Why I Don’t Convert To DNG

I did a video the other day and mentioned something about DNG and how I don’t convert to it. I got a lot of questions about it so I figured it called for a quick Q&A. Here goes:

Q. Matt, didn’t you used to recommend converting to DNG?
A. Nope. I just found an article I wrote 8 years ago where I wrote almost the same thing I’m writing here. I’ve never really been on board with DNG. If you find something where I said I was, it was a LONG time ago (like 8+ years) and I’ve since changed.

Q. Why don’t you recommend DNG?
A. I have absolutely zero documented and founded reason for not doing it. Here’s my thoughts. First, it’s an extra step. I don’t use LR’s import dialog because I like to manually put my photos where I want them. So then I’d have to do an extra step later. Is it a long difficult step? Nope. I guess I’m just lazy 🙂

Next, I believe it’s trying to solve a problem that just doesn’t exist. I get why it was created – because it’s a non-proprietary raw format. So in 30 years if your camera manufacturer isn’t around or some one decides to stop supporting your raw format, DNG will theoretically always be able to be read. But that problem doesn’t exist today, and I’m just not worried that it’ll happen in 30 years either. I do like the concept. And if every camera and software company adopted it, I’d be all for it. But they haven’t. When my camera shoots in DNG, then I’ll probably use it.

Also, I just trust my camera manufacturer and the raw files they give me. I guess I have a fundamental block against something I just don’t understand. See, DNG is supposed to be 20% smaller than the original raw file. But, it’s supposed to be the same quality. And I just don’t get that concept. Nor do I have reason enough to ever try to get it, because I’m perfectly happy with my raw files and the space they take. Storage is cheap.

Finally, here’s a reason that doesn’t affect me but may affect some of you. I’m a Lightroom user. I have the option to convert to DNG whenever I want. But a lot of folks are using other programs that don’t convert to DNG (even though they support opening it). And since the whole DNG thing never really “took”, I don’t see them rushing to make a DNG converter built in to their programs. But hey… I could be wrong (I usually am) 🙂

Q. But I read an article or watched a video where “So-and-So” recommended I convert to DNG. Are they wrong?
A. Nope. Not at all. As I mentioned before, I have zero logical and documented reasoning behind my lack of converting to DNG. If “So-and-So” recommended it and you follow it, you’re happy, and everything works for you, I wouldn’t change a thing.

And if you’re wondering why some folks recommend it over others, there’s 2 main reasons:
1) The files are smaller – as I mentioned, storage space is cheap, and that’s not a good enough reason for me. But it may be for you, so that’s okay.

2) DNG files “can” save your edits, metadata, and keywords directly in the file without the .XMP file next to it. I say “can” because this option isn’t on by default and you need to turn it on in the Catalog Prefs in Lightroom. But again, that just doesn’t matter to me. First, dealing with the XMP file isn’t difficult for me. If I move/copy my files somewhere having the XMP file tag along just isn’t a problem I’ve faced.

Next, I don’t keyword, so having keywords get saved with the file doesn’t do much for me. As for my raw/develop settings, I use Lightroom… My photos stay in LR. No other program would be able to do anything with my LR settings that were stored in the DNG anyway (raw edits are propriety so other programs can’t use them). So it just doesn’t serve any purpose (for me) to save all of my keywords/edits in the DNG file because I’m going to use LR to look at them anyway.

Q. Matt, I’ve bought your courses and I’ve noticed many of the download files you give are DNG?
A. Yes, I convert my raw files to DNG for my course downloads. That’s because DNG gives you the option to reduce the size of the raw file significantly. I shoot a 42 Megapixel camera and my uncompressed raw files are over 80 MB each and 7000 pixels wide. DNG let’s me knock that down to 2000 pixels which reduces the size A LOT. I often include 20, 30 or even 50 raw files in a big course of mine. Imagine the file size of the downloads for that. While I think it’s helpful for you to practice on the same raw files I use, you don’t need to practice on a full 42 Megapixel file to see the results of whatever lesson I’m giving. So that’s why you’ve probably seen DNG files from me.

