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Why use DNG?

From: Lightroom 4 Essentials: 01 Organizing and Sharing with the Library Module

Video: Why use DNG?

There is a lot of excitement surrounding Lightroom and how Lightroom is this tool that we can use in order to RAW process our photographs. There is also a lot of excitement about how we can capture RAW images when we're using digital cameras. Yet sometimes, all of this excitement, it can be a little bit confusing. It can be a little bit hard to differentiate between the hype and also the legitimate excitement. And on top of that, when we are working in RAW, we have these different file formats, and so what I want to do here is take a couple of minutes just to deconstruct things and I want to do this for a couple of reasons.

Why use DNG?

There is a lot of excitement surrounding Lightroom and how Lightroom is this tool that we can use in order to RAW process our photographs. There is also a lot of excitement about how we can capture RAW images when we're using digital cameras. Yet sometimes, all of this excitement, it can be a little bit confusing. It can be a little bit hard to differentiate between the hype and also the legitimate excitement. And on top of that, when we are working in RAW, we have these different file formats, and so what I want to do here is take a couple of minutes just to deconstruct things and I want to do this for a couple of reasons.

First off, so that we have a good working understanding of these issues; and second, so that we can start to understand what it means to work with digital negative files. Okay, let's step back for a second and let's start at the beginning. Really, if we go the beginning, there are two different things we talk about when we're talking about RAW. The first is RAW Capture. That's images that we capture with our cameras. We can set our cameras to capture images at a certain format. The other topic is RAW Processing. Now this has to do with software whether we're using Adobe Camera RAW or we're using Lightroom.

So if we go to RAW Capture for a second, what happens is, if we have our camera set to JPEG, well, it captures the image and then it goes through this whole process and then generates a JPEG. In other words, we've lost some of the data. On the other hand, if we shoot in RAW, we get the image just straight off the sensor. And because of this there, again, is a lot of this excitement about RAW and you may have heard the comments saying that you should always shoot in the RAW but you shouldn't shoot in the buff, because you might get arrested. RAW captures really great because again we just have all of this data to work with, all of the information straight off the sensor without anything interpreting it or messing it up or modifying it. All right! Well, what then about RAW Processing? Well, RAW Processing is all about taking data and then it's about applying some sort of set of instructions to that data.

Now what's interesting about these instructions is they're just little lines of text. They say I want this data be interpreted in this particular way. When it comes to Lightroom, what happens is all of those instructions are put inside of the catalog and the catalog has all of this information. Now that information, or those instructions, they allow us to display the actual pictures in a different way, like this image here. And what's great about this is we can be flexible. We can change our mind, display the image this way or display the image this way.

Now when we're working with RAW Processing, we can work with all different types of file formats, whether RAW files from the camera, DNG, PSD, TIFF, JPEG, movie files and on and on. So what's interesting about RAW Processing is it's nondestructive. In other words, we can always change these little instructions. This gives us flexibility and speed. There's no need to save the file in the traditional sense, because again, all of our work, all of our processing, well, it's already just saved by default in these little instruction files.

And ultimately, this helps us to be more creative, because we can quickly process our images in different ways. This added flexibility really helps us create more compelling photographs. All right! Well, let's jump back to a topic I just mentioned which has to do with this file format issue. As I mentioned, in Lightroom we can RAW process RAW files, PSD, JPEG, TIFF, movie files, DNG files, but a lot of the hype and a lot of the excitement is surrounding this whole concept of the DNG file.

Now why is that and what is that? What is the DNG? Well, the DNG file is something that Adobe came up with. It stands for Digital Negative. And there are some really clear-cut benefits for using this file format. Let me walk you through those. For starters, if you have a DNG file, by default, the DNG format has what's called lossless compression. In other words, it has a smaller file size without losing any information. And in a sense what the DNG file format is it's kind of like a container.

