What is the Best File Format to Save Your Photos In? PSD * TIFF * JPEG * GIF  * PNG - Digital Photography School
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What is the Best File Format to Save Your Photos In? PSD * TIFF * JPEG * GIF  * PNG

A Guest Post by Jodi Friedman of MCP Actions:Your shortcut to better photographs.

As a photographer you shoot in Raw or Jpeg, or sometimes both. Then you edit. You may start in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw, but many photographers will end up in Photoshop doing more detailed editing of your photographs.  In time, you come up with the “perfect” edit. Now it is time to save.

What do you do? Do you save as a PSD, Tiff, Jpeg, Gif, Png or something else?

This article is not meant to address how you save Raw files to formats like DNG (Digital Negatives). It is meant to focus on how you save to share photos on the web and for print.

Here are a few of the most common formats and why you may or may not want to use them:

PSD

  • You will want to save as a Photoshop PSD when you have many layers that you want to preserve.
  • Saving this way will retain adjustment layers, your masks, shapes, clipping paths, layer styles, blending modes.
  • Useful if you need to maintain transparency.
  • PSDs often are large in size, especially if you edit with many layers.
  • Only those with Photoshop, Adobe products or certain other graphics programs will be able to view them.
  • Unless you are printing from an Adobe application like Photoshop, or possibly another graphics program, you will need to save in a different format for printing, such as at a professional lab.
  • You cannot display on the web in this format.

TIFF

  • This targeted file format is the highest quality and is excellent for print as there is no loss in quality.
  • Retains information in layers, depending how you save it.
  • The downsides are the extremely large file size and you cannot display on the web in this format.
  • Lossless format so you will retain information from your images as you re-open and re-save.

JPEG

  • The Joint Photographic Experts Group format is the most common type. It is viewable by all and can be used for print and the web.
  • When saving as a jpg, you decide what quality you desire (In Photoshop for example a level 1 is the lowest quality or a 12 which is the highest quality)
  • The biggest downsize is that the jpeg format is lossy.  Each time you open and save, the image compresses and you lose a small amount of information.
  • Another downside is that layers are flattened upon saving so you lose the ability to go back to past edits to tweak.

PNG

  • The Portable Network Graphics format also creates smaller file size but without the quality loss of a GIF.
  • Useful if you need to maintain transparency.
  • Often used for graphics instead of GIF.
  • Lossless format so you will retain information from your images as you re-open and re-save.
  • You can share these files on the web.

GIF

  • The Graphics Interchange Format is good for web graphics with animation but NOT recommended for photos.
  • The file size is very small so these files load fast on the web.
  • The downsides are limited colors and does not handle photographs well.
  • Lossless format so you will retain information from your images as you re-open and re-save.

Hopefully after reading this you have a better idea on which suits your style. There is no right or wrong per say, though many will feel strongly about how they manage their workflow.

I personally simplify my workflow. While there is a compression and loss of information editing jpeg images, the difference is so minor unless you are re-opening dozens of times. For that reason, I save my images as PSD if I know I will need to come back to it to alter adjustment layers, masks, or layer opacity. Once I am done editing, I save my images as JPEGs. If I am working on something for my website that needs transparency, I use the PNG format.

So now it’s your turn. Tell us which file formats you chose to save in and why? Add your comments below, and also vote in the poll shown here.

What File Format Do You Save Your Photos In?

View Results

Note: this post has been slightly updated from it’s original version.

About the Author: Jodi Friedman, owner of MCP Actions, offers original Photoshop Actions and Workshops to customers internationally, which enable photographers, at the click of a button, to enhance and enrich their photos in a fast and efficient way.

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  • Tom

    Is there a way to save an image as a PSD AND as a JPG at the same time?

  • Tho

    Hi folks, Correct if I am wrong, I use Picasso, and after editing a file i save this with another name, keep the original file with out saving the changes. will this cause a loss in data?
    regards
    Tho

  • jules

    PNG kicks but over jpeg, no loss baby!

  • http://none Gerald Meyer

    Most of my images are destined to be sent to friends as e-mails or for ones I am more proud of I either print for adding to my portfolio or to be matted and framed to be gifts or to hang in my home. Ones I am VERY proud of I print 13X19 on a pro Epson printer. In that all my friends have the Adobe software needed to open these e-mails I ” save as” in PDF. I am retired and my photography is for my own enjoyment and the enjoyment of my friends and family.
    I would like to know why the universal file format , PDF, for viewing, showing and printing was not even mentioned above in your questionnaire. There must be something I am missing.
    Jerry

  • jim giner

    I think you missed the point of the article. It was about formats used for saving photos. Your usage of pdf is a fine use of compression/presentation software that suits your needs for framing, hanging, and distribution. For many though – the need to retain their work for future review/editing and framing or (again) presentation is the primary concern, and choosing the right digital format for photo retention is of utmost importance. The PDF format is not meant for, nor is it nearly as useful to, photographers who wish to have their shots archived. As you prove yourself – “the universal file format, PDF, for viewing, showing and printing” – is not a “saving” format.

  • farhad azizi

    I just love to print my photos in large sizes like 50X70 or even more. No matter I take picture in JEPG and or RAW. After some editing in photoshop I save them in TIFF farmat.

  • Richard Lange

    WebP is the future

  • IGoPogo

    I am scanning approx. 17,000 color negatives. I want to scan most as ‘good enough’ for a 4×6 print. To keep the total storage reasonable, I need to choose between outputting a TIFF at 1200 dpi and 24 bit (4-7 meg.), or to output as a JPEG at 4800 dpi and 48 bit color (3 meg.). I am concerned that the 1200 DPI TIFF is at the bottom of useable resolution. I could even go higher on the JPEG DPI if that would improve the JPEG for archiving (Epson V750 scanner). Could someone offer opinions on the relative merits of these two approaches?
    Note that if I decide that I want to select certain photos for a larger print, I could edit the higher-DPI JPEG and save the result as a TIFF so there is no future compression.
    In summary, is it better to scan at very high res as a minimally-compressed JPEG for archiving and then output as TIFFs any future edits of selected JPEGs ?
    Thanks

  • Danny

    PNG.
    I use PNG because of the lossless compression (no data is lost, unlike jpeg).

    PNG also compresses better than TIFF does, although the lack of layers is annoying, but not import ant because I use gimp for any final image exports.

