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Don’t Delete Your Raw Files for DNG Format

You don’t have to be a photographer for long to hear about the benefits of taking your photos in raw format. These files retain all the original data from your camera, and they offer great flexibility when it comes to editing your images.

If you’re shooting in JPEG, your camera takes this raw data and applies its own in-camera processing to it (often known as Picture Styles) before scrapping the raw file. You can, of course, shoot in both raw and JPEG formats.

I’ve already written about why you should shoot in raw format, so if that is something you have yet to commit to then I recommend reading that article as well.

However, I have found that a number of photographers have adapted to a processing workflow that involves importing their raw images into Lightroom as DNG format files, before then deleting the original raw file completely.

I never realised that this was something people were doing regularly, but it seems that Adobe once touted the benefits of their DNG format over native raw files. Yes, there are benefits, especially with it being a uniform format. But there’s a problem.

DNG format does not prove authenticity

If you ever want to prove authenticity of an image, or find yourself in a legal battle over rights, being able to produce the original raw file is the best way of proving that you are the legitimate owner.

This has already become an issue in our Nature TTL Photographer of the Year 2020 competition. Some photographers have found that they are unable to enter as DNG format files are not permitted. This is the same for many major photography competitions, and it all boils down to the fact that a DNG file does not prove authenticity.

You are able to edit an image, making as many manipulations as you may see fit, before then saving a DNG format. Conversely, if you have a raw file it is proof of exactly what the camera outputted in the field.

In conclusion 

This is not to say that you shouldn’t use DNG files. There are benefits to DNG format, of course.

So instead of deleting your raw file, keep hold of it. If you need to buy more drives, so be it. If you are positive that you’ll never really want to prove authenticity in such situations, then perhaps you can consider using just the DNG format.

But, ultimately, I do not recommend deleting your original raw files.

Will Nicholls is the founder of Nature TTL and a professional wildlife photographer and film-maker from England. Having been photographing since the age of 12, Will's images have won a string of awards, including the title of "Young British Wildlife Photographer of the Year" in 2009 from the British Wildlife Photography Awards. Will is also the author of the book On the Trail of Red Squirrels.

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