Digital Image File Types
There are so many different file types to choose from, like RAW, JPG, GIF, TIFF, and PNG. Which one is right for you?
RAW is the internal file format for many digital cameras. Photographers like to shoot in RAW format because it doesn’t get any processing in the camera, allowing them to adjust things like white balance and exposure after the picture has been taken. The main disadvantage of RAW is that it’s proprietary, so every brand is different and not all formats can be read by photo editing software.
JPG (or JPEG) is a compressed format, and one of the most common types used on the Web. Keep in mind that saving into JPG will cost some of the quality of the picture. The good news is, in most cases, you can’t tell the difference between the original and the compressed JPG. If you’re going to email pictures or post them to the Web, this is the format to use.
GIF is a much older format than JPG, with nowhere near the power. GIFs can only have 256 colors. However, GIF is a great format for images with large areas that are all the same color. GIF is best used for logos and line-drawing images.
Think of PNG as a newer, more powerful GIF. It has many of the features that make GIF useful on the Web, without the 256 color limitation. PNG is also a “lossless” format, which means you don’t lose quality when you convert your picture to PNG.
TIFF is another lossless format, and one of the most common. If a digital camera has an option besides RAW or JPG, it will be TIFF.
Photo editing programs will generally have their own format, as well, like PSD for Adobe Photoshop and PSP for Paintshop Pro. These are great for use with the programs, but not for archiving–if the software world changed, you wouldn’t be able to read your backups anymore.