What Format is Best for Photography?

If you work with digital photos, you’ll probably wonder whether to save your files as JPEG or TIFFs.
I’d like to give you a short answer, but there isn’t one format that’s best for all photography – it all depends on your needs.
In many cases, JPEG is better – but there’s a reason why TIFF exists, and many professional photographers use it.
In this article, I’ll explain the differences so you can decide which one is best for each situation.

What Are JPEGs?

JPEG is one of the most common image file formats in digital photography. The JPEG format is usually applied to digital photos, but you can use it to save other types of raster images.
JPEG files are widely compatible – which is why they became so popular. This, together with the small file size they create.
On the other hand, the files are small because the JPEG format uses lossy compression. In practice, you lose image data when you save your photo as a JPEG file type.
The good thing about this file format is that you can decide how much compression to apply.
Smaller files will lose more information, and they will start to show compression artifacts. If you want high-quality JPEGs, the file sizes will be bigger.
The file extensions are JPG or JPEG.
What Are JPEGs Used for?
JPEG is one of the many image formats available, and it’s one of the most compatible, making it very popular.
Since it allows you to store large amounts of data in manageable file sizes, it’s commonly used for images shared online.
It’s also used in multiple digital cameras when you want to preserve storage space.
However, because it uses lossy compression, it requires a compromise between file size and image quality.
What About a JPEG 2000?

JPEG 2000 is an image file format based on the original JPEG and developed by the same people – the Joint Photographic Experts Group. It’s meant to be an optimized version that supports lossy and lossless compression.
The compressed files in JPEG 2000 are roughly 20% smaller than their JPEG counterparts. The compromise for the smaller file is not so much in the data loss but in the fact that it isn’t widely supported.
JPEG 2000 is uncommon in home computers, photo editing software, or photo-sharing platforms. Instead, it’s used in more specific fields, such as medical and geospatial imagery.
The file extension for JPEG 2000 files is JP2.

What Are TIFFs?

TIFF files are another way to save your images. TIFF stands for Tagged Image File Format, mostly used to save high-quality images.
TIFF files are pretty secure against viruses. They support lossy and lossless compression – you can also save your file without compression.
The downside to the tag image file format is the file size. TIFF files are bigger than JPEG files or other image formats.
TIFF files are often bigger than the original raw file format. If you include layers in your image – the file size can become problematic if you have limited storage space.
However, the file size limit for TIFF format is 4GB.

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A TIFF file can have an extension TIFF or TIF.
What Are TIFFs Used for?
The TIFF file format is common in the editorial industry. This is because it’s one of the best file types for high-quality prints.
If you scan documents or images for archival purposes, TIFF is an excellent file format for this purpose.
How Do You Open TIFF Files?
MacOS, Windows, and Linux support the TIFF format. However, it’s not supported by all programs. To open and edit a TIFF file, you need software like Photoshop.

TIFF vs JPEG: An In-Depth comparison
Now you know more about both file formats. However, you might still be wondering between JPEG vs TIFF – which one should I use?
Well, let’s make an in-depth comparison.

TIFF vs JPEG: Image Quality & Size
One of the biggest differences between the two file formats is image quality and file size.
You can save an uncompressed image in a TIFF format – this guarantees the highest quality as the image data is saved as it is on the original file. However, this results in a large file size.
You’ll need to use a compression file format to save storage space. Now, you can choose between lossy and lossless compression.
TIFF files support lossy and lossless compression, while JPEG only supports the lossy one. Lossless compression preserves greater detail- but the file won’t be much smaller.
If you compress images with lossy compression, you can really save space. To do this, you can use a JPEG file and choose between the varying degrees of compression.
If you use TIFF format with lossy compression, the file size will still be a bit bigger than the JPEG.
Remember that a smaller file will have less image quality and vice-versa.
TIFF vs JPEG: Post-processing
Let’s start by saying that most camera manufacturers don’t include TIFF as a possible file format.
Instead, you’ll find the choice between a raw file or a JPG. If your camera supports shooting in both – that’s great. Otherwise, I advise you to shoot raw.
If your original image is a raw file, you’ll have more flexibility in your post-processing.
Many post-processing programs, such as Photoshop, allow you to work with layers. You can use a TIFF format or a PSD to save your photos with those layers.
You’ll also need a TIFF format or a PNG to save an image with a transparent background.
Instead, a JPEG is ideal if you want to export your photo in a smaller file size to publish online or send via email. You can also save a high-quality JPEG to retain as much quality as possible but save space.
See also: RAW vs JPEG
But what if I were a film photographer?
If you’re a film photographer, you can scan your negatives to have a digital version of your photo. You’ll want the most information possible to have more flexibility for editing. In this sense, it’s best to use TIFF.
While you can’t create raw files with unprocessed information, you can use an uncompressed TIFF to have the most data available.
TIFF is also a suitable file type if you’re scanning for archival purposes. However, if it’s just a quick scan to send someone the picture – then you can use JPEG, which will be faster and easier to handle.
TIFF vs JPEG: Printing