Q. Does that mean I should change my workflow?
A. No, not at all. If it works for you, keep doing it. From what I can see it makes no visible difference on your photos. I always say this but I’ll say it again here. Get past all this file format, algorithm, conversion, techie, non-creative stuff as fast as you can. Don’t spend a lot of brain power on converting to DNG or not. It will not change the most important part of your photos one bit (how they look). If you do it, and you’re familiar with it – stay with it. If not, don’t think too much about what you’re missing out on. Just edit!


Mark Adams

Thanks. My workflow for my best photos includes an inconvenient round-trip from Lightroom to Capture One and back. I’ve found that CR2s and NEFs work fine, but DNGs not so much.

Dan Wei

Have been reading your blogs for a while, great tips. Thank you for sharing.

Malcolm Thornton

Thanks for posting your thoughts on this Matt, I appreciate it. I’ve been converting to DNG for years now, for no other reason than Adobe recommended it at one point and it would save some space. I haven’t noticed a downside as of yet, but I am far less knowledgeable about this topic than yourself and other digital photography educators. I’m hoping to move to ON1 at some point for my main workflow tool and they currently don’t have a DNG conversion and I suspect that they won’t in the near or long term future. As such my days of converting may come to an end if I can phase out Lightroom and move to a single product for most of my workflow (I love ON1’s editing and effects capability but heavily use LR’s keywording, printing, and published collections). It good to know that you believe that not doing a DNG conversation will have little impact. Thank again.

Martin Tomes

In my case it depends on the original format. When I used Canon I converted to DNG because it made the files smaller (they are still not lossy so no data is lost, DNG has a better compression scheme) and the Lightroom edit data can be saved into the DNG and not into a separate file thus keeping the data together.

I now use Sony A6000 and A6300 cameras which use lossy compression in their RAW files, that means that a DNG is larger and the content differs from the Sony RAW file so I don’t convert to DNG.

Matt’s camera doesn’t use lossy compression in its RAW file, if I owned that camera I would convert. It is down to whether saving disc space is important to you, and if you save your Lightroom edits to the file whether having those files in a separate file matters to you.

Carlo Didier

You say your camera uses lossy compression. DNG normally uses lossless compression. So the quality of the DNG (if it came straight from the camera) would be potentially better …
Are you sure your Sony cameras can’t use lossless compression?


One problem with DNG and why I don’t use it except when LR creates one for Panoramas and HDR is that, at least when settings, keywords, etc are stored wtihin, editing them requires backing up the entire file again, whereas editing steps, settings, or keywords in a sidecar file only require backing up the sidecar. That can make a big difference in incremental backup size!

Carlo Didier

This isn’t a problem with modern backup software anymore as they use block-based backup which only backup the changed blocks of files instead of the whole file (during incremental backups).

Dave T

Another reason to consider not converting the original file to DNG is that some photography competitions -such as the Wildlife Photographer of the Year – require entrants to be able to produce the original propriety file for verification process. For example .CR2 or .NEF etc.

If you have converted your original file to DNG and it is now a .DNG file you wont be able to meet their entry requirements

Margarita Ney

Surprised to see that I share similar views with you, not only regarding not converting to DNG, but also not using keywords and doing manual importing to my specification. Great article, thanks!

Burro Bill

Thanks for explaining the difference between my camera raw files and DNG. I still shoot Pentax, and so I can choose to save DNG files in-camera as the default. It’s more versatile across many programs than PEF and since Pentax isn’t so popular these days I do worry than their PEF format might disappear someday, and DNG will probably be available for quite a while.

Tom Sumner

I shoot Pentax as well and since their cameras give you the raw format default option of PEF or DNG, I save my files as DNGs for the same reason. I don’t see a downside. This obviates the need to use the Convert to DNG option when importing


I, too, shoot Pentax and adopted the DNG out of camera file format shortly after moving from jpg to raw. I appreciate being able to store edits and other metadata right in the image file. And contrary to what Matt stated above [“No other program would be able to do anything with my LR settings that were stored in the DNG anyway (raw edits are propriety so other programs can’t use them).”] I have found that Windows Photo Viewer does show the image as edited in LR.

That being said, I am not sure that I would convert to dng if I were shooting another camera system. To each his own, I guess.

