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Which Image Format to Use in Photography?

Updated: Oct 20, 2023

Image format relates to how your digital images is stored and this impacts the quality and the usability of the image you capture - But what do all the choices mean and does it matter which one you use? If your getting this part wrong then it will have a big impact on the quality of your images!!

Lets see if we can answer - Which Image Format to Use in Photography?

memory card

Its good to start at the beginning and look at the difference between raster and vector files?

This probably makes no sense and you don't know what these things are but stick with us and all will become clear - HONEST! Raster and vector files are the two most popular types of formats used for visual content. They represent images in very different ways, So we need to understand what are the main differences between raster and vector:


One of the main differences between raster and vector files is their resolution. The resolution of a raster file is referred to in DPI (dots per inch) or PPI (pixels per inch). If you zoom in or expand the size of a raster image, you start to see the individual pixels.

Raster files display a wider array of colours, permit greater colour editing, and show finer light and shading than vectors — but they lose image quality when resized.

With vector image files, resolution is not an issue. You can resize, rescale, and reshape vectors infinitely without losing any image quality. Vector files are popular for images that need to appear in a wide variety of sizes, like a logo that needs to fit on both a business card and a billboard.


Digital photographs are usually raster files. Many digital cameras automatically shoot and save photos as raster files

Vector files work better for digital illustrations, complex graphics, and logos. That’s because the resolution of vectors remains the same when resized, making them suitable for a wide variety of printed formats.

So now we know the difference between Raster and Vector file types lets look at the various image types you will come across

So from this we know we should be using VECTOR files - Lets take a look at what available


If you find this all a bit too complicated then you can go to the Answers at the end of the article however i would suggest that its good to understand you option and what the mean plus if ever you unsure then if you save a link to this you can always come back to check at a later date.


.ai: Adobe Illustrator Commonly used in print media & digital graphics, such as logos.

.eps: Encapsulated PostScript An older type of vector graphics file. .eps files don’t support transparency in the way more modern file formats like .ai do.

.pdf: Portable Document Format Built for the exchange of documents across platforms and is editable in Adobe Acrobat.

.svg: Scalable Vector Graphics This is based in XML (a markup language used widely across the Internet that's readable by both machines and humans). It’s useful for the web, where it can be indexed, searched, and scripted.



.jpg: Joint Photographic Experts Group (jpeg) A compressed image format is the most commonly used format for digital and online photos.

Advantages and Disadvantages

  • Universal browser and OS support.

  • Fairly low file size.

  • Lossy image compression might lead to poor text readability.

Browser and OS Support

  • Supported since version 1.0 of all major browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.)

  • Supported by default by all image viewers and editors of all major operating systems.

Use Cases

  • Good choice for blog and article images, like interviewee headshots, product images, and more.

  • Do not use JPEG for infographics with a lot of small text or tutorial screenshots where the text is key.

There is no difference between the .jpg and .jpeg. This is the most common format used on the web and is a widely recognised usable and acceptable format. JPEGs are known for their "lossy" compression, meaning that the quality of the image decreases as the file size decreases. All cameras offer the option to output the image as a jpeg but if you go for this option you will lose quality and detail in your image, its much better to set your camera to Raw output and only covert to JPEG at the very end after all post processing has been completed. Cameras offer the option for large small and medium sized JPEG. If you want to shoot in JPEG then ensure you have plenty of memory cards and select the large file size as this will give the highest quality output. Its pointless buying that expensive camera and then getting the lowest quality output from it. JPEG 2000 is a highly advanced compression technique. Unlike JPG, it supports both lossy as well as lossless compression. It improves the overall quality of the images over different platforms. The difference between JPG and JPEG 200 is similar to JPEG vs. JPEG 2000. JPEG 2000 provides a better and more advanced compression technique. The file size might be bigger, but more information would be retained. JPG is a universally known format and can reduce a file to 5% of its original size.

.png: Portable Network Graphic Images saved in the this format have the ability to display transparent backgrounds.

Advantages and Disadvantages

  • Higher quality (lossless) images and clearly visible text.

  • Larger file sizes can slow down your website if overused (especially high-resolution images).

Browser and OS Support

  • Supported by all major browsers (Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, Safari).

  • Supported by all major operating systems and their standard image editors.

Use Cases

  • Good choice for infographics, banners, blog graphics, screenshots, coupons, and other visuals that include text.

  • Do not use for high-resolution photos, as it will create large files of up to several megabytes. PNGs are quickly becoming one of the most commonly used image formats online, due to their built-in transparency, relatively high colour depth and small size. PNG files are optimised for the screen, so if you’re looking to print your graphic, avoid using this format. And, despite its range of colours, works best with a limited palette as the files tend to get quite large when thousands of colours are used. Photos, for instance, would benefit from other file types.

.gif: Graphic Interchange Format (GIF) This type is used for animated graphics. This is the second-most used image format online.

Advantages and Disadvantages

  • Low file size.

  • Animation support.

  • 8-bit limitation leads to limited image quality.

Browser and OS Support

  • Supported by all major browsers (Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, Safari).

  • Supported by all major operating systems and their standard image editors.

Use Cases

  • Use animated GIFs not just to “spice up content” but demonstrate how to complete tasks in tutorials and guides.