  • Rachel

    A big question is how much data do you all have to manage? We take concert photos and saving multiple ways is a data management situation, to say the least. Anyone have thoughts on that? Thank you.

  • Ashley Johnson
  • VERN BOND

    MY FIRST CAMERA WAS A SUPER IKONTA a SPECIAL. IN 1942 I REPAIRED A LEICA AND USED IT FOR MANY YEARS ALONG WITH MY CANNONS. MY CURRENT CAMERA IS A cannon EOS REBEL THAT SITS UNDER MY DESK UNUSED BECAUSE AT AGE 96 MY LEFT LEG HAS THE RESULTS OF POST POLIO. TEACHING PHOTOGRAPHY TO GI”S IN WWII WAS A HAPPY TIME AT SCOTT FIELD IN DENVER. SO WHAT AM I TRYING TO EXPLAIN? PHOTOGRAPHY INTRODUCED ME in 1937 TO MY DATE OF 5 YEARS AND MY MATE FOR 65 YEARS. PLEASE ENCOURAGE OTHERS TO MAKE PHOTOGRAPHY PART OF THEIR HAPPY LIFE as it did mine.

  • Frank Tartaglio

    Thank you for your service Sir …

  • Nicolas

    I love to take pictures raw but then after i am done editing those pictures in lightroom or photoshop i just save as a tiff so i can get the best results when printing my pictures

  • Bill

    I’m just starting to try to edit my photographs which were originally shot in jpeg. I know TiIFF is a lossless format. On a computer you can change jpeg formatted pictures to TIFF. When you do so the number of bytes increases by about a factor of 10, are you recovering any lost bytes or is this increase meaningless?

  • Pete Lacey

    You cannot retrieve lost information. What you achieve is spreading the existing information into a larger format, but there will be loss of quality.

  • Pete Lacey

    I work in graphic arts, with over 30 years experience of the trade. IMO the choice of format is subject to how the image will be used, whether it’s for print or web/presentation.
    The quality of images required for screen display is approximately a quarter of that required for print, 72dpi as opposed to 300dpi and therefore the file size will differ immensely. Images saved in RGB will have a much higher gamut than those restricted by CMYK, but if your images will appear in print they will be printed in CMYK.
    I prefer .png or .jpg for web but to reduce file sizes further eg. online advertising .gif is often used for flat colour images. These are all saved as RGB, preferably Adobe RGB rather than sRGB as it has a larger gamut.
    Most printers will not accept .png as a format for litho print and some printers cannot print from .jpg. These formats are often considered to be lower quality and in RGB. For print the larger our images the better quality the result so TIFF in CMYK is preferable, the alternative being EPS as these hold clipping paths to mask areas. Providing PSD is unnecessary as it contains too much information and will slow the work flow down at every stage. These should remain your master working files and flattened as TIFF prior to output to printer.
    If you provide the wrong file to a printer the likelihood is they will convert the file for you, but that introduces their choice of conversion which might not appeal to yourself. Providing your own formats ensures consistency of colour and quality and provides the ability to include colour profiles to industry standards.

  • Pete Lacey

    Png is a great format for web, however its of no use for print.

  • Pete Lacey

    The cost of storage these days is so low that you shouldn’t restrict the size of your images because of storage. Scan or photograph at the highest quality you can and reduce compression on jpg as much as possible. Compressed jpg images will lose data. Compressed RAW files are the best format as they retain not only all the image quality but the meta data too. These are great to use in Photoshop as you can bracket the image within the software and do so for several version of the same image enabling merging together to get the best possible result.

  • Janie Y

    Can someone help me figure out what to do with the images I’ve already shot in JPEG?
    For the pictures I’ve already captured that are defaulted into JPEG, is it better to save them on iPhoto as ‘Original’ vs ‘JPEG’ (because it will 1) further compress it, 2) image info will be even more lost and 3) flattened)? See, I would like the option to save them so that in the future I can either edit them further AND have a physical print of some of them via a TIFF file. I want to still keep the best quality the image was captured in (which in my case was JPEG).
    (Thanks to forums like these, going forward, I will be shooting in RAW of course.. but for this question, I want to know how I should save thousands of images I’ve recently shot from my around-the-world trip. Thank you).

Some older comments

  • jim giner

    June 5, 2013 07:09 am

    I think you missed the point of the article. It was about formats used for saving photos. Your usage of pdf is a fine use of compression/presentation software that suits your needs for framing, hanging, and distribution. For many though - the need to retain their work for future review/editing and framing or (again) presentation is the primary concern, and choosing the right digital format for photo retention is of utmost importance. The PDF format is not meant for, nor is it nearly as useful to, photographers who wish to have their shots archived. As you prove yourself - "the universal file format, PDF, for viewing, showing and printing" - is not a "saving" format.

  • Gerald Meyer

    June 4, 2013 09:12 am

    Most of my images are destined to be sent to friends as e-mails or for ones I am more proud of I either print for adding to my portfolio or to be matted and framed to be gifts or to hang in my home. Ones I am VERY proud of I print 13X19 on a pro Epson printer. In that all my friends have the Adobe software needed to open these e-mails I " save as" in PDF. I am retired and my photography is for my own enjoyment and the enjoyment of my friends and family.
    I would like to know why the universal file format , PDF, for viewing, showing and printing was not even mentioned above in your questionnaire. There must be something I am missing.
    Jerry

  • jules

    January 27, 2012 06:53 pm

    PNG kicks but over jpeg, no loss baby!

  • Tho

    December 2, 2011 12:00 am

    Hi folks, Correct if I am wrong, I use Picasso, and after editing a file i save this with another name, keep the original file with out saving the changes. will this cause a loss in data?
    regards
    Tho

  • Tom

    November 17, 2011 07:12 am

    Is there a way to save an image as a PSD AND as a JPG at the same time?

  • CS Photography

    August 29, 2011 09:16 am

    Always shoot in RAW when doing portraiture photography. For production jobs...yearbooks, proms, etc. The pictures are shot in jpeg. Editing for retouching is saved in TIFF and further saved as a jpeg when special effects are done. That way I still have all the layers of adjustments for the original file. Finished work is always converted to jpeg for archive. Multi-layer work is saved as PSD or TIFF before flattening layers for print....but is always saved with layers just in case alterations are needed. Lots & lots of backup for all work (3 different backups for current work and 2 backups for archival).