John T Vernier

I BELIEVE what he means by direct import is that he imports his images from his memory card DIRECTLY to a file (or files) on his computer. I.e., to a file locations labelled “Everglades Trip March 2018” for example. He then imports his images from that file location into Lightroom in the “import from” protocol in Lightroom. He then has a description of his images on his computer rather than a keyword in Lightroom. Hope this helps. If this is wrong Matt, please correct me.


Direct import as a means of file organising seems to me like a long way round.

I import from the memory card to LR into a folder ‘import to do’. Next, I rename all the images, whatever name I want; and add keywords, either on initial import, or one or a few at a time. Or delete the unwanted. Then I drag and drop the finished images into another folder or more depending upon the subject matter.

That way I have a description of my images on my computer AND a keyword in LR; all done at the same time.

John MacLean

Dave T,

I’ve done some processing work for others that are entering contests. I never could understand this rule. It seems like they don’t believe that a DNG is original enough? For the record, I’ve done DNG since it became available.

Jay G.

I have always used DNG, mainly because my camera does shoot in .DNG!! It is a Pentax! As usual, the dumpy little Pentax company does a one up on the competition again as they are more in-tune with the still photographer.! Also, I like the idea of only one file rather than that pesky little side-car! And lastly, 30 years from now, I suspect the Adobe and .DNG will be around whereas, Nikon and Canon, and unfortunately Pentax will not be around.!

Alan D. Brunelle

Hey Matt – totally understand – for us in the Fujifilm community one thing that has often been suggested is to use Iridient X-transformer to convert RAW to DNG – as Lightroom used to not be able to handle Fujifilm RAW files all that well. I know that has changed a bit, and LR is much better now – but still not sure it equals the qualities I’ve seen Iridient produces. And, of course, they generate DNG output, so most of my stuff recently has been RAW -> Irididient -> DNG -> disk and then just ‘Add’ into existing LR catalogs (no import). Thanks for sharing your thoughts!.


Matt, good luck on your future endeavors & don’t stop teaching. Love your teaching style!
But I do have a question for ya. Have you ever done any drone photography & if not, are you thinking about doing it? I’ve been getting into it & it’s remarkable the different vantage points you get on the same subject. Also on the topic of DNG file format, on the dji domes, for there RAW format they use DNG. Which is ok with me since that’s what I already use.
Keep the great things you do to help us floundering photographers out here!!
PS… God Bless your wife for her contributions & putting up with you for what little time that may be… lol

Matt K

Hi Debbie – I haven’t done any yet. For two reasons:
1) Almost every landscape-ish photo I see from a drone is kinda meh to me. They take a high vantage point and take all foreground (something I love about landscapes) away. To me, high overlook vistas are never as good. I have seen some that do it justice though, when they take more of an overhead look straight down at things and patterns, shadows, shapes and textures come out. That’s what I may experiment with one day.
2) I feel like a criminal every time I’ve flown a drone. First, they’re outlawed in so many places. Sure, it’s easy to get away with, but that doesn’t change the fact they’re still outlawed. Plus, I feel like I’m disturbing people. Imagine people enjoying a sunset at a beach and then you hear this loud buzzing flying around them. Most people are apprehensive and feel like they’re being watched. I just don’t want to be the guy causing it 🙂

Roland Steenbeek

I totally agree with you on the second point. We went to Lake Bled in Slovenia last December and visited the little island church on the lake. A group of Asian tourists were using a drone to take selfies and it was very intrusive, especially in such a beautiful and presumably quiet spot. It really ruined the experience for us (it didn’t help that the group was loud to start with and performed some clapping/dancing ritual whilst filming themselves with the drone).

Anyway, I am sure there are good reasons to use drones for photography, but you absolutely have to take into account the surroundings and remember that you are not alone. Just like I turn on the silent shutter if I want to take photos in a church.

Mike Dean

I started using DNG because I finally ran into compatibility problems. 1) I use DxO and RAW files from my old Fujifilm camera weren’t supported. 2) I got a new camera and Photoshop 5 didn’t support it, my Lightroom 6 did. Since I use Lightroom for all my imports it’s quite simple to Copy to DNG and then edit in any other program. Until/unless I move to CC it’s a simple solution. The 20% savings should be an ‘up to’ because I’ve never seen it. And when I edit in DxO and send it back to Lightroom in the DNG format it’s pretty much like saving in TIFF out of Photoshop, the file can triple in size because all the RAW data and all other information is saved in the DNG. I tried converting to DNG outside Lightroom using Adobe’s DNG Converter and the file actually gets slightly bigger as well (and it’s also a total pain in the butt process). So DNG has actually save me in dealing with compatibility which was its intention and a minor change. If I didn’t use Lightroom then it would have been a much harder workflow to change and change is hard from any angle.

