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!


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