be gibberish on other camera’s systems. This is entirely unlike .PNG or .JPG files, which are readable across various platform.

Most professional photographers and serious amateurs shoot in the raw format, giving their files all the information needed for the best possible editing. But, there is an option within Lightroom to convert your raw formated pictures into digital negatives, or .DNG files. In order to decide if that is the right move, let’s learn a little bit about each file format.

When you shoot in raw format, you are recording the unadulterated, complete file with all the original data intact, which makes it such a great choice for editing. Since you did not “throw away” any information when you were taking the photograph, you have a great deal of flexibility when it comes to editing your photographs afterward.

Not all raw files are created the same – cameras from different manufacturers can have incompatible ways of organizing that information, so don’t be surprised if software that worked with the raw files of one camera will not work with a different device. This use of proprietary versions of raw format may be the undoing of the standard over time.

This is why raw converting tools are not created equally… although software packages like Google Picasa can “support raw files” how they interpret the camera sensor data varies greatly and can lead to very different final product images.

The .DNG format solves this problem by taking the raw image and converting it to a digital negative which is recognized by a wide variety of software applications. Just as film negatives were/are compatible with any enlarger, the .DNG format is compatible with many software applications, including Adobe Lightroom.

You can think of it as the .PDF of the digital photo world. The compatibility rate for .DNG files is actually higher than it is for raw format, so a wide number of applications will be able to import photos into your library in .DNG format. This is partly because of the fact that when Adobe developed this standard in 2004, they released the converter and the exploitation rights for free to developers.

Since you will still be shooting in raw format, and only converting to .DNG on import, the files on your memory card will remain unchanged. The .DNG format, while retaining all the original image data, does dispose of some of the metadata that accompanies raw files, but does not affect image quality, such as camera settings and focus points. That means that a .DNG file will be about 15% smaller than an identical raw file. However, the image quality of the photographs themselves are identical. This helps improve the one big drawback of shooting in raw – the larger file size of these formats compared to .JPG or .TIFF.Part of this data is contained in another file which accompanies raw files, called a .XMP file. This folder contains information about editing performed on the photograph. Occasionally, they can become dislodged from their partner files, leading to trouble. This processing information is stored within .DNG files, eliminating the need for a separate .XMP.Another advantage of importing as .DNG files is that they contain a checksum safety feature that easily and quickly identifies a corrupted file. This is called embedded file verification. However, the actual importing times may be not be as sped up as you might think by the reduction in file size – because the original raw files need to be converted to .DNG, there will be some lag added by that process.

Whether you decide to begin your photo processing in raw or .DNG format, you will be shooting them in raw, so there is no harm in trying an import as .DNG and seeing what happens. No matter which photo editor you are using, tell us below about your experiences using .DNG.


I have just made the switch to DNG format from my RAW files. Adobe offers a free Raw to DNG converter on their website. It’s simple to use and the resulting files are smaller than the original RAW files. I like the fact that being Digital Negatives you only have one file not two using the camera specific RAW file created by your camera. File viewers and editors like Adobe Bridge can get corrupted or confused and stop working. DNG files are universally accepted, kind of the “one size fits all” mentality. Below is the first DNG file I shot and edited in Photoshop CS6.1 for Mac today.


Bazinga 12

Cutie Alert: Little Boy With Grandma

Another “Cutie Alert” was obvious yesterday when this adorable little boy came with his dad & grandma to Lorikeet Landing. He was just fascinated with all the birds flying around him. Grandma was whispering encouragement in his ear as daddy fed one of the birds that had handed on his arm. It was all almost too exciting for the little tyke who stood there motionless just taking it all in. P.S. – This might be a little girl?

Little Boy 01

Little Boy 02

Cricket Finally Standing Still

Half the fun of photographing a Caracal is waiting for them to tire and just stand still. They are constant motion so it takes patience to wait them out. It paid off for me today to get a shot at Cricket standing on a ledge. The lighting was good and I found a clean spot to shoot through on the PlexiGlas.