  • Rafi Barbar

    August 25, 2011 10:30 pm

    i shoot in RAW process and Adobe Camera RAW then save in TIFF to finish in Photoshop and depending on what's next JPEG for web or Keep in TIFF for prints

  • Joe Nowak

    July 28, 2011 07:13 am

    I have a question concerning Photoshop CS4 or CS5. Now that I no longer use Nikon Capture NX2 for editing is there ANY loss when I use LightRoom 2 or 3 to download my 14 bit Nikon RAW NEF files. I know that the DEFAULT gamut for Lightroom is Pro Photo RGB the widest color gamut. Is PSD 16 bit? How about ACR (Adobe Camera Raw)

  • Joe Nowak

    July 28, 2011 06:35 am

    I ALWAYS shoot in Nikon 14 bit RAW (NEF) with my Nikon D700 FX fornat canera. Up until the otheer day I would initally edit using Nikon Capture NX2 (because you can edit AND save NEF files lossless), then save in TIFF 16 bit... that is untill CNX2 started ignoring my Epson Stylus Pro 3880 printer. Once I uninstalled CNX2 my photo printer started working again.... magically! So now I've thrown out CNX2 completely and work only with Photoshop CS4 (I have the CS5 upgrade but haven't loaded it yet) and Lightroom. After doing all my editing in Photoshop, I save in TIFF 16 bit on every image. If I want to post something to the web, I take the TIFF mage and convert it to JPEG in medium high quality.

  • Maite

    February 2, 2011 07:01 pm

    I shoot in .raw + .jpg and then save in .png (using .tiff is a bit weird for me as I've used PNG since the beginning of time, as it's losslesssssss!)
    I export as JPEG for web but.. I often play around with photomanipulation and.. once a JPEG, always a JPEG, even if saved in a PNG. I choose the route that doesn't make you stick to one path (the JPEG path) xD

  • Joe Marfice

    March 9, 2010 07:41 am

    Just to finish out this discussion with some facts:

    There are actually some lossless operations you can perform on a JPG that still won't cause any data loss. They aren't very powerful - rotation (landscape -> portrait orientation) and L-R or Up-Down flip are the ones that come to mind - but in most (sensible) programs saving these changes cause no data loss. If you think about it, you can see why - there's no actual change occurring in the pixels, just rearrangement of the layout pattern of the pixels themselves. Oh, and editing EXIF data (that records details such as what camera took the shot, what ISO, shutter speed, aperture, etc) shouldn't cause data loss (again, for obvious reasons).

    I can't of course guarantee that your favorite image viewer or editor handles these operations, but it shouldn't. If you want to check for sure, take a large JPG, perform one or more of the above operations, and resave under a new name. The files should have the exact same byte size, unless you changed the amount of data in the EXIF tags (for instance, Canon -> Nikon = 5 chars each; Canon -> ABCDEFGHIJ = +5 characters, or 5-10 bytes increase in file size).

  • jim giner

    March 9, 2010 06:20 am

    So - if one makes no changes, then there is no loss to the files. Good to hear.

  • Chuck Walker

    March 9, 2010 06:18 am

    The file not not need to get re-saved unless data is added or removed. The programs you listed would likely ask you so save changes when you exited a file if anything was done to them.

  • jim giner

    March 9, 2010 06:08 am

    Joe - you're right I was confused. But what about the second part of my last post?

  • Joe Marfice

    March 9, 2010 06:05 am

    Jim, you're confused. You've even quoted Chuck as agreeing with me. Opening the file will not harm it in any way. Both Chuck & I agree on that.

  • jim giner

    March 9, 2010 06:01 am

    Joe - so in the last ten minutes I've gotten two conflicting answers - you say there's no loss from opening and Chuck says that there is.

    Chuck - you say simply viewing a file will not harm it any. If I use lightroom, since the program does not modify the original I suspect that there will never be any loss to the original file, only an exported one. But what about some other pic editors - say Canon's DPP or ZoomBrowser. When you view a file there but don't actually make a change, does it still get re-compressed?

  • Joe Marfice

    March 9, 2010 05:54 am

    Yes, I'm sure-sure-SURE it's a myth.

    If you open a file, view it, and close it (without saving, of course), neither the modification date, nor the file size in bytes, nor the file hash (a unique code used to verify the contents of two identical files are exactly the same) changes. It's just like opening a page in a paper-photobook. Nothing deteriorates (until your 6yo gets loose with a crayon, or your 2yo tries to taste it, of course).

    "Let's squash it here" = "Let's put an end to this myth on this site."

    HTH.

  • Chuck Walker

    March 9, 2010 05:50 am

    I can answer that for you...

    Simply viewing a file will not cause any data loss, regardless of format, and all files retain all data from the previous save.

    If a JPG file is modified and re-saved, the compression algorithm is then reapplied to the data, like a photocopy of a photocopy, and that is where data will occur, even if the quality setting is at 100%.

  • jim giner

    March 9, 2010 05:41 am

    So - has anyone got an answer for my question - does just "viewing" a JPG create loss? As for Joe Marfice's response - are you sure it's a myth? You say let's squash it here - what does that mean?

  • Joe Marfice

    March 9, 2010 05:32 am

    More errors (from the description of TIFF files):
    Lossless format so you will retain information from your images as you re-open and re-save.

    Every single format ever developed (except some early emulsion prints) retain all information as you re-open them.

    I know what you're trying to say - JPGs continue to degrade as they are resaved in processing programs - but you're suggesting that just opening a non-TIFF degrades it somehow. I've read this myth elsewhere; let's squash it here.

  • Don Peterson

    March 1, 2010 01:57 am

    I don't understand the term "maintains transparency." Does it have to do with maintaining layers? Would someone please explain.

    Thanks,
    Don

  • Don Peterson

    March 1, 2010 01:48 am

    I shoot in RAW and save the "keepers" in PSD because it lends itself to further processing in Photoshop. Mostly I save them in .jpg format for uploading to the Web as either individual images or part of a slide show presentation. I then delete the .jpgs and slideshows from my computer to save disc space.

