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JPEG Or TIFF For The Best Quality Prints?

JPEG Or TIFF For The Best Quality Prints? - Is it better to save your files as a JPEG or TIFF for printing? We look a little closer at both file formats to find out.

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Category : General Photography
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Same image uncompressed to various stages of compression

Above image: This shows the same image uncompressed to various stages of compression, which illustrates the JPEG large (12) is similar to the larger uncompressed files TIFF and TIFF LZW. (Click the image to see a larger version.)

 

What we define as digital photographs are essentially digital image files. Just like all such digital files, you can save them in several different formats. Each of these formats brings along pros and cons. Basically, your digital camera allows you to shoot in RAW, TIFF and JPEG, but is it better to save your files as a JPEG or TIFF for printing?

Let’s check out some facts and tips about these two main formats.


The JPEG Format

JPEG is the most commonly used format when it comes to digital photographs. JPEG was designed for essentially storing photos. It, therefore, comes as no surprise that practically all digital cameras typically use JPEG for storing pictures. Over the past couple of years, the JPEG file format has been gaining much prominence. This is partly because it has the ability to provide an image of fairly high-quality at a mere fraction of the size available in other formats like TIFF. 

As would be expected, that benefit comes along at a cost. Through JPEG, you save disk space through the elimination of some of the delicate colour changes on your picture which are not readily perceptible by the human eye. However, the higher you set the compression, the more those subtle changes get lost, and the more blurred your images become.


Tips for JPEG Images

When you are taking pictures, set your camera to the highest possible quality JPEG setting (12). Your prints or images are going to come out larger, although the quality is going to look sharper.

When the quality of the image is critical and you have to employ a JPEG, remember to set your software image-editing to save it using with the least possible compression. Your image is going to lose a slight amount of clarity, although not so much such that many people will even notice.

When you are saving to JPEG, you can typically select the quality level, even on your digital camera. The higher you set the compression on your camera, the less space taken on your card or disk. However, they will get changed more hence bringing down their quality.

 

Desk


The TIFF Format

The TIFF is commonly used as the best format when you are editing Photoshop digital images, or equivalent. If you don’t select compression, TIFF is lossless, so you experience no quality loss each time you amend and save a file. Therefore, if you are going to be saving, opening, editing, and subsequently resaving that same file, it’s recommended you save on TIFF instead.

Typically, the TIFF format employs “lossless” compression - always saving a full quality and exact copy of your picture. The price you have to pay for this is that you will be getting larger file sizes compared to JPEG files. 


The TIFF format is also very handy when working on things such as product photos. This is because you may want to give your photographed product or item a background that is transparent so that you can paste something additional on it. 
Due to file size, TIFF ought not to be utilised when you are displaying images on the Internet. This is because the majority of web browsers don’t display a TIFF image. 

As you edit an image, instead of saving it as a JPEG file, instead save as TIFF. Though larger, TIFF files don’t lose any clarity or quality when you edit and repeatedly save them, unlike the JPEGs.


Conclusion

If large printing and ultimate quality is not a prime requirement, JPEG files format will be more than adequate. Because TIFF files (when uncompressed) don’t lose quality, they are excellent when you are working on an image in post-production, prior to finally saving it on the JPEG format.

 

About Author: Tim Aldiss  

Tim Aldiss writes for Spectrum Photographic - professional photographic & giclée printing.

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Comments


9 Mar 2016 12:49PM
What a missed opportunity to discuss the many differences between TIFF and JPEG. Compression is only one very small piece of the jigsaw, although it's a larger piece if you start to consider lossless compression. What about different colour spaces? sRGB, AdobeRGB? What about different bit depths? 8bit vs 16bit? How do these impact the final print? Isn't it possible to print a wider gamut (variety of colours) than it is possible to render with sRGB jpeg files, therefore TIFF might be more suitable.

Also, you mention "Your prints or images are going to come out larger, although the quality is going to look sharper." Your prints are not going to come out larger at all, they will be a larger file size, but there won't be any change in dimension.

Maybe you could do a follow up article going into a bit more depth?

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