JPG, RAW and TIFF file formats
Few facts about the popular file formats you have in your camera or on you computer post processing software.
Fact 1 – RAW and JPG files are different.Yeh, not a big news, isn’t it. The thing is that I can see still people asking what format I usually make photos, and why is that. A quick and dirty explanation is that JPG is a 8-bit file which stores up to 256 levels of brightness. RAW is a 12-bit file, which stores up to 4096 levels of intensity. These are typically the two formats you are offered to save on a camera. What a difference!! In case you do some post processing, like HDR, raw format is the way to go, no question about. Otherwise, just use JPG, easier. But remember once you have saved in JPG, you lost over 3800 levels of intensity that you could use in future, maybe in two years time, when you decide to start doing some post-processing, even things as easy as White Balance. As a long term solution I always suggest to go for RAW.
Fact 2 – RAW and JPG files are different. This is the second part of a miniseries on file formats. In case you decide for the JPG format, which is a 8-bit file, the photo will be compressed and you will loose information. Just think about the over 3800 levels of intensity as a start, than lots of details, and …… The positive side is that your file may be a fifth in size compared to RAW. So, if you have a small memory card or you are travelling and you don’t have too much memory left, than switch to JPG. My suggestion is just to upgrade to a bigger memory, nowadays it is so cheap, compared with the information you loose when shooting JPG.
Fact 3 – RAW and JPG files are different. Here again, another chapter in the miniseries on file formats. I always love to print my pictures. Just what I think are the nicest ones I guess. At the end of the year I always try to organise a book with all the photos that I like and that remember me a nice time. Here it is the news, the printing industry works mostly on 8 bits.Blurb, one of the best for printing books, uses either JPG or PNG, both 8-bits. So, again, if you shot and print, no post-processing, you may just be happy to use only the JPG format. Does printing at 16-bits make a difference? If you can find a place that prints 16-bits, give a try, and let me know what you think.
Fact 4 – RAW and JPG files are different. If you make a photo in RAW you can change in post-processing lots of the parameters you decided when shooting, as White Balance, Contrast, Saturation, Sharpness etc..but not ISO and Exposure (EV). With JPG the file will be saved and compressed with the values you selected when doing the photo, any change after that may not have the expected result.
Fact 5 – RAW and JPG files are different. You cannot view RAW files straight on Windows (I am not sure about Apple). You need to install a driver for that. However if you use Lightroom, Adobe Bridge or Photoshop, they all include the driver by default usually. If the camera is a real last model, you may have to download the driver from Internet
Fact 6 – RAW and JPG files are different. This is the last part of this miniseries, at least at the moment. Here it is a new format, to make things even more confused, TIFF. This format is available at 8-bit or 16-bit. Once you have the RAW file and you want to process it, than the most natural thing is to save it as TIFF 16-bit. It will be a bigger container than needed, but no other solutions (12-bit TIFF does not exit!!). You can save it as TIFF 8-bits but you will loose some info of course. However, TIFF does a lossless compression, as opposite to JPG.