  • Don

    February 26, 2010 03:46 am

    I shoot in Raw, do my post-processing in Lightroom and save all my files in DNG format in archive folders. I export to JPG in other folders for viewing on TV, websites, video shows, etc. On the rare occasions that I need Photoshop for post-processing, I save the resulting PSD file in the archive folder with the DNG file.

  • jim giner

    February 26, 2010 03:42 am

    Re: the comment about JPG formats:

    "
    Each time you open and save, the image compresses and you lose a small amount of information."

    By the word 'open' - are we referring to using lightroom, Zoombrowswer (Canon's supplied sw) or even IE to look at the pic as an "open"? Or is this only referring to opening an actual "edit" session where changes are made? I'd hate to think that every time I've viewed my pics in a slideshow for friends that I have been slowly eating away at my pictures pixels!

  • sil

    February 26, 2010 12:05 am

    I always shoot in RAW, open in PS as TIF 16-bits, save as TIF and convert to JPG for web and print.

  • george

    February 25, 2010 11:16 pm

    survey says!!! i hate to be contrarian but i think the survey should have included RAW, in my case 85% of my photos are minimally processed in Lightroom and then printed or exported as jpeg for web useage. the remainder are processed in PS and saved as PSD or exported as jpeg.

  • NSL

    February 25, 2010 11:09 pm

    Except when taking action photos in JPG format, all my other photos (95%) are saved in RAW format.

    Like many above, I also save my photos in PSD after editing, plus a copy in JPG. I save in PSD primarily to preserve all my layers for possible future adjustment if necessary. The JPG files are for uploading to galleries.

    I print from my PSD files when using my printer, and generally from JPG files (not the same files I upload to online galleries) when I send out for printing. Prior to printing I optimize sharpening, specifically for printing, and specifically for the size of the print. (My uploaded JPG files are sharpened specifically for display on computer screens or TVs.)

    All my original RAW, and JPG files are left intact. They remain as my unedited source files for any future work.

  • Peter

    February 25, 2010 10:40 pm

    RAW Archival: DNG
    Minor Edits: TIFF with ZIP compression (preserves Photoshop layers, stores 16 Bit ProPhoto RGB, lossless, smaller files than PSD, thumbnails visible in more applications, metadat support)
    Major Retouching: PSD (all information including alpha channels, paths, etc. is preserved)
    Client approval/online use: 8-bit sRGB JPEG, 100% quality for approval, if multiple images alternatively PDF with JPEG compression. Exported from the retouching file; this does not go into the archive.
    Delivery/Printing: Flattened TIFF with LZW compression, 16 Bit ProPhoto RGB or 8-Bit sRGB, depending on the intended usage. I export these from the original PSD/TIFF and do not archive them.

    Metadata gets added on ingest, either vial Lightroom or iView Media Pro, so that every file in the chain has proper metadata. I make sure NOT to exclude the XMP metadata on export to JPEG/TIF.

    @Bandu: BMP is not a professional imaging file format but one that was created for storing native OS/2 and later Windows images. It includes no information about the color space that is used (meaning you have to convert to sRGB), it cannot store higher bit depths than 8 bits per channel, it is owned by Microsoft, it cannot store single-channel grayscale images, it does not support lossless compression (means bigger files), it does not provide a mechanism to store metadata, and much more.
    TIFF files are a better option. Most applications that can read TIFF files use a library called libtiff to read and write them, and that supports all the variations that Photoshop writes, so you are sufficiently safe in that area.

  • Catherine

    February 9, 2010 11:45 am

    I do exactly what Jodi does. I edit in photoshop and then when I am happy with the edit I save both a psd and a jpg version, so that I have a version to print/upload/etc and a version that I can go back an tweak if necessary.

  • John Jessup

    February 6, 2010 02:14 am

    I always shoot in RAW. Then save in Aperture to TIF. Aperture +backup drive keeps NEF original. Big files from my D3x need Mac quality and enough capacity. Otherwise like buying a Ferrari with a Lada engine. I use JPG for email or net as we still suffer from restricted and expensive net costs due to South African semi-state run monopoly called Telkom. But this is starting to slowly improve.

  • ujjal dey

    February 5, 2010 05:54 pm

    I shoot in RAW. Convert to TIF in Nikon Capture NX. Do the tweaks in Photoshop CS4. And save it in TIF only. Whenever required for publishing, convert the TIF to JPG (desired size and quality).

  • Jack Reighley

    February 4, 2010 04:42 am

    I'm a hobby photographer, so any dog I have in this fight is a small one. BUT, I do shoot in RAW, edit in TIFF, and save as JPEG. I use PSE7

  • Connie Kurtew

    February 2, 2010 04:26 am

    I always save my RAW files and also a copy of them as TIFF. Yes, it takes up a lot of space but I burn each session to DVD. My personal photos I save to external hard drives. I have a few of them now and there will be more. But external storage is cheap, so are DVD's. Sometimes I use the Double Layer DVD's if a session is too big.

  • Aram Mirzadeh

    February 1, 2010 04:13 pm

    I used to save everything as RAW (CR2) but since LR2, I've started to convert everything to DNG (Adobe Digital Negative) and if I edit a file outside of LR, most likely in Photoshop, the PSD is imported as well. Once a great while if I use HDR or Pano, the file may remain a TIFF

  • Barb

    February 1, 2010 02:53 pm

    Thanks...this was so helpful!! Keep the info coming, particularly for newbies like me!

  • Stu Hodgkiss

    February 1, 2010 12:55 am

    I shoot RAW (NEF) which then goes into Aperture, I export to CS4 as TIFF and save back to Aperture as compressed TIFF finally I export as JPEG for web use, I quite like this workflow as it works well, doesn't take to much space and keeps optimum quality.

  • daveconrey

    January 31, 2010 09:47 am

    GIF shouldn't even be on this list except to straight out say that you should almost NEVER be used.

    What about EPS? If you're planning on using your photos in some sort of print layout, like magazines, advertising, or such, EPS is the format of choice of a lot of designers and print shops. EPS doesn't retain layers, but it compresses better thanTIFF and is a lossless format.

    Bandu - Stay away from BMP. It's not a very strong format and gives you almost no control.

  • pni

    January 31, 2010 03:49 am

    I always save the PSD file with all layers, so that if there's need to remake something I don't have to redo everything (hard drive space is quite cheap these days).