Cricket 15

The 1st Annual Hillsboro Renaissance Festival

This festival took place last year for the very first time. I attended and must admit to having the best time in over 20 years. There was just so much to see, experience and photograph. I’m heading back Sunday for their 2nd annual event and bringing a friend that I hope will enjoy herself as well.

2013 HRF

Remembering Our Tiger Twins

As I look through my collection of predator cat photos I’m struck by my wonderful collection of tiger photographs. I think these are some of my finest shots because I truly love tigers. They are so majestic, so loving toward each other, that they move me to a deep respect. Their expressions seem to be so primal their stare cuts straight to your soul. There’s not a doubt in my mind who reigns in their world. With the passing of Nicole on March 24, 2014 from a seizure Mikhail is all alone. We’ve watched him through the grieving process as he adapts to his new life alone.


Plan “B”

Plan “A” was to go to Multnomah Falls, Vista House & the Portland Women’s Forum for our 3rd lesson in photography Sunday. We’ve switched to Plan “B”, a trip to the 2nd annual Hillsboro Renaissance Festival this Sunday because it’s the last day of the festival in 2014. I almost missed it by procrastinating & not checking the dates for this year’s dates. I attended the 1st instance of this local fair last year and had more fun than I’d had in 25 years or more. I believe Liz, my photographic student, would really love the opportunity to photograph a huge collection of men, women & children dressed up in period costumes jousting and entertaining the visitors. Multnomah Falls will still be there for another session later.

Celebrate the Final 2 Days with TIME TRAVELER’S WEEKEND

Sept 20 & 21 ~ STEP INTO YOUR TIME MACHINES, where the 16th Century awaits your arrival… to a charming re-creation of a 16th century village for 2 more days of merriment and adventure. Talented artisans, non-stop amazing stage entertainment; pageantry of the Queen and her royal court; knights in shining armor in live Jousting Tournaments; Falconry, Renaissance inspired food and drink; unique shopping experience; games, hand-powered rides, and more!

Allow your imagination to take flight. Meet a special guest appearing from out of this world traveling through space and time to visit the 16th century village. From Star Trek to Star Wars, and all ages before are welcome to arrive in costume. Dress in the century of your choice. Enter the Time Traveler’s Costume Contest and win prizes. The contest is FREE with categories for adults and children. Sign up at the information booth by 2:45pm. Contest starts at 3pm each day.

See the ALL NEW talent competition show, The Next Top Renaissance Star! The competition takes place each day at 1:15pm on the Peasant Stage. Enjoy watching a lively show where pre-qualified performers audition before a panel of judges. This entertaining experience features the Queen herself, village characters and a special guest local radio talent. Be a part of the audience to see who wins the competition to become The Next Top Renaissance Star! The top winner will be selected on Sunday, Sept 21st.


There is still time to submit your video. Show us what you’ve got and you could WIN $500and the chance for a performance contract at the 2015 Oregon Renaissance Festival of Hillsboro! HURRY, deadline to submit is Wed., Sept 17th at midnight. For contest details and to submit YOUR audition video visit


Join us for TIME TRAVELER’S WEEKEND this final weekend, Saturday & Sunday, SEPTEMBER 20 & 21, 2014 from 10am to 6pm, held at the Washington County Fair Complex. The Festival GATES OPEN shortly before 10am with an opening gate performance by the Players Company. Purchase DISCOUNT TICKETS at participating Walgreens stores. Find detailed information, directions, or discounts online at WWW.OREGONRENFEST.COM



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Peek-A-Boo Kia

Safe up on her perch Kia keeps an eye on me as I peer through the branches to get a picture of her high above her nemesis, Boris.

Peek_A_Boo Kia 2

Senior Day 2014

There were plenty of smiles as well as anxious anticipation on the faces of our senior visitors this year during the annual Senior Day at the Oregon Zoo. It’s free admission, rides, tour guides and special activities for all seniors and their guests.

Senior Day 1

Senior Day 2

Senior Day 3

Changing Seasons

There are more and more signs that Summer is losing its grip on the area. Below you can see patches of color sprouting up as Mother Nature gets ready for yet another changing season.

Changing Seasons