There’s a huge debate about JPEG vs TIFF when it comes to printing.
TIFF files are usually preferred in the editorial field because they support 16 and 32-bit files. So, if you need the highest possible quality – use this file type whenever possible.
However, most users don’t need this type of file. Many printers agree that it’s possible to achieve the same printing quality from a JPEG vs TIFF given certain conditions.
The first condition is quite obvious – it needs to be a JPEG saved at the highest quality. The second one is less known, and it is that the JPEG needs to be the first export from the original file.
This is because each export you do from a JPEG file will cause a slight loss in quality.
Keep in mind that the color space can make a difference, too.
TIFF vs JPEG: File Compatibility
The JPEG vs TIFF ‘fight’ here has a clear winner – JPEG.
Whether it’s for editing the file, uploading it, or even shooting in it – JPEG is much more compatible than a TIFF format.

So Which One Should I Use?
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to file formats. When it comes to deciding between JPG and TIFF, it depends on what you’re looking for.
JPEG files are better for achieving a smaller file size and sharing without worries about compatibility.
If you need quality regardless of size, TIFF is your better choice.
TIFF vs JPEG: Which Is Better for Scanning Photos?
I recommend using TIFF when scanning photos. This will provide all the information and quality needed for future editing and is best for preservation and archiving.

What Happens When You Save a JPEG as a TIFF?

When you saved your photo as a JPG – whether from the camera, a scanner, or an editing software – you lost some data.
If you later save this file as a TIFF, you won’t be recovering any of the already lost data. However, you’ll be stopping the loss of data from now on.
As you know, every manipulation or export you do on a JPG causes a little ‘damage’. If you convert the file to TIFF, all your further edits, exports, etc., won’t cause any more problems regarding quality or data loss.


Now that you know the specifics of TIFF and JPG, let’s talk about another common format called PNG. To make it short, it combines the qualities of the other two file formats.
PNG files are lossless, meaning they are of high quality, but they aren’t as big as the TIFF ones. They support transparency but not layers.
They’re pretty common – as I was saying, but they’re not as compatible as JPG.
When do you want to use them? When you have a transparent background in your image or wish to retain all the information but don’t want a huge file size.
See also: JPG vs PNG

What is better quality JPEG or TIFF?
TIFF usually has better quality because you don’t lose data while compressing your image. Under certain circumstances, you may not notice the difference between a TIFF or a JPEG, though.
Should I use JPG or TIFF for high-quality prints?
If possible, use a TIFF file. However, depending on the nature of the JPEG and the image, you can get a high-quality print even from a JPG file.
Is it better to print from JEPG or TIFF on A2 paper?
A TIFF file ensures a high-quality print, while a JPG may or may not have enough quality depending on various factors. If you can, it’s best to print from a TIFF.
Why do JPEG and TIFF versions of an image look different?
JPEG and TIFF files have different ways of saving the image data. Since JPEG discards some information to achieve a smaller file size, both images may look different.
Is there any point converting JPEG to TIFF?
Yes. Converting your file to a TIFF stops any further data loss when you open, manipulate, or export your file.
Do you lose quality converting TIFF to JPG?
Yes. A TIFF file has all the information of your images, while JPG applies a lossy algorithm to compress the file size.
Does a TIFF file using JPEG compression have the same 65535 x 65535 pixel limitation as a JPEG file?
The TIFF file will still have the ISO JPEG standard limitation, but it may create larger files.
TIFF vs PSD: which file format should I save in when using Photoshop?
PSD files have a 2GB limit, while TIFF has a 4GB limit – this may be something to consider when working with big files. Also, TIFF may have more compatibility than PSD.
However, if you’re working under the 2GB limit, consider that using TIFF means creating a bigger file size.

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