    For sharing on (or via) the web the choice of file format depends on what gives the best quality/file size ratio depending on how big the image will be, in what context the file/image is used and what the image subject is. Mostly its JPG these days.

  • Marco Markovich

    January 31, 2010 12:12 am

    I import RAW into Aperture and then save (export) the projects to somewhere else.

  • Frederick Ding

    January 30, 2010 01:11 pm

    I save in PSD for designs and things with editable layers that I want to preserve.

    Photos are shot in RAW and I keep a copy in the original, unedited NEF format. (My point-and-shoot camera, though, only shoots in JPEG.)

    Web graphics are always PNG for me; GIF seems inflexible to me.

  • Prissequito

    January 30, 2010 07:56 am

    I always shoot Camera RAW +jpg fine...and for ROOTC (right out of the camera and into Photoshop files) I always save PSD first, and then creating a copy of the flattened file saved jpg (fine). . I save TIFF when the image is going to be enlarged, or commercially printed.

    I post- process in Camera Raw (in Bridge first) and I save RAW files as DNG as they come out of the Camera Raw Converter and I like that because it creates a lossless smaller filesize without throwing away image data like saving jpg does. (I do NOT embed the original RAW data in the DNG file, though which is an option. ) When I bring the image Into Photoshop I always preserve my Photoshop layers and any further adjustments as psds, and then decide what other purposes I may ultimately have for the image. I almost always duplicate and flatten the psd file and save the second copy as a jpg.

    Like you Ruby, I save png frequently for web, but --I give that command in Photoshop's (Save for Web feature)

  • Rube

    January 30, 2010 04:26 am

    Naturally shooting in RAW is the best method, but what about what to save it as? It depends on what the photos will be used for. I am a website developer and shoot photos mosting in jpeg and sometimes in RAW + jpeg. But I have done photo quality comparisons after post processing in Photoshop and Fireworks and have determined that png is better and best suited for the web. Additionally, png allows me to keep my layers and do editing later if needed.

  • Aron Rubin

    January 30, 2010 04:25 am

    This post needs fixing.

    TIFF = Tagged Image File Format
    TIFF is an encapsulation format not necessarily a compression format. It supports both lossy and lossless compression.

    PNG and JPEG have very wide support including email client, browser, and file manager thumbnailing. Many artists forget these things.

    It also should be noted that the compression used in the different formats work better on different types of images. If you want to preserve sharp text or rapid color shifts you should not use JPEG compression (in either the JPEG or TIFF file formats).

    TIFF and PNG allow for 16 bits per channel so they can handle higher dynamic range images. This is most important for grayscale.

    There is no reason to use GIF outside of animation.

  • tabletopdrummer

    January 30, 2010 03:29 am

    Could someone answer me this. Shooting in jpeg, is the difference really a BIG difference? I use the setting at the higest quality setting. I thought the results of my photos were good ,(when printed) I am an amature photographer, and don't really have the eye to determine the difference. Is it comparable to eight track vs cd?
    And is it more complicated to use in oder to download pics. to your p.c. , a print shop, and so forth?
    The jpeg has been working well for me, but now after reading this post, I'm wondering if I'm really missing something. Each week I try to pick up some more helpful hints, thank to all at d.p.s.

  • Clay Anthony

    January 30, 2010 01:59 am

    As a professional photographer I almost always save as a psd file AND jpeg. The jpegs meet the need for final outbout, whether online or in print (depending on resolution). Having a psd version gives me flexibililty to make adjustments to layers, etc. if needed in future.

  • Michael Herzog

    January 30, 2010 12:35 am

    Indeed TIFF is a strange beast, which should be avoided if you need to exchange files. If you need to use it, stick to the default values (Baseline TIFF). More info at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tagged_Image_File_Format.

    My working format is PSD, my export format JPEG.

  • Janice

    January 29, 2010 10:19 pm

    Picasa can preview psd's. You need to tick the option before it will work. I have set my PC so Picasa is the default viewer of all my photo file formats, including png. I do not shoot Raw, so I don't know if Picasa can show those files.

  • Mike

    January 29, 2010 06:54 pm

    There's a lot of incorrect/incomplete information about the formats listed.

    For instance, TIFF is a container format, and the actual image format can be lossy. Because of the different possibilities for the actual storage, compression method, and number of images that can be stored in it, it makes for a nightmare for portability between different programs and systems.

  • Jonathon Jenkins

    January 29, 2010 06:03 pm

    I import my raw images and convert them to DNG and create JPEGs for sharing and posting on the web. Lightroom is perfect for this part of my workflow. I just read a very good article today about DNG referenced in the Lightroom forum on Linkedin. It's at the following link:

    http://www.ppmag.com/reviews/200709_adobedng.pdf

  • Forrest Tanaka

    January 29, 2010 05:56 pm

    I agree with andre about TIFF—it's a technically poor format IMO because they allow too much variation when they're created, causing potential problems for TIFF readers. I've seen people create TIFF files that services can't read because their reader doesn't support some option the writer took advantage of. Good file formats should make writing more difficult than reading, but TIFF does the opposite.

  • Bandu

    January 29, 2010 04:49 pm

    How about saving in BMP? Of course, large files! Please discuss about pros and cons.

  • iran3433

    January 29, 2010 02:27 pm

    I use both JPEG and PSD. Obviously the PSD allows m to return to the work and make additional changes, "read improvements" for future production. The JPEG allows me to send the snapshots to my friend and relatives with the least amount of effort and for them to be able to view the photos.

  • Almond

    January 29, 2010 11:25 am

    I hope someone already mentioned it, but in terms of metadata, PNG is absolutely useless. PSD isn't as good as JPEG, but it is pretty good.

  • jpm8jpm

    January 29, 2010 10:51 am

    i use tiff and jpeg bec i can easily view them in case i have no access to my own pc

  • Roman

    January 29, 2010 08:36 am

    I shoot in RAW and use RAW editing software (sony & nikon), Lightroom 2 and Photoshop CS4 to edit, I always save the original RAW untouched and save a jpeg to share and a Photoshop file for further editing if it has multiple layers in the photo. Otherwise I just leave my photos in LR (RAW) and export what I want to print or share into jpeg and save into desktop folder.

