Choosing Between Raw, JPEG, TIFF, and PSD for Your Photos

File formats matter. The type of file you use for saving and editing your photos can significantly impact your workflow and final image quality. From JPEGs to raw files, understanding the differences can help you make better decisions for your photography and workflow.

Coming to you from David Bergman with Adorama, this informative video explains various file formats and their uses in photography. Bergman tackles a common question: should you convert your edited PSD files to JPEGs? He discusses into the pros and cons of different file formats, explaining how each affects image quality and storage space. Understanding this is important because choosing the wrong format can lead to unnecessary loss of image quality or wasted storage space.

The video begins by discussing raw files, which are unprocessed data straight from your camera's sensor. Raw files are akin to film negatives, requiring post-processing to become a finished photo. They offer the highest quality but take up a lot of space. Bergman emphasizes that raw files are essential for retaining maximum detail and flexibility in editing. However, the downside is their large size and the proprietary nature of each camera brand's raw files, which can complicate compatibility with different software.

Next, Bergman talks about JPEGs, the most widely used format. JPEGs are compressed files, making them smaller and easier to share and store. However, this compression comes at a cost—some data is lost, which can affect the image quality. Bergman explains that while JPEGs are convenient, they are not ideal for extensive editing due to this loss of data. He also touches on newer formats like HEIF, which offers better compression and quality but isn't yet widely supported.

Bergman also covers TIFF files, known for their high quality and uncompressed nature. TIFFs are often used in publishing and printing because they retain all image details without compression. However, their large size makes them less practical for everyday use. PSD files, specific to Photoshop, store all layers and edits, making them excellent for complex editing tasks, but are similarly large in size.

The advice given is straightforward: use raw for capturing images to retain the highest quality, JPEGs for sharing and saving space, and PSDs or TIFFs for extensive editing. Bergman emphasizes the importance of understanding non-destructive editing—editing in a way that doesn't permanently alter the original file. This is particularly important when working with raw files in programs like Lightroom or Capture One, where adjustments are saved as instructions rather than changes to the image itself.

For those editing in Photoshop, Bergman advises keeping your PSD files unflattened if you plan to revisit your edits. Flattening your files reduces their size but also eliminates the ability to tweak individual layers. If storage space is a concern, converting your final images to JPEG can save space, but be mindful of the compression settings to avoid noticeable degradation.

In conclusion, the choice of file format depends on your needs at each stage of the photography process. Shooting in raw gives you the most flexibility and quality, saving as PSD or TIFF retains detail during editing, and converting to JPEG provides convenience for sharing and storage. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Bergman.

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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