Adobe DNG Leads the Way for High-Quality Photos on Smartphones and Tablets

by Tom Hogarty

posted on 09-13-2016

Today marks an important day for photographers and photo enthusiasts. With the release of Apple’s iOS 10, the Lightroom for mobile app has been updated to support the capture of Adobe raw DNG on iOS devices. Now anyone who wants to have the highest quality photographs and the greatest level of editing flexibility can use their iPhone or iPad to capture photos in the Adobe raw DNG file format.

Many of you know Thomas Knoll as the man behind Photoshop, but he’s also the architect responsible for the creation of the Adobe DNG file format. Now that Adobe DNG is integrated into iOS and Android and is the default raw format for high-quality mobile photography, we’ve asked Thomas to discuss the history and benefits of DNG in his own words.

With that, I’ll hand it off to Thomas.

Twelve years ago, I created the Adobe Digital Negative (DNG) file format while I was working on the Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) plug-in for Photoshop. I was spending a lot of time making sure that ACR could accept a variety of raw photo formats—I had to code for each camera’s specifications because they all used their own proprietary raw file format. And every time one manufacturer updated its file format, I had to do more coding. While this was a problem I faced every day, I also knew it was a problem that customers were facing on a regular basis with their own photography workflows.

I felt like there was a better way.

The big breakthrough came when I realized the metadata wasn’t all that different from camera to camera. This realization allowed me to create a file format that could read the metadata without needing specific knowledge about the camera. With that, the Adobe DNG raw photo format was born.

The Benefits of Raw

Photographs captured and stored in a raw file format are great for anyone who values quality and control over their photos. It gives higher image quality and more headroom to edit. When you take a photo you need to think about a lot of different variables—settings for exposure, white balance, noise reduction, and sharpening. The beauty of using raw is that you have the ability to revisit all of those settings after the shot has been captured to a degree that isn’t possible with other file formats. In contrast, once you take a photo using the JPEG file format, certain aspects like white balance, sharpening, and noise reduction cannot be edited—they are set forever. This drastically limits how much you can edit the photo when compared with what you can accomplish with raw files.

Mobile photography adds an additional challenge since the camera sensor is smaller than in a traditional DSLR camera, and editing after the fact plays a much bigger role. The benefits of raw, therefore, become even more pronounced when a photo is captured using a mobile device.

In the end, using raw and Adobe Lightroom allows you to create extremely high quality images whether or not you used the perfect settings when you initially took the shot.

The Value of DNG

In a perfect world, people would be able to shoot raw without the frustrations associated with having an array of raw file formats. With proprietary raw file formats, you need to wait until the software that matches your camera and file formats is released. Then, if that software needs a patch or an update, you have to wait for those releases. Multiply this times the number of cameras you own and it can quickly become an enormous headache.

As a photography enthusiast myself, I can attest to how frustrating it is to not be able to edit files because the software you are using can’t open those files. I also used to worry about my ability to open and edit these files in the future.

Since it is an open-source standardized raw format, DNG solves all these problems and that is why it is so important and valuable. That is even truer today with the release of iOS 10.

Becoming the Industry Standard on Mobile Devices

Apple’s new iOS 10 release moves us one step closer to this perfect world. Adobe DNG is the standard file format for raw photographs on iOS 10 and Google’s Android OS. With the two dominant mobile operating systems in the world utilizing Adobe DNG as their standard, raw photography is becoming more accessible for more photographers. This is wonderful news if you care about the quality of your images.

After a 12-year journey, the adoption by Apple and Google of Adobe DNG as their default raw photo format validates our vision of a need for a universal, open-source format. To work with Adobe DNG photos and take your photography results to the next level, be sure to download Adobe Lightroom for mobile. You’ll be able to immediately capture, edit and share your raw photos directly from your mobile device.

– Thomas Knoll

Topics: Digital Transformation, News, Photography

Products: Photoshop, Creative Cloud