  • Dustin

    January 29, 2010 07:58 am

    I shoot in RAW, and utilize TIFF, PSD, and JPEG in my PP routine. I usually start in either Sony IDC or Lightroom with the RAW file, then after making any adjustments, I export it as a TIFF. From there, I go into Photoshop and run though a few basic actions, and save as a PSD. Usually before closing the PSD, I then run an action that saves the image as a certain size in a folder for Flickr upload. I don't save a final TIFF version of the image after going through Photoshop, as I see no need to. For me, going back to the PSD is the easiest if I need to make any changes, or fit the image for print at various sizes.

    I usually only go on to the next step in PP with about 10% of the images, so like 10% of the RAW files end up getting made into TIFFs, 10% of the TIFFs go to PS, and sometimes all of those don't pass for me to be put into a final image. The biggest drawback to this whole routine is the hard drive space it takes up. For each final image there is a RAW, TIFF, and PSD file, which can sometimes mean a couple hundred mb of data. I've been working with 1 tB of space on my current computer for about a year and a half now, and I am now getting to the point where I'm going to probably double that soon, which should last me a couple more years.

  • Alex Sydney

    January 29, 2010 07:39 am

    I shoot in RAW+JPEG. Then Microsoft camera wizard to import and rename photos (folders with dates). Then I am using Google Picasa for quick preview of JPEGs and removing of bad JPEGs. Then file explorer, sort by name and delete RAW that do not have JPEG with the same file name. If I am happy with JPEG then crop/adjust in Picasa and upload to web albums.

    If I have time or I am not happy with white balance (usually indoors), then import RAW in Lightroom, adjust and export back in JPEGs to replace original ones. Then Picasa again to view/upload. I do not keep the photos in Lightroom's catalog.

    I keep my all pictures under My Pictures folder with a date. Previous years are organised under separate folders (ex. My Pictures/2009) and all current photos (RAW+JPEG) go to a folder with date and description. Ex. My Pictures/2010-01-29, Sydney Opera House at night. Inside the folder file look like Sydney Opera House at night 001.JPG and Sydney Opera House at night 001.CR2 (this is where Microsoft Camera wizard comes handy, but you have to use card reader to pick up RAW files).

    I also created a simple .bat script that uses xcopy command (WindowsXP) to copy new/updated files to another harddrive and scheduled it to run at 10pm daily. Every 3 months I also copy new files on DVD to backup.

    p.s. Photography is my hobby. I do not earn money by producing photos. Most of the time I shoot my kids.

  • Jodi Friedman

    January 29, 2010 07:10 am

    Patrick,

    You are correct in that my communication was not as solid as it should have been. Thank you for your clarification. You can print within Photoshop. But I print at a lab. They need other file formats. Guess it is a matter of where I was coming from. Trust me, you would not want me printing from Photoshop on this little Canon I have here - not for important photos...
    can download PSD viewers for other platforms. You can also print a PSD, at least from within Photoshop.

    As far as sharing on the web - you can send through the web - if your email program will allow you to have large files. Mine tops out at 10MB and usually my layered PSDs are significantly larger. But yes, I was not referring to that - I was referring to displaying a PSD... Maybe someday there will be a way.

    I appreciate your comment and thoughts.

    Jodi

  • Richard heath

    January 29, 2010 07:07 am

    I am shocked so many save their files in JPEG!! I know of NO pros who do this. Crazy!

  • Jodi Friedman

    January 29, 2010 06:38 am

    Photoshop Lightroom, Photoshop (full) and Photoshop Lightroom of course can. I was unaware of other programs that could - I think someone mentioned Picasa. Sorry I missed that. But as a rule most programs cannot open PSDs.

    I also was not talking about Raw file formats, But maybe that should be a part 2, discussing RAW formats.

  • Clay Teague

    January 29, 2010 06:31 am

    I think that the heading is a bit misleading.

    I would NEVER save a photo as GIF or PNG.

    I would convert a photo to JPG, GIF, or PNG (depending on what was best for the image) for posting on a web page or sending to someone, saving it just long enough to upload.

    But I would be sure to keep the original RAW or DNG file. That way I can always convert the file again to any format without worrying about losing quality.

    When making adjustments with Photoshop, I do keep the PSD file as well.

  • Paul

    January 29, 2010 05:31 am

    I keep everything in the original RAW files. If I need the images in another (web friendly?) format, I export them from Aperture at that time.

  • Robert

    January 29, 2010 05:20 am

    I see no reason to use PSD, it has the same advantages as TIFF (lossless etc) but can also be opened in other programs.

    My workflow is: Lightroom, make adjustments, export to TIFF, sometimes extra adjustments in Photoshop but still TIFF format. I usually create a 800px wide JPEG for on the web which I delete after I upload the file to Flickr.

  • Bernardino Lima

    January 29, 2010 05:13 am

    One Correction. Picasa can view PSD files!

  • joubex

    January 29, 2010 04:46 am

    Everything in Raw

  • Ken Weinert

    January 29, 2010 04:40 am

    Shoot in RAW, publishing to the web is in PNG, intermediate storage is .xcf (I use Gimp)

  • Naer

    January 29, 2010 04:25 am

    At first I use NEF for my camera.
    After this manipulated pictures are saved in PSD.
    Third released pictures saved in JPEG (maximum quality 12 or 100%) and given to clients.
    Published pictures are resized and saved as JPEG, too.

  • Paige

    January 29, 2010 04:23 am

    "Only those with Photoshop will be able to view them, and you will need to save another way for printing."

    I don't think this is correct. Any Adobe Photoshop product (i.e. Photoshop Elements, Lightroom) can view .psd files. Further if you open a .psd in Photoshop or the Photoshop Elements editor, you can print from there without ever creating a .jpg.

  • Chuck Walker

    January 29, 2010 04:06 am

    I save my originals in RAW, and working files for the lab in TIFF. I then let Picasa convert the TIFFs to JPG on the fly as needed when they go to Flickr.

  • Dennyboy

    January 29, 2010 04:02 am

    you cant "overwrite" a raw file in camera raw because you cant save adjutments to the raw file you have to make a copy either tiff, dng, e.t.c. you have a sidecar file that remembers the adjustments but raw is raw data and thats it.

  • Shaun

    January 29, 2010 03:27 am

    I really like PNG for anything I'm exporting to web, otherwise I tend to keep photos in the same format that they were shot in.

