Have you ever noticed when importing images into Lightroom Classic, and Copy as DNG is listed as an option? It’s possible you skipped this due to having no idea what it meant, or that you just totally missed it.

So, should you convert RAW files to DNG? Here’s a few reasons you might consider doing so.

Copy as DNG in Lightroom Classic
Copy as DNG in Lightroom Classic

What is a DNG file?

DNG stands for Digital Negative file. It’s a free open-source file for RAW images. Basically, it’s a standardized RAW format file that anyone can use. Some manufacturers do, but not all.

Currently, many camera manufacturers have their own proprietary RAW format. Nikon is NEF, Canon is CR3, Sony is ARW, etc. Being proprietary means that the manufacturer does not share all the information that makes up that file and HOW it is processed in-camera with anyone else. It’s their trade secret, so to speak.

If at some unknown time in the future that changes or that brand disappears (as unheard of or unthinkable as that may seem), these files may become difficult later on to read.

Why you might consider DNG?

DNG doesn’t use a sidecar file. A sidecar file is an XMP file or additional file that contains the metadata to a RAW image. When Lightroom makes changes to a RAW file, the RAW file itself remains unchanged. A sidecar file is created to tell editing programs what has changed in the image. Lightroom will create an XMP sidecar file for every photo edited. With a DNG file. all the information is embedded in the file, so there is no need for a sidecar file.

DNG files are also slightly smaller than the proprietary RAW files. It still contains all the same data, it just takes up a little less room. And more room on your hard drive is always a good thing.

How to convert files to DNG

Convert photo to DNG

This is the easy bit. You can convert them on import by using the Copy as DNG option. But you can also convert them on export.

And outside of that, you can do it at any time Click Library > Convert Photo to DNG and you can convert your photos on-the-fly.

Of course, this is a totally different discussion on RAW vs. JPEG, but you can also check that out here.