Introduction To Digital Photo File Formats

Jerry WalchStarred Page By Jerry Walch, 1st Sep 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Art>Photography

When we made the switch to digital, photography, we had a lot of new things to learn. If you are just starting out in photography with a digital camera, you have even more to learn. Camera manufacturers like Nikon and Canon know this, and they pack as much knowledge as they can in the instruction manuals that come with their cameras, but there is not enough room to cover everything they would like to cover. They can only touch on things like digital file formats and how to use them.


There are four basic digital photo file formats used with digital cameras: RAW Image File Format (RAW), Tagged Image File Format (TIFF), Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG) file format, and Graphical Interchange File Format (GIFF). If you want to master digital photography, you have to understand how and when to use each of these files formats to store your pictures on your camera's memory card.

The JPEG File Format

The Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG) is the digital photo file format that most people are familiar with. Most point and shoot digital cameras offer no other file format as an alternative to JPEG. There are some compelling reasons for using the JPEG File Format; the JPEG format is the best one for online photo printing, for sharing photo via email, and for creating online photo albums. Those are the things that most point and shoot camera users are interested in doing. The Joint Photographic Experts Group is the one file format accepted by every photo-editing program, including freeware and shareware programs. The JPEG format also has the highest compression ratio, which makes it ideal for sending a picture file as an email attachment.

The JPEG File Format has one significant negative attribute; it uses an extremely "lossy" compression. Every time you re save a picture as a JPEG file, the quality of the picture is degraded. If you are working with a JPEG file, you should save a high quality original and then perform all editing on copies of that original. Making copies of the original does not involve re saving the original, so the quality of the original is not effected.

Graphical Interchange File Format (GIFF)

Mainly online illustrators use the Graphical Interchange File Format. Because of its limited range of colors, it is of little value to the photographer. Because of the limited color range, GIFF files are extremely small which make them ideal for doing online web graphics. Because of the limited number of colors supported by the GIFF format, they do not print well.

RAW Image File Format (RAW)

This image file format is only available on some Prosumer DSLR cameras and on all Professional DSLR cameras. This is a compression free format where the camera records all the data just as the camera's sensor sees it. the problem with shooting in the RAW is that few cameras other than professional cameras can handle the large file sizes. A typical RAW file can exceed 40 or 50 megabytes per picture. The other thing about shooting in the RAW and the photo has been manipulated in the digital darkroom, it has to be saved in another format, usually TIFF or JPEG.

Tagged Image File Format (TIFF)

Tagged Image File Format offers you the best qualities of both RAW and JPEG. If your camera offers TIFF as an option, you should learn to use it.


Digital, Digital Camera, Digital Cameras, Digital File Formats, Digital Photo Secrets, Digital Photography, Digital Photography Tips, Digital Single Lens Reflex, Digital Slr, Giff, Jpeg, Raw, Tiff

Meet the author

author avatar Jerry Walch
Jerry Walch is a 71 year old freelance writer for hire living in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He has been writing since the late 1970s, and writes for both the print and online media. He specializes in

Share this page

moderator johnnydod moderated this page.
If you have any complaints about this content, please let us know


author avatar James Henry Abrina
2nd Sep 2010 (#)

Wow. I'm not really into photography (although that is a part of my vocation) but I find your article very useful.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Jerry Walch
2nd Sep 2010 (#)

No writer could ask for more than to have his readers find what he writes useful. Thank you :-))

Reply to this comment

Add a comment
Can't login?