In-Camera Adjustments Lost


Today’s Question: I am confused. In my camera I have set the mode to monochrome, the image is saved as DNG [Adobe Digital Negative, a raw capture format]. In the preview the image is displayed in monochrome. But in Camera Raw and Photoshop it is a color image. How can I call up and edit the monochrome image embedded in the DNG?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In this context the DNG file is a raw capture, and therefore in-camera adjustments will not be applied to the photo. The preview you’re seeing on the camera is from the embedded JPEG image, which can’t easily be extracted and will be of lower resolution than the original capture.

More Detail: With a raw capture (including when using DNG as a capture format) the vast majority of available in-camera adjustments will not be applied to the raw capture. For example, adjusting the color (or converting to black and white), enhancing contrast, and various other adjustments, will only affect the JPEG preview embedded in the original capture, but won’t be applied to the actual raw capture data.

In other words, with a raw capture you can think of the in-camera adjustments as providing a sense of what the final image might look like after you optimize it on the computer, but the adjustments will not affect the original capture. When capturing photos with a standard image format, such as JPEG, the original image is altered by the camera permanently. So, for example, if you capture a JPEG image in black and white, you can’t revert to a color original because in this case the original doesn’t contain color.

It is technically possible to extract the JPEG preview from a DNG file, using a tool such as ExifTool ( However, this is not a simple task, and the extracted preview would be a reduced resolution image compared to the original capture.

My recommendation is to continue using raw capture (including DNG as a raw capture format), but to save your adjustments for after the capture. If setting your camera to black and white is helpful in your photographic process, that’s absolutely fine. Just be sure you are aware that you’ll need to apply adjustments to the image on your computer after the capture to achieve a result similar to what you saw on your camera’s LCD display.