    One thing you forgot to mention in your post though: PNG supports alpha transparency throughout.

  • Dengmws

    January 29, 2010 02:54 am

    First, I always shoot in Raw format, and never over-write those with any adjustments in Camera Raw. I save those in post-processing formats.

    My favorite format for retaining work is PSD. It's rough on my system and my hard drive, but I sometimes spend hours on a photo to achieve the perfect end result, so I want to be able to go back months from now and see exactly what I did to get that result. Plus, DVD-Rs are cheap, and I also save to a terabyte external backup drive as well.

    I also do a lot of web design work, and prefer PNG over JPEG, but inevitably, I end up using JPEG when I need to send a photo to someone through email, or when I need to post to a web site or gallery.

    One you left out , though others mention it, are BMP files. I don't use them unless I have to, though. I have a scanner that outputs either BMP or TIFF. I usually select TIFF, but have on occasion gotten a BMP by mistake. TIFFs are good for saving these scanned images since it's the original data from the scanner.

  • Jeff

    January 29, 2010 02:37 am

    Nice to see you here Jodi - I've been using your free actions and raving about them recently.

    I shoot in RAW, Edit in TIFF, Save as JPEG. Unless I need to preserve photoshop info, then I save a working copy as a PSD and export as JPEG. Almost all my work is web only, so I don't have to worry about print quality yet. I'll have to explore deeper down the rabbit hole when I get there.

  • TheKingInYellow

    January 29, 2010 02:01 am

    I do both: My PP'd image as JPG and I store the CR2 raw file as well.

  • Dennyboy

    January 29, 2010 01:37 am

    .dng for me guys

  • David

    January 29, 2010 01:36 am

    What about a general RAW choice? How about DNG? Who thought of the great idea of putting GIF and PNG as options on how we save photos? YEA, I save my 14MP images into GIF format, ITS GREAT!

  • Pedro

    January 29, 2010 01:32 am

    I have been using the Lightroom workflow. I do not need to "save" at all. My workflow goes as follows:

    1. import into Lightroom
    2. rate, flag, and organize
    3. adjust levels, colours, etc.
    4. optionally, pick a few for external editing (PSE, Noise reduction software, etc.). This step is usually done in 16 bit TIFF.
    5. Stack the edited image with the original RAW or JPG.

    I guess I do use 16 bit TIFF to save, but only for a few images that require non-lightroom editing. For most, I just keep it in lightroom. If I need to post on facebook or flickr, I can export which uses JPG. But the master copy is the unedited RAW or JPG.

  • bongtschik

    January 29, 2010 12:56 am

    What's about transparency? Sometimes useful on websites. Not all formats support it.

  • Richard

    January 29, 2010 12:40 am

    I shoot in raw, and do most of my editing in lightroom. If i need to edit in photoshop (i.e. exposure blending or panoramas) I do that before any lightroom editing, other than white balance and tweaking the exposure .
    Then save the file as both a psd and a tiff, the psd for if i want to go back and adjust the masks, and the tiff to do the final processing in lightroom; because it runs a lot quicker when editing a tiff than a psd.
    If i want to show my photos to friends i'll export them as a resized jpeg from lightroom.

    I think with the cheep price of external hard drives now the file size isnt a factor, i've got 5,000+ files from last year and they only take up 60gb, which isnt a lot when i've got a 1tb drive. I think unless you're short of storage space there really isnt an excuse for using a lossy format.

  • Jodi Friedman

    January 29, 2010 12:29 am

    Marcello - thank you for clarifying. Lisa, yes, you cannot print unless you are in Photoshop then. If you send to someone without Photoshop, they cannot get the file open. Not sure if Darren can add that part to it - but if not - sorry for not explaining more clearly.

    Marcello, thank you for those additions. Again possibly Darren can add those deeper explanations in and credit you with them. I was keeping this article fairly basic and I only use Lightroom and Photoshop, so I was unaware of the other editing software that might save at 1-10 scales.

  • Bran Everseeking

    January 29, 2010 12:29 am

    this one might have been better suited to a tick box layout. I keep most in dng then png and for places that have fossilized i will create a JPEG.

  • Geoff

    January 29, 2010 12:02 am

    Because of the way Adobe have set up DNG with integrated "sidecar" file I wouldn't use any other system particularly when working with Lightroom

  • Marcello

    January 29, 2010 12:00 am

    @Lisa, i think he means you can't print it without photoshop.

  • Lisa

    January 28, 2010 11:58 pm

    While I think most of the information in this post is excellent, I do not understand the author's comment that you cannont print a file in .psd format. I have doen that before, amny times in fact, and I know it CAN be done. Why shouldn't it?

  • Knut

    January 28, 2010 11:50 pm

    Why can't I share PSD files? If I have a fast connection, I don't see the problem.

    http://www.r1ch.net/img-formats/ has examples showing what different stuff does. Not mine.

  • Marcello

    January 28, 2010 11:39 pm

    There are a couple of errors in the post:

    - JPG the 1-12 scale is for photoshop only (and for recent versions of it, before, i think CS1, it worked on a 1-10 scale too). Most other software work on a 1-10 or 1-100 scale.

    - PNG there are 2 different "flavours" for PNG: PNG8 and PNG24. PNG8 uses 8 bits for colors, just like GIF, so if you're image has more than 256 colors it is lossy. PNG24 uses 16 bits for colors and 8 for transparency.

  • Dave

    January 28, 2010 11:32 pm

    When I shoot my camera saves the images in both RAW and JPG. The only reason for the JPG is to quickly run thru the images with a file viewer. All my editing is done from the RAW image and saved as PSD. If I need to email a picture or post it on the web, I convert the PSD to JPG after it's fully edited. Usually I save that JPG with a designation in the filename so that I know the quality is only for the web.

    One of the reasons that I save in PSD is that I do all my own printing and I print from Photoshop. Usually I convert to the printer profile that corresponds to my paper type, then print it. I don't save it with that profile because I may want to print the picture on another type of paper.

  • Patrick Hoof

    January 28, 2010 11:20 pm

    Just to clear up a few errors in this post:

    # Only those with Photoshop will be able to view them, and you will need to save another way for printing.

    - This is not true. For example, OSX users can view Photoshop files via the operating system's in-built preview function. Additionally, you can download PSD viewers for other platforms. You can also print a PSD, at least from within Photoshop.

