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What are JPEG, TIFF and PNG files

Oh What A Journey JPEG, TIFF & PNG files

There are lots of file formats used to describe the photographs on your camera and computer.  In this post, I’ll go over the three most popular ones, JPEG, TIFF and PNG files used in digital photography.  There are others, but we will go into that in another post.

Lossy vs. Lossless

First I have to explain what these two concepts mean.  A Lossy Compression format uses a complicated formula to throw away pixels it feels are similar to others around it. This compression is what allows the files to be smaller which is useful for websites, so they load faster. It is also good if you want to email your shot the with limited memory you are allowed. Our eyes can’t see this change, but each time you compress or save an image, it goes through this formula and throws a little bit more away. Not a lot, but over time it can add up, and your photos begin to look blurry or pixelated. Lossless compression results in larger files sizes but you don’t suffer any quality loss when you save the image over and over.

.jpeg or .jpg (Joint Photographic Expert Group)

The most popular file format for pictures out in the wild web is the JPEG, also known as a JPG. Most digital cameras also produce this kind of file.  The problem with this file type is that is the Lossy style. Because of this, when you copy them from your image card you should always save two copies. An original somewhere safe and a working copy. Then, you make changes to the working version, and if you have to, you can go back to a pristine version if you need to. Better still, after saving the copy from your camera, make a copy in .tiff format and work from that.

.tiff (Tagged Image File Format)

TIFF is another popular format created in the mid-80’s as a standard format for desktop scanners according to Wikipedia, You don’t see tiff’s too often, but it is a lossless format and useful when you want to preserve image quality. Each time you save your work it keeps all your information. Unfortunately, they usually end up being significant sized files. Good for your hard drive but not so good to email. They are also not a standard web format so don’t try and send them off to Facebook or Instagram.

.png (Portable Network Graphic).png of Jeffery in a pool with transparent edges JPEG, TIFF and PNG

A PNG file is our last main web format floating around the WWW. It is also an excellent choice for line drawings, text, and iconic graphics.  According to Wikipedia, it is the most widely used Lossless format on the ‘net.  PNG’s play nice on websites and might be a better option if you are posting a logo and the like. PNG can also offer the option for a transparent layer. Not sure how useful this is for vacation photos but you want to include one of your pictures on the web with a soft oval border like the one to the right.  A png also plays well with Facebook and accepts PNG format for uploads.

And there is more than JPEG, TIFF and PNG, but that’s for another time.

These three type of photo formats are just the basics you might run across.  We will discuss RAW and PSD in another post.  These are advanced formats you might run across as you develop your photography skills.  If you have any questions or comments, please post them below.

Thanks for reading.

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