'The JPEG Killer': File Formats That Could Replace the Humble JPEG

As new technology emerges, file formats like JPEG, PNG, and TIFF may no longer be the best options for photographers. Let's take a look at some potential replacements.

File formats may not be the most exciting topic to read about, but they are a crucial part of a photographer's workflow. By sticking to the default options proposed by your editing programs, you may be missing out on better alternatives. Fortunately, technologist Joseph Thio has provided an in-depth look into various file formats and why using them instead of the traditional JPEG might be advantageous.

The video begins with Thio discussing different variations and extensions of the JPEG format, such as JPEG 2000, JPEG-XT, and JPEG-XL. It is interesting to see the differences between each version in terms of compression techniques, available color channels, and bit depth options. Thio also addresses the level of support these formats receive from various programs, including image editors and web browsers. This last aspect could be a dealbreaker for photographers who primarily work online, as some of these formats are currently not supported by popular web browsers like Google Chrome.

I do enjoy Thio's videos because they are always packed with informative details and presented in an accessible manner. His video covers several obscure and intriguing formats that you may or may not have heard of. One notable example is the AVIF format, which brings advancements in compression techniques for both stills and video. While some of the formats discussed may not be directly relevant to photographers, they may occasionally crop up when dealing with clients, printers, or collaborators. Personally, I haven't used JPEG-XL before, but after watching the video, I will consider it for certain purposes in the future. The JPEG as we know it won't be around forever, which is why it's not a bad idea to be open to other options out there.

What are your thoughts on these different file formats? Have you already used JPEG-XL or JPEG-XT? We would love to hear your opinions in the comments below.

Paul Parker's picture

Paul Parker is a commercial and fine art photographer. On the rare occasion he's not doing photography he loves being outdoors, people watching, and writing awkward "About Me" statements on websites...

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I've been following data/image compression for a while. Back when jpegXL was called something else and part of it was a very high preforming lossless component on the lossless image compression benchmarks for years (hosted by Alex rhatushnyak). The only real mainstream alternative right now is AVIF, but it is both slightly lower quality and much slower. However as we saw with jpeg2000 back in the day, better tech gets steamrolled by idiots in suits making self enriching deals. XL is finally good tech that made it out the other side. It's lossless and especially its lossy compression are insanely good. The better compression becomes, the less content delivery costs will get accordingly.

Since 99.99% of what I do goes on the web, I'm sticking with jpg for a while unless there's a coordinated change between all browsers and all websites.

Many websites with images I view are using the .webp format. However, when I download them into a folder, they are not seen unless I click on "all images". When I attempt to open them in PS, it opens them in the web browser. The only way I can deal with them is to export them in Bridge as .jpegs. There are other options to save images, some of which I have no idea what they are used for. I have advocated for some time for Adobe to let me remove some of them instead of having to scroll down the list every time I want to save an image.

My PS v24.5 can open webp files.

"download and install the WebPShop plug-in. "

jpg-2000 has been around since before most people on social media were even born, so I don't think it's going to catch on now. If we go back to the VHS/Beta and Blu-ray/HD-DVD battles, the ONLY way things will move away from jpgs is when a major player stops supporting jpgs. I'm looking at you Apple with your HEIF files (which are essentially jpg-2000). 2016 - no more headphone jacks. 2026 - no more jpgs.