Why Does Lightroom Convert RAW Files to DNG?

DNG or Digital Negative files are an image format created by Adobe that caters specifically to digital photography. Those using Adobe Lightroom may see their uncompressed RAW files converted to DNG during the importing process.

On average, Lightroom converts RAW files to DNG when this option is selected when importing photos. It can also be automatically saved as a preference once checked, and users should know what this conversion entails for their files.

If you are a Lightroom user interested in finding out why it converts RAW files to DNG, read on below to find out more about how this works and what it means for your photos.

Why Does Lightroom Convert RAW Files to DNG?

Adobe Lightroom is an image editing software usually preferred by photographers for post-processing RAW files. Usually, users will import uncompressed RAW files from their cameras to Lightroom. At times, these may be converted to DNG, another RAW format.

There are several reasons why Lightroom converts RAW files to DNG. These are the most common ones:

  • The ‘Copy as DNG’ setting is checked when importing: This can easily happen when files are being imported to Lightroom. You will see several options in the dialogue that pops up, including ‘Copy as DNG’, ‘Copy’, and ‘Add’.
  • The prior setting is automatically used: Whichever import setting you’ve used last in Lightroom will usually be automatically applied on the next import. If you forget to uncheck the ‘Copy as DNG’ option, Lightroom will continue to convert RAW to DNG.

Regardless of the reason why Lightroom converts RAW files to DNG, you should be aware of what this conversion means for your images.

Should You Convert RAW Files to DNG?

When deciding whether or not to let Lightroom convert RAW files to DNG, you may wonder which of these formats is the most suitable for your work. The DNG file format was created by Adobe as an open-source, royalty-free option designed specifically for photo editing.

There are benefits to both file formats. DNG files are overall more straightforward to edit. Unprocessed RAW images can’t be edited directly, as the data on them must be preserved. This also means that RAW files carry the full information of the photo, including all metadata.

While DNG files are smaller, the difference in overall image quality is minimal. You can choose to have a DNG copy of an image that contains the full RAW information within itself, which will double the size.

You should convert RAW files to DNG if you want to have an easy and quick editing experience in Adobe products. The DNG file format was created to provide assistance with post-processing, especially in Lightroom.

What Does Converting to DNG Mean?

When you select the option to convert RAW files to DNG in Lightroom, they will be added to your Lightroom catalog. The DNG files will occupy less space on your hard drive, and will be easier to edit, from exposure settings to presets.

Converting RAW files to DNG means that you will have more space to work on your images while sacrificing minimal quality in the process. You will also get to avoid managing the .XMP files you would otherwise have to deal with when editing unprocessed RAW images.

Converting to DNG involves the data on the RAW file getting processed into something that works seamlessly with Adobe products like Lightroom and Camera Raw. This process doesn’t alter the RAW data, it simply compresses it and prepares it for editing.

Why Did Adobe Create the DNG File Format?

Adobe created the DNG or Digital Negative Specification file format back in 2004, in an effort to give photographers a standardized file format for RAW images. Since then, DNG has become a file format supported by some of the biggest names in tech, including Google.

The DNG file format was created using the TIFF 6.0 model, and has significantly reduced compatibility issues with RAW files. Photographers around the world have been able to use, edit, and share RAW images much more easily than before DNG appeared as an option.

Adobe also created the DNG file format to provide a highly compatible file format for their software. Beyond offering a consistently compatible format, DNG also adds to the benefits of using Lightroom and other Adobe products.

Can You Convert DNG Back to RAW?

Once Lightroom converts RAW files to DNG, you may wonder if you can reverse the process. While it is easy to convert RAW to DNG, the same is not true when you want to convert DNG back to RAW.

DNG cannot be converted back to proprietary RAW file formats, but there is a way to get around this issue. When you import RAW files into Lightroom and choose to copy them as DNG, you should also select the option to preserve the original RAW data in the conversion.

While this will double the size of the file, you will be able to continue having access to the full RAW data. When needed, this can be extracted with a separate application like the Adobe DNG Converter.

If you want to preserve the original RAW information when converting to DNG, you will have to access the Preferences tab in Lightroom. There, go to File Handling and check the ‘Embed Original RAW File’ option. This will be applied automatically when converting to DNG.

How to Stop Lightroom From Converting to DNG

There is a straightforward way to ensure that Lightroom does not convert RAW files to DNG. When you import your RAW files into this Adobe product, make sure to check the import dialogue box.

You will see several options there, including ‘Copy’, ‘Copy as DNG’, and ‘Add’. You can use ‘Copy’ and ‘Add’ to import RAW files either from your camera or from your hard drive. Not selecting ‘Copy as DNG’ will ensure that your files will be imported as RAW files.

If you want to stop Lightroom from converting to DNG after a batch of DNG files, remember to select ‘Copy’ or ‘Add’ manually the next time you wish to add media to it.


Lightroom converts RAW files to DNG to make the editing process smoother and to create a compatible format for RAW images. This can be done when selecting the appropriate option during the import process, and will automatically apply this option on subsequent imports.