    # You cannot share on the web as a PSD.

    - Again, this is not true. You can *share* any format file you like on the web. I think what you meant to say is that you cannot display images on the web using PSD format.

    # When saving as a jpg, you decide what quality you desire from a 1-12.

    - I think I'm right in saying that this only applies in Photoshop (and possibly Photoshop Elements). What you mean is that when you save as a jpg you can decide the quality on some arbitrary scale. For example, some image editors may use a percentage scale (from 0% - 100% with 100% being the highest quality) while others may ask how much you want to compress the image (from 1 = very little compression to 10 = highly compressed). That said, I do appreciate that this point was made in the context of using Photoshop.

    Hope that helps.

  • Andre

    January 28, 2010 11:15 pm

    PSD if there's a chance I will need to re-edit it, and JPG for the final web copy. Of course, I keep the original Raw file, as it is simply the most complete source.

    I use BMP if I want a lossless format, as TIFF has too many variations, and on program's TIFF implementation doesn't always work for another.

    BMP files are also very compatible between PC and Mac, and are compatible between most major graphics applications. I'm very surprised you left this option out in your choices, as it is the best choice in many situations.

    You say with the compression "you lose a small amount of information". Actually you lose a HUGE amount of information, and that is why you get such a savings in file size. With JPEG you lose colour detail as it cheats and combines similar colours into one. You lose effective resolution as it implements its blocky patterns of encoding within the image. Your images also pick up compression artifacts and "jaggies" which may impact the look of the photo.

  • Paul Sveda

    January 28, 2010 11:06 pm

    Surprised you didn't cover the DNG format from Adobe.

    Cheers,

    P.

  • Linus Bohman

    January 28, 2010 11:02 pm

    I shoot raw, and save edited images in .tif. When I use pictures on the web I save in .jpg (of course). It's important to discuss compression when talking about .tif - if you don't compress, your .tif files will be 50 mb or larger (depending on camera and image information, naturally). However, when compressing with ZIP or LZW you can sometimes cut that down to 10 mb or so - losslessly.

  • Wesley Acheson

    January 28, 2010 10:49 pm

    PNG is also useful in the context of the web if you wish to do alpha blending on the photograph. Basically if you want to have partial transparency so whatever is underneath appears.

    Finally it is becoming more useful as most of the browsers that people use from day to day support this feature. However there are a few problems with it also. see http://hsivonen.iki.fi/png-gamma/ if your interested.

  • Heidi Caswell

    January 28, 2010 10:43 pm

    Different cameras, different purposes. My digital slr saves raw images. I have a less bulky decent point and shoot which I set on jpg which I use for quick uploading to the internet.

  • t.scudiero

    January 28, 2010 10:38 pm

    I shoot raw, use lightroom to process those and picked images are exported to DNGs, which is my archival format. I then do 2 more exports: one for web-finished JPEGs that I post to proof galleries and another for Print-finished JPEGs that I give clients on a disc. I myself store only the DNGs for the photos I delivered. Once I've delivered the disc to the client, I delete the original raw files.

  • Paulo Ricca

    January 28, 2010 10:36 pm

    In my opinion and from what I know, whoever prefers TIFF for quality is just stuborn or uninformed. PNG has the same quality (its lossless which means it stores exact color information per pixel) and the file size is much smaller.
    As I understand TIFF may be better for a richer metadata and it's a bit quicker to save and read than PNG
    In this article you said gif is lossless (being able to re-save without losses doesn't make it lossless)
    If I'm wrong, please correct me! :)

  • Jed

    January 28, 2010 10:29 pm

    I prefer PNG wherever I can get it, but Lightroom 2 doesn't export to it usefully, so for most stuff it ends up being JPEG.

  • Avangelist

    January 28, 2010 10:21 pm

    I started using TIFF after doing a course in Brighton at Garage Studios. After they explained the advantages over a PSD now everything I shoot in RAW is exported as 16bit TIFF for post work. I convert down to jpeg for posting online, or for sending to magazines/agencies clients.

  • Fatih

    January 28, 2010 10:18 pm

    I shoot RAW and store that way in computer. For Web use I convert it to jpeg. For print I convert to either psd or tiff.

  • René Damkot

    January 28, 2010 10:06 pm

    Agree with Paul. Also, I'd like to add that .psd and .tif can be 16bpc, unlike jpg.
    Wide gamut color spaces (ProPhotoRGB for instance) should only be used as 16bpc...

  • Tim

    January 28, 2010 10:05 pm

    Actually for me, I save in .dng, .psd and .jpg. For my workflow, (which I learned from Mark Johnson) I store the .dng files in a folder for each shoot. I rate the images and decide which ones to process, which to keep but not process and which to delete outright. Then I create two subfolders. One folder "masters" contains the .psd files in case I want to go back and re-edit some images later. The other "print" contains jpegs. The "print" folder may also contain some jpegs exported directly for lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw that didn't need to be pulled into Photoshop.

  • toomanytribbles

    January 28, 2010 10:05 pm

    i shoot in RAW, master edited file is TIFF and JPG for sharing images at various resolutions. i keep all forms of each picture.

    obviously, i own several external hard disks.

  • Paul

    January 28, 2010 09:44 pm

    Hi,
    In my opinion, for photography, the ones that make sense are:
    PSD (or the native file format of your editing software, like XCF for GIMP): for keeping all the layers and stuff, in case you want to "re edit" or tweak the edit
    TIFF: for publishing
    JPG: for web and all-purpose use

    GIF is useless for photography. Its 256 color limit make it unusable for photos.
    PNG is a replacement for GIF, but it's lossless and without the 256 color limit. However, for photos it produces files much bigger than JPG, without a noticeable increase of quality.

    Just my opinion

  • SexyNinjaMonkey

    January 28, 2010 09:42 pm

    I use Jpeg, but that's only because I do no post processing. I endeavor to make sure my photo's are taken right first time. And while that doesn't always work it does force me to learn more about my camera to avoid problems in future.

  • Paul

    January 28, 2010 09:29 pm

    [edit] Sorry,
    Hmmm, what about *.dng then Jodie?

  • Paul

    January 28, 2010 09:25 pm

    Hmmm, what about *.dng then Darren?

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