R David Parker

I converted the files from my 1st DSLR to .dng and I later returned my 1st DSLR. I tried to use DxO with a .dng file and DxO stated it was not an original. DxO only works with .dng files from cameras which use it as their output. About 2 months in with the 1st DSLR, I returned it for a 2nd DSLR, a different brand, and have not converted any of those raw files to .dng. I decided to look at my photography progress and wanted to compare images from the same scene. I also had a few raw files from the 1st DSLR. While subjective and it is my opinion, my evaluation was that the .dng files had lost detail and sharpness from their original raw files. Later my analysis showed the same thing with Lr Mobile, based on the .jpgs from Lr Mobile and .jpgs from my smart phone,again, in my opinion. So, I d not use Lr Mobile. I have discussed it with members of the camera club and most of them do not use .dng files for the same reasons. As things change and “improve” it is not clear what we will be working with in the future.


Sorry to open another can of words, but you don’t use keywords!!!!! How do you find your photos? I’d love not to use them, its so onerous, and I never do it very well so I then feel like its a waste of time but also, that I should keyword, all good photographers keyword right? Love to hear more about your thinking on this Matt.

Roland Steenbeek

One of the reasons why I left Lightroom and went over to On1 Photo Raw was the fact that the LR version I was using didn’t read the ORF files my new Olympus camera generated. The only way I could get my files into LR was to convert to DNG and I just couldn’t be bothered with all that. The one thing I disagree on is the keywording. On1 doesn’t do this very well in my opinion (no keyword sets that make it easy to apply defaults), and my OCD makes me loath xmp files. They make things very untidy in my directory and I really don’t like them. But I like the file conversion even less, so xmp files it is.

Anyway. As always thanks for your post.

Robin McGrath

In some of your articles you have fallen into the habit of using unexplained initials and/or jargon which leads to difficulty for some in understanding the content. Good communication demands that the writer does not assume the reader knows the jargon and either explains the first use or adds explanatory foot-notes.
This article on DNG is a case in point. May I suggest that the first para in this article should have been “What is DNG” with explanation! Hope this is constructive.

Joe Martinson

Matt… please don’t change your writing style at all.
Robin… DNG isn’t Matt’s abbreviation or unexplained term or jargon. It’s actually called DNG in the programs that use it. There isn’t a place in any program that doesn’t call it DNG. He didn’t abbreviate it.
If he wrote every article with an explanation in the beginning I’m pretty sure he’d lose more followers than he’d gain.
Imagine some one asking “What f-stop do you usually use for your landscapes”. And they wrote an article called “The most common f-stop”. Would you expect that article to explain what an f-stop is?
Great article Matt. It handled the question for those that asked it, and for those that don’t know what it is, it gave them enough to google if they weren’t sure what a term was. Thanks!


This from Adobe’s official web site should explain everything!

“Digital Negative (DNG), a publicly available archival format for the raw files generated by digital cameras.”

Got it? LOL!!!!

Richard Siggins

I have converted to dng in lightroom years but recently stopped. The conversion step slows down my work flow and I no longer see a great benefit.


so…….as one of the Sigma SD1 & SD Quattro nut-jobs out there I have no choice but go to DNG. On One doesn’t support X3f files nor does ………..well anybody else. Sigma’s software is reeeeeeaaally slow so DNG really helps.

Bob Ware

Interesting to throw DxO into the discussion. I’ve used DxO Optics Pro extensively in conjunction with Lightroom and found that when my raw files (ORF) were round-tripped from LR to DxO and back, there was a significant difference in certain characteristics depending on whether DxO sent the image back to LR as a DNG or TIFF. Some hues were slightly shifted, and the DNGs exhibited a rougher, almost grain-like texture in smooth tones. This was independent of sharpness or noise reduction, for which DxO Optics is excellent. In the end, I decided to forgo the possible size advantage of DNG in favor of the less idiosyncratic TIFF format.