You can see this box around this image here. It's almost like that box which then holds the image inside of it and that box helps us create a little bit of a smaller file size. You can also now change this to Lossy compression. We'll talk a little bit more about that in one of the subsequent movies. This allows us to create a smaller file size and lose information, but some argue that this is better than, say, JPEG compression. So again, there's flexibility. Of course, we'll need to deconstruct these two issues a little bit more, but for now just know that by default, it's lossless.

What that means is lots of great information, smaller file size, and for me, I am all about that. The next thing to consider is this. We can now turn on this option which is called Fast Load. What Fast Load allows us to do in Lightroom is to view and work with these files up to eight times faster in the Develop module. Now this extra added bit of speed, again, is something that's really welcomed. Smaller file size, work more quickly, it's kind of a no-brainer, right? The other advantage is that there aren't sidecar XMP files.

Let me jump to another slide to explain this. If we're working with a DNG file, there isn't another file associated with it. Even if we're saving the metadata to that file, it's all inside of that container. On the other hand, if we have a RAW file, like this one here, or a JPEG or a TIFF or whatever it is, well, it's going to need to have some sort of a sidecar file. The sidecar file will be the set of instructions. These are two separate or distinct files versus with DNG, well, there aren't any sidecar files at all.

Then the last issue is of archival confidence. A number of Lightroom users use the DNG format simply because of this. This format is open source, meaning anyone can access the information about it, and ideally, the hope is that this will have more archival relevance. In other words, let's say, you shoot with a particular camera in a certain RAW format and all of a sudden, that camera company stops supporting that format or maybe goes out of business or who knows what. Well, then you could run into problems in the future.

The DNG format on the other hand, well, it's supported by Adobe and it's open source. So that information about the format, well, it can never be lost. It's already out there and anyone can learn how to access that. So in other words, people use this DNG format and the hope is that this will be an archival type of a format. So again in my own workflow, I've adopted this DNG format completely because of these different reasons; file size, speed, no other need for sidecar files, and also for confidence of being able to access and work with these files in the future.

Now in your own workflow, you're going to need to make the decision about what file format works best for you. Yet my hope with this movie is that it gives you a little bit of information. For starters, it helps you kind of understand some of the issues surrounding this whole idea of RAW Processing and RAW Capture. It also helps you start to see about some of the benefits of DNG and why you may want to consider using that format. All right! Well, I hope that this movie has been helpful and now that we have a little bit of a working understanding of RAW and also of DNG, what I want to do in the next couple of movies is take a look at a couple of examples of how we can work with this DNG format inside of Lightroom.

