There are several different file formats, and many photographers are a little unclear about the difference between each. Some common questions usually asked in relation to print quality & formats below:
- What’s the preferred file type: RAW, PNG, TIFF or JPEG?
- Why don’t the prints I ordered look as good as what I see on my computer monitor?
- My last order of 8×10 inch prints didn’t look as good as my 4 inch prints.
- I have a choice on my camera for quality / megapixel settings, which should I use?
- I recieved my photo gift and the quality is different from the original printed photo, why?
These questions are answered in the information provided below. If you still have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact usfor more detailed information.
Formats for Saving Pictures
There are a number of file formats available for saving pictures such as RAW, PNG, TIFF, JPEG, GIF, etc. Each of these formats has a useful purpose; if you take lots of pictures, you may want to move beyond PNG or JPEG file format which is usually the default on most digital cameras.
Whether shooting in JPEG or RAW, remember to back up photos after moving them from the camera to the computer. Burn them to a DVD, or transfer them to a portable hard drive kept in another location – away from the computer. Better yet, seek the advice of a local photo retailer for archiving and storage options.
What size should I save them at?
It can get very confusing what quality or format to save your images, however if you plan on one day printing your images it is recommened to save them at one of the largest size as you can always scale them down with various software or online tools. This is also dependant on the amount of space on your memory stick or in-built camera storage space so aim for a larger size where possible, but if you can only save 10-50 photos at the largest size you may prefer going down a size or two for a lot more photos to be saved at slightly lower sizes which are still good enough to print.
Web page images tend to load quickly because they are reduced in size for optimum loading speed. The same occurs with most photos posted on social media websites such as facebook, myspace, twitter, etc. Photos posted on social media website are usually not ideal to use for printing as they appear clear on a computer screen but are much smaller when printed out with a printer. It is usually best to use the original photograph where possible for printing.
GIF, PNG and JPEG are usually the most preferred image file formats for web pages because they can be saved at lower quality than RAW or TIFF file formats.
File Formats for Making Prints
For those special images you want to print and display, the preferred file format is TIFF. TIFF is an uncompressed file format which hasn’t been reduced in any way and preserves all of the original settings. RAW file formats are also very large like TIFF files, but less commonly used online and between different camera versions so you may later find compatibility issues using default RAW settings.
JPEG File Format:
For lots of amateurs and family photographers, JPEG is just fine. Make sure the camera is set to the highest quality resolution setting and to save pictures with the least amount of compression. The camera manual will explain how to do this. A photo retailer can also help. JPEG is fine for snapshots, but you have limited ability to correct overexposed or underexposed areas. A professional wanting greater control will probably shoot in RAW or TIFF file format. Most websites and photo kiosks these days tend to easily recognise JPEG file formats over RAW formats too.
JPEG is also usually the recommended format for sharing images on the web or by email as it is usually a smaller file size than RAW file formats.
RAW File Format:
RAW format allows a photographer to capture more detail than when shooting in JPEG format; it also provides more control over color correction and exposure adjustment in the digital darkroom. The ability to change the white balance on a RAW file or dig out some extra detail in highlight and shadow areas can make an immediate impact on the overall look of a photo. Since RAW files do capture lots of detail without applying processing or compression algorithms, they will take up more space on a memory card and hard drive. If your camera offers the opportunity to shoot RAW, pick up a few extra memory cards so you can save in larger formats.
RAW files can create a problem because different camera manufacturers have different “flavors” of RAW. For example, Canon RAW files are known as .CRW, Nikon files are .NEF, Pentax files are .PEF, and Olympus uses .ORF. The DNG format (for “digital negative”) was recently created by Adobe in an effort to unify the slightly different RAW formats created by the various manufacturers. Many photographers fear these differences may potentially become problematic in the long term, as one manufacturer’s RAW files may not be futureproof in new software applications. To protect digital negatives (RAW files) for many years to come, converting them to DNG, TIFF or JPEG may be well worth the effort. The presumption is all new software will recognize DNG, TIFF and JPG, while some RAW versions particular to a manufacturer may fall by the wayside and possibly be unreadable in the future.
Print Quality Issues & Great Framing Tips
New York Institute of Photography