Working with DNG files in Lightroom
Working with DNG files in Lightroom
By default, when we're working with the DNG format, we don't have sidecar files. In other words, if we make a change like we desaturate here, increase our Exposure, Fill Light, and maybe add a little bit of Contrast, well, if we then go and look at the actual file, we'll see that there's just one file. Let's do that. Right-click the file and choose Show in Finder and here you're going to see that we just have the DNG file. What's going to happen if we double-click it? Well, if we double-click this file, it'll open it up in Adobe Camera Raw, but without any of the settings. Why is that? Well again, by default all the settings are saved to the Lightroom catalog and that's a good thing because it keeps things really organized.
Yet, let's say that we decide to drag this DNG file somewhere else outside of Lightroom. And we do this "behind Lightroom's back". Well, in that case, we're not going to have any of the work that we've done inside of Lightroom with this file. So in those scenarios, if we want to have those changes embedded into that DNG file, what we need to do is navigate back to Lightroom. And we have two options, very similar options to what we saw with Camera Raw. We can either go to our Catalog Settings. On a Mac, that's Lightroom > Catalog Settings.
On a PC that's Edit > Catalog Settings. And in the Metadata tab here, we can choose to Automatically write changes into XMP. Now, this is a little bit misleading, because some people say, "well, DNG doesn't have XMP. So what's going to happen?" In reality, what it is is the XMP file is inside of that DNG file format. I like to think of DNG format as a Tupperware container. Inside of that it contains all of these other little things. So rather than having multiple parts, just wraps everything up into a nice little tight container.
So, it'll automatically write the change to the file. So we can either turn on that preference and what that would do is apply this to every DNG file that we've worked on in Lightroom, or if we didn't want this to be a global change, we could then just go to one particular file, or for that matter, a group of files. And let's do a couple of files just to illustrate this here. I'll select another DNG file here, and I'm going to convert this one to black and white. And so now that I've two of these files selected, again one or more, I'm going to go to the Photo pulldown menu and here what I'm going to do is say Update DNG Previews & Metadata.
Now, this is the equivalent to what we've did to our Camera RAW files, except in Camera Raw you choose to Save Metadata to Files. Here, we're going for DNG, so we say Update DNG Previews & Metadata. That will give us a little bit of a progress up here, telling us that it is doing that. And once we've done that, we can go back to our Finder window and now here we have those two files that we've worked on. If we double-click either of those two files, what we're going to see is that in Camera Raw, all of the settings that we've applied in Lightroom are now embedded or integrated or part of the actual file.
Let's cancel out of this one and just to make sure, to confirm, we'll go to a other file here, double-click that one as well, and we'll see the same thing. So, what's the big deal with all of these and why are we digging into this overall topic of how this actually works? Well one of the things that I'm trying to reiterate, going back to our slide, is that what we want to do is just have a good knowledge of how this works. So, again to reiterate, RAW files by default all the adjustments are saved to the catalog, although you can manually choose to have them save to the XMP sidecar file either by way of a catalog setting preference or by manually choosing this option.
And the reason this is important is so that if we move our files outside of Lightroom, we just know what's happening, and so that we don't lose any of the adjustments that we've made. If we do intend to say grab a group of RAW files on a hard drive or a group of DNG files on a hard drive, and then just duplicate them, thinking that we've saved all of our Lightroom work. We'll, in those cases, we won't have saved that work. We'd need to have exported it to either the sidecar files or in the DNG format. We'd have needed to update the DNG preview or automatically write the changes to the DNG file itself.
You may be thinking, okay, well this is interesting and it's helping me out a little bit, but then why choose one option versus another? Why not just always write the changes to the XMP or to the DNG file because that seems like it makes a little bit more sense? Well, while it does make a little bit more sense because that file then contains those changes so to speak, the downside is time, its speed. It's a little bit more of a slower workflow because it's always writing to the file rather than writing to this main catalog.
One of the reasons why Lightroom is so fast is because everything is contained inside of the catalog. It's lightening fast, right, because it's not always writing to the file, exporting things, and you notice that as I save the files or updated the DNG preview and metadata, what happen is that it took a little bit of time and that was just with a couple of images. So, again it comes down to a question of speed. So what then do I recommend? Well, in my own context, or my own workflow, I save everything to the catalog. And then, if I want to move a RAW file or a DNG file, if I want to take something out of Lightroom, I just do that by the way of an export and it's actually a really simple process.
So in another words, I can work really quickly in Lightroom and then if I need to export a file as a original file or as a DNG file, in other words, save all the settings that I've applied, I just so that with the Export dialog. We'll talk about the Export dialog later. And then, yeah, sure, there's a little bit of wait time but it's a wait time that happens all at once. I click Export, I walk away, I come back, and it's done. Finally, in conclusion here, as you can see, this topic is a little bit confusing, but my hope is that these last few movies have helped make this a little bit more clear so that you can make the appropriate decisions for your own workflow as you start to work with RAW files and DNG files and also as you start to see how that connects and relates to your overall Lightroom catalog.
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