  • Do not use it if you need greater than 8-bit color images (JPEG supports up to 24-bit). GIF is typically used for animations. Similarly to JPG, it can also be easily compressed, however, it possesses an ‘alpha channel’ that can be transparent. Besides being perfectly suited for animated graphics, GIFs can shrink to a tiny file size, but this harms the quality of the image. As high-quality GIFs are quite large, they are barely used for websites. GIFs are also limited to 256 colours, so if you’re trying to save a picture, for example, you should avoid this type (photos normally require thousands of colours). It is also not recommended to use GIFs for printing for the same reason. Today, GIFs express emotions and for entertainment and even educational purpose due to their interactive nature. The common price of using GIFs is on social platforms like WhatsApp, Messenger, Tumblr, Twitter, etc.

.tif: Tagged Image Format (also TIFF) Images saved as a are popular with photographers and graphic designers as they can be edited and re-saved without losing image quality.

Advantages and Disadvantages

  • High-quality files perfect for storage or print publishing.

  • Large file size due to typical use with no compression.

  • Limited browser support.

Browsers and OS Support

  • No major browsers can render a TIFF file without add-ons or extensions.

  • Mainly available as an export format for professional image editing and publishing tools.

Use Cases

  • Storing and preparing images and graphics for publication.

  • Used by many scanners to preserve the quality of scanned documents or pictures.

.BMP: BitMap

Device independent bitmap (DIB) file format and bitmap, is used to store bitmap digital images, independently of the display device. It is capable of storing two-dimensional digital images both monochrome and colour, in various colour depths,

Advantages and Disadvantages

  • Giant file sizes without noticeable quality gains over formats like WebP, GIF, or PNG.

Browsers and OS Support

  • Supported by all major browsers (Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, Safari).

  • Native support in most default OS image editors, like MS Paint.

Use Cases

  • In 2022, there are basically zero legitimate use cases for the BMP image

.PSD: - Photoshop Documents

PSD files are the native file format of Adobe Photoshop. You’ve probably seen files with the .psd extension format, especially if you’ve been an Adobe Photoshop user. Most commonly used by designers and artists, Photoshop Documents are powerful tools for image data storage and creation. A PSD can store multiple layers, images, and objects, often in high resolution, making it the industry-standard for creatives. A PSD can support up to 30,000 pixels in height and width, giving these files an impressive range for both image depth and colour spread.

Advantages and Disadvantages

  • All filters, transparency, paths, and edits are fully customizable and reversible.

  • Lossless image quality.

  • Large file sizes.

Use Cases

  • Saving and storing Photoshop projects before and after they’re completed.

.RAW: An unprocessed data capture

A camera raw image file contains minimally processed data from the image sensor of either a digital camera, a motion picture film scanner, or other image scanner. Raw files are named so because they are not yet processed and therefore are not ready to be printed or edited with a bitmap graphics editor. Normally, the image is processed by a raw converter in a wide-gamut internal colour space where precise adjustments can be made before conversion to a "positive" file format such as TIFF or JPEG for storage, printing, or further manipulation. There are dozens of raw formats in use by different manufacturers of digital image capture equipment. This is why you will find that all the camera manufacturers have their own RAW file type names and even different cameras by the same manufacturer have different RAW file formats. Advantages and Disadvantages

  • Higher quality pictures with more variability in colors.

  • Giant image files (a raw file can easily be up to 20 to 40 megabytes).

Use Cases

  • Saving photos in the highest possible quality for post-processing and editing.

Confused Still

So lets make this easy !

These are the best ways to use these types of file formats to get the most from your camera and from your post processing, depending on how your using your camera.

  1. You want to take images with:

    1. No posts processing

    2. Use them images on line

    3. Print the images

    4. Don't want to use up too much computers space

    5. Quick and easy access

    6. Share on social media ANSWER: Set your camera to Jpeg and set the file size to large or max This will give you the highest quality readily available instantly usable image. (if you find the file size is too big for social media you may need drop to medium file size)

  2. You want to take high quality images

    1. Your happy to post process

    2. You don't want to use them immediately on social media

    3. You don't want to print them immediately

    4. You want the best you can get out of your camera ANSWER: Set your camera to RAW - Set the file size to large or max (if you have an option) - Set the Bits size to max (if you have an option) See below for more details on setting your camera for RAW shooting

  3. You want High quality images and readily available images

    1. No posts processing for some images

    2. Post processing of the best images

    3. Use them images on line

    4. Print the images

    5. Have plenty of computer space

    6. Quick and easy access

    7. Share on social media ANSWER: Set your camera to Jpeg & Raw With this you will save both Raw and Jpeg versions of the image. Ensure you set the Jpeg and Raw management details as stated above. With this you get the best of both worlds but you will use a lot of memory.

If you want to get the most from camera and your post processing then this is the best workflow to follow ( for lightroom and photoshop)


  • Shoot in Raw Format

  • Transfer images to computer

  • Load into lightroom

  • Process the Raw image

  • Go to - Image - Edit in - Photoshop This will then transfer the image from lightroom into Photoshop as a TIFF file so retaining the most information

  • Process the image in photoshop

  • If you wish to save your processing part way through then save image as PSD file which you can reopen later and continue your edit where you left off.

  • When all editing is completed Go To - Image - mode - 8Bit

  • Save image as a Jpeg file ready to use

You do need a little more Information on how you set up your camera to manage RAW files in relation to, how they are compressed and file sizes. Here are links to a couple of articles that will take you through this


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