Show transcript

This video is part of

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  1. 2m 1s
    1. Welcome
      1m 1s
    2. Using the exercise files
      1m 0s
  2. 13m 33s
    1. The broad Photoshop Lightroom overview
      3m 52s
    2. The photographic workflow puzzle
      3m 45s
    3. Why use Photoshop Lightroom?
      5m 56s
  3. 30m 18s
    1. The Photoshop Lightroom interface
      5m 21s
    2. Using the interface shortcuts
      4m 57s
    3. Working with panels
      4m 24s
    4. Customizing the identity plate and module pickers
      5m 49s
    5. Customizing interface elements
      5m 5s
    6. Creating a custom panel end mark
      3m 45s
    7. Using module tips
      57s
  4. 36m 32s
    1. Importing images and looking at file formats
      5m 27s
    2. Importing preferences
      3m 13s
    3. Introducing the Import dialog
      5m 10s
    4. Setting catalog preferences and import and preview options
      5m 38s
    5. Importing from a folder
      4m 2s
    6. Importing photos from a CF card
      10m 22s
    7. Creating an import preset
      2m 40s
  5. 11m 37s
    1. Drag-and-drop importing
      2m 8s
    2. Auto-importing from a watched folder
      4m 48s
    3. Importing from iPhoto or Aperture
      4m 41s
  6. 9m 36s
    1. Introducing tethered capture
      3m 47s
    2. Working with tethered capture
      2m 55s
    3. Considering color management with tethered capture
      2m 54s
  7. 24m 21s
    1. Introducing catalogs
      3m 12s
    2. Demystifying catalogs by way of comparison
      3m 34s
    3. Optimizing and backing up catalogs
      6m 13s
    4. Importing and updating legacy catalogs
      6m 38s
    5. Exporting a catalog
      3m 53s
    6. Learning more about catalogs
      51s
  8. 41m 51s
    1. Working in the Grid and Loupe views
      2m 14s
    2. Navigating and zooming
      4m 47s
    3. Customizing the Grid and Loupe views
      5m 14s
    4. Customizing the Filmstrip
      3m 17s
    5. Comparing two images
      5m 23s
    6. Surveying two or more images
      3m 15s
    7. Working with folders and files
      4m 2s
    8. Deleting and removing images from folders
      3m 1s
    9. Working with multiple hard drives
      8m 2s
    10. Dual-monitor support
      2m 36s
  9. 30m 25s
    1. Working with flags, stars, and labels
      5m 20s
    2. Adding ratings with the Painter tool
      3m 32s
    3. Filtering by flag, stars, and labels
      3m 58s
    4. A filtering workflow
      5m 54s
    5. Filtering by file type
      1m 54s
    6. Filtering by type and metadata
      3m 22s
    7. Sorting photos
      1m 58s
    8. Stacking photos into groups
      4m 27s
  10. 21m 51s
    1. Using Smart Collections
      4m 7s
    2. Using Quick Collections
      2m 25s
    3. What is a collection?
      3m 39s
    4. Working with collections
      3m 22s
    5. Going further with collections
      3m 17s
    6. An evaluative-collection workflow
      5m 1s
  11. 12m 23s
    1. Overviewing the new Map module
      2m 32s
    2. Tagging images with locations
      3m 46s
    3. Creating saved locations
      6m 5s
  12. 10m 44s
    1. Using Quick Develop
      3m 39s
    2. Synchronizing settings
      3m 12s
    3. Making incremental adjustments
      3m 53s
  13. 31m 41s
    1. Playing video in Photoshop Lightroom
      3m 50s
    2. Trimming a video
      4m 11s
    3. Editing the color and tone of a video
      5m 2s
    4. Using presets to edit the color and tone of a video
      1m 49s
    5. Setting the poster frame
      1m 35s
    6. Capturing a still image from a video
      3m 9s
    7. Exporting to a hard drive
      2m 37s
    8. Publishing to a hard drive
      3m 35s
    9. Publishing video to Facebook
      3m 18s
    10. Publishing video to Flickr
      2m 35s
  14. 17m 11s
    1. Why use DNG?
      7m 32s
    2. Converting to DNG and the Embed Fast Load Data option
      3m 45s
    3. Reducing file size with the lossy compressed DNG
      5m 54s
  15. 22m 39s
    1. Adding keywords
      3m 33s
    2. Creating and using keyword sets
      3m 6s
    3. Synchronizing keywords
      1m 58s
    4. Keywording with the Painter tool
      1m 29s
    5. Working with the Metadata panel
      4m 44s
    6. Adding copyright metadata with a template
      4m 23s
    7. Filtering photographs based on metadata
      3m 26s
  16. 27m 34s
    1. External editing preferences
      5m 14s
    2. Editing raw photos in Photoshop
      4m 43s
    3. Editing an original TIFF, PSD, or JPG file in Photoshop
      3m 40s
    4. Editing a modified TIFF, PSD, or JPG file in Photoshop
      4m 44s
    5. Opening an image as a Smart Object in Photoshop
      4m 34s
    6. Including multiple images in Photoshop as layers
      4m 39s
  17. 29m 1s
    1. Exporting photographs to a hard drive, CD, or DVD
      4m 44s
    2. Publishing to a folder
      4m 5s
    3. Using exporting presets
      4m 51s
    4. Emailing photographs from Photoshop Lightroom
      5m 34s
    5. Exporting to Adobe Revel
      3m 39s
    6. Uploading photos to Facebook and Flickr
      6m 8s
  18. 32s
    1. Goodbye
      32s

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