My understanding is that both of these programs are using their own different algorithms to process the raw image. This should explain the differences you are seeing on the round trip.


Quite often, when a new camera comes out, the postprocessing software needs some time to be able to open the file. A DNG conversion will save the day.
Anyway, being a Leica user, my raws are DNG out of camera. Even then, it sometimes happens that the specific DNG format is not supported right away, so the DNG files need to be run through a DNG converter to be readable.


It is far too long a process to go into here, but if you search for how zip files work, you will get why it takes up less space without losing any details.

I have so far not needed to convert to dng thankfully, as I too would be reluctant to do so – But possibly for some different reasons to you? Firstly space on the hard drive should not be a problem for most of us, but it could be on a card in a camera. That is one reason to actually consider shooting in dng. I personally would convert them to png before dng, but whatever lossless format you choose for storage, you need to consider several several things. Firstly as has been mentioned, preservation of metadata might be very important for entry into a competition for example. Secondly, all these files are compressed like zip files are. That means a slight delay in opening and closing them. Usually not a problem on a computer, unless possibly assembling lots of them into thumbnails or a contact sheet perhaps? Usually these are fast enough that any delay is trivial, but possibly not so on the camera though. The computer on a camera is nigh by like as powerful as the ones likely on your computer.

Where I find it gets very murky though, are the questionable benefits of compression on a camera at all? It takes time to convert to the compressed format, making it a potential bottleneck for burst shooting. On the other hand, the smaller files are quicker to write to a memory card, reducing the other typical bottleneck on a camera. It does depend on the speed of the microprocessor in the camera, and the typical write speed of the card you are using. So I personally do not think there is a right answer for everyone. I think if your camera offers it, you should try it on burst mode and see if your particular camera and card combination will be ready to take another burst mode group of shots any quicker with one format over the other?

Incidentally, if space was a critical problem for some reason, you could always store them in a zip file, or even compress the drive in windows. But I really would not recommend it, because it slows down reading and writing files. While it is not going to happen very often, it does sometimes happen that data becomes corrupted. In any compressed file or format, it is less likely you can recover your data, or possibly even the whole file or drive will be lost.

It is just my preference of course, but I store all unprocessed pictures as raw, and processed ones as png. I chose that format because it does allow considerable file size reduction, with very quick opening and closing times. Not only that, but it is lossless, so I can further process them at will with no losses at all, other than what the processing itself does to them.

As an aside, after a disaster some years ago, I always use the most reliable hard drives I can find. I am now a convert to the helium-filled ones. Their MTBF is 2.5 million hours. Meaning the drive should be pretty safe for 100 years or so. It’s much quicker than using m-data optical disks for archiving, simpler and cheaper in the long run too.

David K.

Hi everyone! I use Lightroom, and never used DNG before. I think most programs can read your RAW files directly. DNG is handy when your editing/viewing program is unable to read RAW files directly. It happened to me last year when I was unable to edit my Nikon D850 files in LR before an update came out. Viewing them was also a problem because ACDSee couldn’t handle them. DNG was the solution.

One advantage of DNG is that it is backwards compatible. As new types of cameras and RAW files come out, DNG will allow me to edit them in older programs like Photoshop CS6 and Lightroom 6 which I own. It just keeps them usable, without having to jump onto the subscription wagon.


Somehow it is missed here that DNG files come in flavours: Uncompressed, losslessly compressed and lossy compressed. It is rather inaccurate to sweep all onto one heap and claim “mushiness”
Basically, a DNG file is just a TIFF file wrapped in an envelope.


Thank you very much for pointing that out! At first I wondered why anyone would want to use uncompressed or lossy versions of it? But reading about dng, I see it was meant originally by Adobe to be a universal format for archiving. In other words, a format that would always be readable no matter what other formats became popular. But the big manufacturers did not adopt it.

Interestingly, reading through the detailed specifications of how it works, and preserves the data for the individual color layers, I did wonder if it (or a form of it?) might be useful in those new cameras where you take the picture, but can later decide on what should be in focus on it. I only read about such a camera being developed, but never kept up with it, so I don’t know if it even became “adopted” by any other than the Lytro and Illum cameras?


