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Photography tip: Should you shoot in JPEG, TIFF or RAW?

When it comes to working with photos, there are many container formats you may find yourself working with from time to time. This may not affect you much if you’re only saving photos from the internet to your computer in your leisure time, but it’s something photographers must contend with often.

It’s important to learn what types of images are great for publishing online, which work best for editing and printing and offer the highest quality possible. Tap or click here for the top six ways beginners can enhance their photos.

If you’re looking to differentiate between some of the most popular photo file containers, such as JPEG, TIFF and RAW, but aren’t sure where to begin, we’ve got a quick look at each format and what to expect from each. Here’s what to know about each file type and when it’s appropriate to use.

JPEG files

With JPEG images, you don’t have to worry about slowing down devices you move files over to. That means it’s quicker to back up your photos, especially if you have several of them to keep track of.

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Plus, you can choose what type of image compression you want to utilize to make your photos even smaller. But while JPEGs are versatile in several ways, they can be limited in terms of color range and are dependent on what camera settings you use.

Most cameras support JPEG, given that it’s the “default” image option most devices end up using. There are specific camera brands that are best for working with JPEGs, so if you’re a photographer looking to use this file type as your medium, you may want to select a brand like Olympus, Canon or Nikon. These makers are particularly great for JPEGs due to their consistent quality when working with smaller files.

TIFF files

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Another file container is TIF or TIFF. This format is typically used for lossless compression, which means you get a higher quality image overall. That makes it perfect for editing on your computer since there’s the freedom to push down your image size.

Your detailed photos aren’t tamped down into smaller file sizes, so you don’t have to sacrifice image quality for those photos with finer details. At the same time, TIFF files aren’t too large to store or move around. Many DSLR cameras don’t offer TIFF files as an option, but they can be handy if you do happen to have access to them.

It’s widely accepted that TIFF files are great for editing and storing photos that will be printed, either in terms of detailed photo prints or magazine work, since they preserve all of the quality that originally comes with images taken straight from a camera. They aren’t typically used for desktop or online publishing.

It’s easier to organize and sort through TIFF files than their cousins, RAW files. And you can use special tags to organize them in programs like Photoshop better. If you’re planning on storing them somewhere like a hard drive, you’re going to need to make sure you have plenty of space. While TIFF files aren’t the largest format out there, they will rapidly consume storage space before you know it.

Digital photographers who prefer to work with the larger TIFF files typically look toward Canon cameras. They tend to shoot higher-quality images that come from higher-end models and the more affordable DSLR cameras from the brand.

RAW files

Epson tip

When you need the highest quality, most uncompressed image you can get, you want to go with RAW images. These digital image files are massive and come straight from the source: your camera, smartphone or whatever you choose to shoot with. Each camera has its own proprietary RAW type, such as Nikon’s NEF file or Canon’s CR2 or CR3 options.

These are the photos you need to have total manipulation power, whether you want to ultimately use them online or in print for some seriously gorgeous photos. These uncompressed images take up a massive amount of space on your storage medium as well, so don’t expect to be able to hold that many in one place unless you have a seemingly never-ending supply of storage.

RAW files must go through some changes before you can grab them and upload to your storage of choice or even share them with others due to their size and file container. Not every device can read them. For that reason, they don’t make the most convenient way to manipulate images.

However, they offer the best possible quality, so if that’s what you’re after, this is the best path to pursue. All DSLR cameras and smartphones should support taking RAW photos, so you don’t have to limit yourself to a certain brand if you need the highest fidelity possible.

In the end, for most people, RAW files may be too large and unwieldy, especially for casual users. These files work well for anyone seeking high-quality photos for print or just massive files to share around on physical media for archival purposes.

Just don’t expect to hang on to very many of them or for them to play nice with most photo cloud storage systems or smaller editing programs outside of Photoshop or apps of that ilk.

If you find yourself faced with deciding what type of photo file would work best for you, you may need to work through exactly what you need from your photos. Are you going to need to make prints with them? Do you plan on posting them online and sharing them with friends?

Tap or click here for some useful tips for new photographers.

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