Where Did Those DNGs Come From?

Post Production Pro Tips - Weekly editing advice and workflow suggestions from the post-production pros.
Where Did Those DNGs Come From?

We occasionally have clients who go to send us images for a post-production job and are surprised to see that all they have are DNGs. “I don’t know where these DNGs came from,” they tell us. “I thought I had RAW files.”

In this situation, it’s usually one of three things that went wrong:

1. Camera Set to DNG

It’s not common, but some cameras can shoot directly to DNG format, just like most can shoot to RAW and JPG. Check your camera’s settings to see if it’s set to the DNG option.

2. Conversion During Lightroom Import

During a Lightroom import, you see four options across the top (shown below). These control how the images are brought into Lightroom.

See the “Copy as DNG” option? That tells Lightroom to convert the files to DNG as it copies them to a new folder. If you accidentally choose this option, you’ll end up with a folder full of DNG files.

The good news is that the original files are left untouched. If you have the original files nicely backed up somewhere, you can always go back and import the RAW version instead. However, some photographers import into Lightroom directly from their memory cards. If you Copy as DNG from a memory card and then format that memory card, the original RAW files are gone. In this case, you don’t lose any data – the DNG retains all the data that RAW file had, – but you are stuck with DNGs and their associated workflow.

3. Conversion During Lightroom Export

Say you successfully import RAW files into Lightroom. There’s still the possibility of converting them to DNG during the export.

As shown below, there is an Image Format option which lets you choose what file types you want exported. Make sure you don’t accidentally choose DNG.

In most cases, you’ll export JPEG (if you’re exporting for print or a hosting site) or Original (if you’re sending the original file type to Post for post-production).

None of this is meant to imply there’s anything wrong with DNGs, of course. Many photographers intentionally and happily convert everything to DNG. But if you were wondering, “Where did those DNGs come from?” you now have a likely explanation.



Quick-Tip: What are DNGs? How do they compare to RAW and JPG? Do I want to use them? We answer these questions in our introduction to DNGs. Quick-Tip: Do you still have album designs from 2012 to finish up? We can help! Even better, Post album design is now on sale.
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