DNG File: The Ultimate Guide to DNG Files

The DNG file format aims to solve a problem. Before DNG, camera makers used personalized, proprietary technologies for capturing RAW images. This created a compatibility challenge for photographers and others working with editing software. There were cases of loss of photographs due to saved file types becoming obsolete. The launch of the DNG file is an attempt to standardize file types to boost compatibility. The DNG file format has recorded a measure of success in its applicability. It enjoys mass patronage that includes industry leaders like Google and Apple.

What is a DNG file?

A Digital Negative (DNG) file is a free open source publication launched in 2004. DNG files store raw data from digital cameras. The stored data is then converted into other formats like JPEG and TIFF. The DNG file format also allows for the inclusion of proprietary metadata. It is an extension of the TIFF 6.0 format and is compatible with the TIFF/EP standard.

In a nutshell, a DNG file format enables users to work without compatibility concerns. It grants camera makers access to an open format that helps standardization efforts.

It can be quite challenging to edit a RAW file. For instance, you'll have to either use a sidecar or first convert them into other file formats. A sidecar is a distinct XMP file that comes with all settings, including edits and changes. It creates a separate file for the original RAW file. This keeps the RAW completely untouched and unchanged. But using a sidecar implies storing each RAW file as two files.

In contrast, DNG files are capable of writing any edits and changes into one file. This reduces the number of files for storage. DNG files are between 15 to 20% smaller than RAW files, yet they still generate the same image quality. In other words, you'll save hard drive space when storing files in DNG format. It also implies a faster file transfer to your drive. You can edit your DNG files with a sophisticated photo editor like PaintShop Pro.

Even with all its pros, a DNG file format is not without some cons. For example, it can take some time to convert RAW files to DNG format. This may not be ideal if time is a serious constraint. Note also that not all programs can open DNG files.

Are DNG files dangerous?

Like all digital files, a valid DNG file will pose no safety threats to its host device. DNG is not yet a globally accepted standard format. Yet, it can be a safer file format for long-term archival purposes. Adopting DNG means you no longer need to worry about losing a file due to an obsolete file format.

This explains why some professional archivists and conservationists recommend archiving with DNG. A lot of software products are available for DNG conversion. Moreover, the DNG format is being used by ISO in its revision of TIFF/EP.

How to open a DNG file

You can open your DNG file with a variety of photo viewers installed on your device. These include Microsoft Photos, Apple Photos, and more. The procedure is easy and shouldn't take long to start and conclude.

From your desktop or hard drive:

  • On Windows or Mac, use your photo viewing app to call up DNG files.
  • Right-click on the image on your desktop or file explorer window. (For Mac OS, use the Command button plus click.)
  • Scroll down to "Open With," then move right to view the list of programs that can open DNG files.


A DNG file enables the storage of uncompressed image data on your camera. After storage comes post-processing in various image editing software programs like PaintShop Pro. DNG files are smaller than other RAW file types. This helps to save storage space as well as the time it takes to transfer images to your hard drive. You can archive raw images as DNG files and use them in the future without fear of the format becoming obsolete.

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