Understanding file formats

I tend to change the file format of my photos frequently -- usually from JPEG to TIFF or JPEG to Adobe Photoshop's PSD format. Why would I do that? Usually, to preserve image quality.

Every time you edit and then resave an image in JPEG format, for example, it loses a little quality (depending upon how much compression is used in the resaving). A few file formats, though, like TIFF and PSD, don't inflict that kind of punishment. So if I need to edit a photo that was originally shot in JPEG format, I typically save it in the TIFF format before I start editing to lock in the image quality, as they say in the sandwich bag industry.

That's not the only reason I change file formats. These days, I take most of my photos in my camera's RAW format. But RAW files are huge and most people can't view them on their computer. So in order to share photos with friends, family, editors, or anyone else who needs a copy, I need to save the final, edited versions as JPEGs.

As you can see, there are some good reasons to occasionally change formats. Let's talk about what everyone should know about how, when, and when to change a photo's file format.

File format myth

Before we go too far, let me dispel a popular misconception. A lot of folks have heard about how saving JPEG photos can affect the image quality. Some people take that idea too far and worry that viewing a JPEG can be hazardous as well.

Not true.

Just looking at a JPEG file doesn't affect its image quality. You can open the file in a photo editor, view it, and close it again without affecting quality -- just don't make any changes and click the Save button. If you don't plan to edit an image, you can safely leave it in JPEG format forever and the image quality will never degrade.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Dave Johnson

PC World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?