Unrendered File Delivery

Increasingly, clients are requesting that photographers deliver unrendered raw or DNG files. Is this a wise choice for photographers or for their clients? The answer often lies in good communication about who is responsible for final image processing. Learn the pros and cons of unrendered file delivery.

Delivering DNG files
Delivering proprietary raw files

Delivering DNG files

Some organizations, such as DISC, which represents the publishing industry, have recommended DNG as a delivery file format. The attraction of DNG is that it is a standardized raw format and can be opened in all Adobe software (and an increasing number of other PIEware) no matter what camera it came from. In addition, DNG files can contain a rendered JPEG file, which gives a correct preview, in Adobe software, many browsers and cataloging applications, preserving the photographer’s intentions for the image.

On the other hand, DNG can be re-interpreted in supporting PIEware like any raw file. However, any digital image file can be re-interpreted and raw data is the best data to work with, even compared to 16-bit rendered files.

DNG delivery may work well for photographers who want to shoot raw files, but don’t have the time, inclination, or facilities to do extensive post production work.

Delivering proprietary raw files

We do not recommend delivery of proprietary raw files unless they are being given to a trusted partner in the creative production pipeline. Raw files display differently in every PIEware, no matter how the camera is set. This means that the interpretation of the images is entirely up to the choice of PIEware and how the PIEware is configured. For instance, Camera RAW can be set-up to auto adjust the main image controls: exposure, recovery, fill light, blacks, brightness, and contrast. The results may be good, or they may not be so good. The take-away is that the photographer’s intentions have clearly gone out the window.

Some say that delivering raw files is the equivalent of handing over unprocessed film. We would suggest that understates the problem. Film is processed to a standard at least, whereas there is no standard for how raw files are processed. Delivering raw files is definitely dependent on the kindness of strangers: their knowledge base, their skill set and skill level and even taste with regards to how they think images should look.

There is another commonly overlooked issue with delivering raw proprietary raw files, and that has to do with IPTC metadata. The lack of standards among proprietary raw file formats raises questions of where to store this metadata, along with how other applications can discover and use it.

Some proprietary raw processing software actually removes this metadata, creating a workflow problem and requiring reinsertion of this information in derivative files.

Many programs, such as those from Adobe, attach metadata as sidecar files. The trouble with sidecars is that they are separate files and can get lost, deleted, overwritten or detached from their original raw files.

What all of this boils down to: photographers who deliver proprietary raw files should not be surprised to find that their copyright, contact, rights usage, and other information has disappeared from their image files.

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Last Updated September 22, 2015