RAW, JPEG or TIFF - Digital Photography for Beginners
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this Digital Photography for Beginners article we are going to look at
file formats. In past times, photographs would be captured onto light
sensitive film. Then, after development in the darkroom, a negative would
be produced. With digital photography, images are stored as a digital
file. For viewing, the file is decoded - and there are 3 main
types of file used - JPEG, TIFF
Before we look at these file types, it is pertinent to explain the difference
between "lossy" and "lossless" files. When a photo is taken, the camera
records the data onto the memory card as a file. If all of the data is
stored, this is known as a lossless file. These files are large in size.
RAW files are lossless. To reduce file size, the camera can discard part
of the data not easily perceptible to the human eye. A JPEG is a lossy
file. A TIFF file is, in principle, a flexible format that can be lossless
JPEG - Is the most common file format used by amateur
photographers, mainly because so many pictures can be recorded on one
card. Whilst the actual number will vary depending on the camera used,
it is possible to take over 1500 images using just one 2GB memory card.
Because this is a lossy file, the images are compressed resulting in a
greater amount of pictures possible when compared to lossless files (TIFF
or RAW). The camera will allow you to set the level of compression, so
more, or less, photos can be taken. Just bear in mind that the overall
quality will be affected the more compressed the file. So, if you were
looking to print images above standard sizes, you would need to choose
RAW - These files take data straight from the camera's
sensor. This means they are not processed by the camera at all and represent
the purest image, as taken. They are sometimes referred to as a "digital
negative". Using the optimum (i.e. least) compression level, you could
expect to record just 100 images, or less, on a 2GB card, using a 15megapixel
camera. The major plus here is that you will be able to produce high quality
prints of A3 size and over. Professionals and serious amateurs use RAW
Unlike JPEGs, RAW files are not universal across different manufacturers.
For example, Canon uses the term RAW, whilst Nikon's equivalent are known
as NEF files. These are not compatible with each other. However, each
manufacturer will supply software with the camera to enable you to process
and print the images. RAW files are excellent for post production image
manipulation, because all of the original data is still intact, and can
therefore be worked with.
TIFF - In practice, TIFF is generally used as a lossless
file format that uses no compression. Consequently, file sizes can be
large, but retain their data, and subsequent quality. However, the file
size is huge when compared to the identical JPEG file. A common use of
TIFF is as a working format for editing digital images in Photoshop, or
equivalent. With JPEG editing and saving, slight degradation occurs with
each new save. TIFF is lossless, if no compression is selected, so there
is no loss of quality each time a file is amended and saved.
TIFF should not be used for displaying images on the web, because of file
size. Most web browsers will not display a TIFF image.
Hopefully this Digital Photography for Beginners article has helped to
clarify the difference between the file formats. In summary, if ultimate
quality and large printing is not required, JPEG files will more than
suffice, and can also be used on the internet. RAW files are excellent
for serious photographers who want the maximum quality, and ability to
make detailed changes in post production. These files can be amended to
TIFF or JPEG when ready. TIFF files do not lose quality (if uncompressed)
so are good for working on in post production, before final saving as
If you have enjoyed this digital photography for beginners article, and would like to discover how you can greatly enhance your photographic skills, check out http://www.photographycourseonline.info for more information.
Published - May 2010
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