Hi, a really interesting subject, but I am now confused with import vs add. I manually transfer my NEF pics to disk; I create a new folder for each shoot, titled month year and title of the shoot. I then import into LR – never really noticed Add. Is there a difference between the two methods that I should be paying attention to?

Matt K

Hi Peter – your choices aren’t Import or Add. Your choices once you get to Import are Copy, Copy as DNG, or Add. I move my files manually where I want them first, so I don’t need to “copy” from a card. So I choose Add.


Thanks Matt, never really noticed the ADD highlighted at the top of the screen, I just hit the import button at the bottom right. I guess I selected Add on my very first import and forgot all about it 🙂


To DNG or not to DNG? Or is it a necessity? I have always converted my NEFs to DNG purely because years ago I absolutely hated the .xmp side cars created when editing the NEFs. I was a newbie back then and knew no better about side cars and keeping them together with the NEFs. Never mind even knowing how to set up the in program settings to handle the side cars. I lost a whole lot of editing due to this lack of know how back then. Enter the DNG which solved this issue. so have stuck to DNGs ever since. For now, for me, it is a necessity. I have just bought the Nikon D750. I only have CS5 to edit in Camera Raw, and a very old Lightroom3, which I rarely use. In order to check out my NEF images produced by my new D750 in my usual Adobe Camera Raw within CS5, I have had to convert all to DNG. So annoying that we have to constantly update software in order to continue of livelihoods in photography. I am sure as hell not going to become a subscriber to the new Adobe CC. With the exchange rate through to South Africa, it becomes silly. So my next port of call is the kick all Adobe software to the curb and use On1 RAW 2018. Have just paid and downloaded this awesome ON1 RAW 2018. So back the learning drawing board for a little while until I get the hang of the new software. I am quite sure the change over will be worth the pain of learning new software.

John Kain

When LR stopped supporting my Fuji RAW files, friend recommended I convert my files to DNG and then import them into LR. I found it to be a complete waste of hard drive space. Now I have Fuji RAW files, DNG files and LR files. I am told that LR CC will support my Fuji files but I refused to pay Adobe the $10 a month for LR and Photoshop. I decided to switch to ON1 Camera RAW instead. I get the same functions as Lightroom and Photoshop layering in one program. Yes I pay the money for a Plus membership which is equivalent to the Adobe charges but I get better support, learning opportunities, and a much more responsive community to my issues. I watched a lot of your training video’s from the old Photoshop Elements days, many of your Lightroom training videos, and your ON1 videos. I have to admit I owe a lot of my editing skills to you. Keep up the good work!

Robin Whalley

I’m totally with you on not converting to DNG. I used to do this when the DNG concept was first launched but even then I would embed the original RAW file because like you, I didn’t trust the logic. About 6 months later I started to notice colour shifts in the preview files following conversion, particularly with reds and blues. At the time I was shooting Canon so did some side by side comparisons of the RAW file and DNG. Even though I would use the same colour profiles the colours were different. Actually, they were just wrong.

Now I shoot Fuji and often use XTransformer software to convert my RAW files to DNG in order to edit them in Lightroom. I do this because the XTransofmer software handles the conversion from RAW to DNG much better than Lightroom or the DNG converter. If DNG were really the same as the RAW file this wouldn’t be possible.

I always keep the original RAW.

Bill Hercus

I do convert. Reason is simple. Having weaned myself off Adobe’s monthly deduction for Photoshop and LR I find I need to convert because my files out of the camera (new) are not recognised by LR5 (the last non subscription LR)
Next question I know you will ask. Why do you have LR5. I can print successfully our of LR5 but not ON1.

So, there you have it!

Linda Enger

For years I have ingested the raw files onto the computer where they also go into an archive/backup. I then import them into LR as a copy-DNG – putting them into completely different folder. This gave me relief after years of having “accidents ” happen to raw files by some mystery guest that looks like me. Now if any gremlins came into my computer in the middle of the night and messed with my images I always have my original raw file fast asleep out of harms way ( or dare I say my own arm’s way). Also once I start messing with composites and focus stacking and virtual copies and renaming images … it is nice to have a “virgin” copy stored away.


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