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Picture File Formats


Picture File Formats

File format refers to a method of structuring data within a computer file. Imaging scientists have developed several formats for storing digital picture data, each of which handles the task slightly differently.
Digital cameras typically rely on the following formats:
  • JPEG: Say "jay-peg," not "J-P-E-G." This format is named after the Joint Photographic Experts Group, the committee that developed it. JPEG is the leading digital camera file format and is also the best format to use for online photo sharing. JPEG applies lossy compression, which eliminates some picture data to reduce the size of the image file. A high degree of JPEG compression results in very low picture quality, but a moderate amount of compression usually is acceptable.
  • TIFF: Pronounced "tiff," as in a nasty little spat, TIFF stand for Tagged Image File Format. TIFF applies a form of file compression that retains top picture quality, which unfortunately also results in very large picture files. In addition, Web browsers and e-mail programs can't open TIFF files, so you need to make a copy of a TIFF picture in the JPEG format before sharing it online. You can, however, insert a TIFF file directly into a word-processing document, a page-layout program, or other print-publishing program.
  • RAW: This format is the only one of the trio that doesn't have an acronym for a name. RAW means raw, as in unbaked, unadulterated, fresh from the farm. This format stores picture files without any of the usual color-correction and other adjustments that are done after you press the shutter button. Those in-camera processing steps typically produce a better-looking picture, so unless you're a purist who wants to do that type of correction yourself in a photo editor, stick with JPEG or TIFF. Be aware, also, that most photo editors and other programs can't open RAW files.


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