While photographing, it is a common dilemma to dwell on which file format to capture photos in – JPEG or RAW format. Before settling this particular debate, you need to understand what JPEG and RAW, along with TIFF, file types represent, and how these formats can affect the photograph taken and the post-processing to be done on it.
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If you are not interested in post-processing photographs too much, JPEG is the file format you’re most likely to be familiar with. The key reason for JPEG being frequently used is that the files are being created in the least sizes while maintaining quality consistency. You might be wondering why anyone would use any other file type. That’s because JPEG files, short for Joint Photographic Expert Group, cause loss of data while formatting.
JPEG is the file format of choice when it comes to displaying images on the internet.
Where Does the Data Loss Occur?
The pixels are usually taken away from the areas of the photo where data loss would be unnoticeable. For instance, the removal of pixels from the “blue sky” of a frame would not affect the overall photo quality. This loss of information is possible due to the uniformity of the color and tone of the blue sky. You will still get to see a good-quality photo on a computer screen.
What are the outcomes of using JPEG?
Jpeg format can be used if you are capturing everything correctly in-camera with minimal or no post-processing to be done to the image. It also leaves more space on your memory card and your hard drive. Although, if you’re post-processing your photographs, the RAW file is a better option as JPEG format has the following effects.
If you’re photographing professionally, RAW format type is the one to use and most professional photographers will agree with me.
If JPEG is the printed photo, the RAW file would be the digital negative of the photo. It can be said that RAW files’ quality comes as close as digital can get to a negative. RAW files can also be converted to JPEG. The digitally printed photo will have quality consistency just like printed photos of negatives in a photo studio’s darkroom. However, this high quality of RAW files requires them to be large.
RAW files take up more hard drive space. You retain maximum choice when it comes to editing though.
What are RAW files called?
RAW file names correlate with the various camera manufacturers’ names. The various extensions include CR2 (Canon), NEF (Nikon), with other types of files being DNG, RW2, CRW, and RAF. Despite their names, these files are almost identical to each other. There are several post-processing programs designated to open these files; Adobe Camera Raw is most frequently used.
How to Post-process with RAW?
The first step a photographer usually performs in post-processing is to open the RAW file using Adobe Camera Raw or any other available options and save and export it to a desired processing software. This is done because a lot of post-processing software cannot open RAW file formats directly.
When you open a RAW file in Adobe Camera Raw, there are various alterations you can make to your RAW file. The image can be sharpened, color temperature can be played with, contrast and saturation can be adjusted, and noise can be reduced from the frame. After these changes, you can save your file and post-process it in any other software you like.
Landscape photos like this use digital blending to produce them. They need to be photographed using RAW
How to manage RAW file size?
Such great quality features of RAW files comes with the burden of storing a large file which has its consequences.
To manage these difficulties, after post-processing, you can save the file in JPEG format. JPEG files are easy to share on websites and take up much less space. If you want to store the RAW file for saving your edits or carrying out further post-processing, you can do that. But it will take up disk space.
TIFF, short for Tagged Image File Format, is not a familiar format amongst photographers. The reason behind this is that there are very few cameras that have the option of capturing images in the TIFF format.
When photos in TIFF file type are edited or post-processed, data from the image is not lost, creating a lossless format. This requires TIFF files to be heavy in size and take up a large amount of disk space. Hence, TIFF files are suitable for digital, but this file type should not be considered for web display use.
Photoshop allows you to save the file you’re working on in the TIFF file format. TIFF format photography is found in cameras used for medical or scientific imaging. Graphic publishing sometimes requires a TIFF file format.
JPEG vs RAW or TIFF?
With knowledge about these file types; you can now make an enlightened decision about which file format to prefer.
Photographs like this one on a nice sunny day with the sun behind could be photographed in either RAW or JPEG with little difference in the end result.
When to use JPEG?
One advantage that JPEG holds over RAW and TIFF format is that it is supported on a wider range of camera devices. For instance, if you’re using a Smartphone, drone, or cameras that only support JPEG, there is no other option. It can be hoped that RAW file-supporting camera devices will be more available soon in light of the news that DJI’s Mavic drone launched a new series of drones that support a RAW file type.
However, for devices supporting both JPEG and RAW format, the JPEG format is a good option in the following scenarios:
When to use RAW?
For creating an image in the best quality, it is a good option to use RAW format. The key factor behind this is that you will post-process the photos after capturing them which requires retaining maximum data.
Nighttime street photography should be photographed in RAW. This type of photo stretches the camera and needs a high ISO, which will result in more noise.
When to use TIFF?
It can be considered that TIFF is a good file type to use during post-processing. Unlike RAW type, the TIFF format is supported by most post-processing programs, some of which include Photoshop, Lightroom, and NIK Efex. You can capture images in JPEG or RAW format and edit them using the TIFF format. Being a lossless format, TIFF format does not lose data and allows you to make worry-free edits to the file.
However, TIFF format would not be an option for you to photograph in unless your camera supports the format. Even if some cameras do and photographing in this format will withhold more data and result in a better image quality, the file size will be enormous. You will not be able to photograph much in this format without a hard drive with a lot of space on it.
The decision to choose amongst the available image formats relies greatly on the type of photography being done and also on the extent of post-processing you carry out. If you are a commercial photographer, most of your work will be done in RAW to retain the details required for the best outcome in challenging light conditions and high ISO. On the contrary, when you are required to take a lot of photographs in a favorable lighting condition, you might prefer JPEG as it will provide more disk space and also save time during post-processing. Choose wisely according to your photoshoot needs.