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A Guide to Different Photo File Types

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File types have many amateur and hobbyist photographers scratching their heads.
Even professional photographers don’t know every little thing about the files they use.
Jpg is the standard, but what about raw file types?
Read on to learn more.
Two different style of staircases side by side - different photo file types

Raw File Format

What Is Raw?

Raw image files contain minimally processed data from the image sensor of a digital camera. They get their name from the fact that they are not yet processed.
They are not ready for print or sharing, as software programs will not recognize the image file format. The eaw file must convert first, for example, into a Jpg or TIFF.
Just like film negatives, they are not usable until treated as a ‘positive’. Raw files are seen in the same way. Although not digital negatives, eaw files need treating into positives.
These file formats have a wider range of color gamut and dynamic range. This is one of the reasons why these files are five times larger than their Jpeg equivalent.
A raw image retains much more information from the captured scene. This allows for more manipulation during the editing stage.
There are dozens, if not hundreds of raw image file formats. Below are just a few examples:

  • IIQ (Phase One)
  • 3FR (Hasselblad)
  • DCR, K25, KDC (Kodak)
  • CRW CR2 CR3 (Canon)
  • MEF (Mamiya)
  • MOS (Leaf)
  • NEF (Nikon)
  • ORF (Olympus)
  • PEF (Pentax)
  • RW2 (Panasonic)
  • ARW, SRF, SR2 (Sony)

Raw Vs. Jpg

A raw image, like we mentioned before, has much more information than a Jpeg, and it’s five times bigger in file size. To use these images, you need to convert them to Jpegs or TIFF files.
Photoshop, Lightroom and many other software packages allow you to see the image. They will also allow you to change the file into many other formats.
A raw image isn’t a lossy format. You can open the image, edit it and save repeatedly without dropping the quality. This is not the case for Jpeg files.
It is possible to take amazing images with a Jpeg setting, but the image will not give you as much room to play in the editing process.

Raw to Jpg

To convert raw file formats, you need an image editing software package that has Camera Raw or alternative. Without it, the software will not recognize the file type.
The raw file can be then saved while retaining the original file separately.
A multilayered apartment building under a blue sky - different file formats

Jpeg/Jpg File Format

What Is Jpeg?

Jpg or Jpeg is the most commonly used file format. The name comes from the committee that came up with it – Joint Photographic Experts Group.
It covers 24-bit color images (8-bits per color of red, blue and green) and 8-bit grayscale.
This is a lossy file, meaning the compression used drops the quality of the image. When repeatedly opened, edited and saved, it suffers from gradual degradation.
These are smaller files compared to raw file formats, meaning more will fit on your memory card.
These are great for sharing your images across social media. But they won’t provide the best quality for printing or resizing.
Almost every digital camera can capture images in jpeg format. In most cases, they can do this alongside capturing raw format files.

Jpg to Png

There are three mains ways you can convert Jpgs to Pngs.
You can use a file converter such as jpg2png.
If you are using Windows, you can convert them in your Photos app by clicking ‘Edit & Create’. For Mac users, do it in the Preview app by using ‘File’ and then ‘Export’.
This process can also be done with photo editing software, such as Lightroom or Photoshop.
A digital camera, lens, laptop and plant on a white table - guide to different photo file types

Gif File Format

What Is Gif?

Gifs get their name from the Graphics Interchange Format. Limited to an 8-bit palette, making it best for storing graphics, such as logos or diagrams, using only a few colors.
Gif compression is of a lossless kind. While making it great for single colors, makes it less effective for photographic images.
It is perfect for image animation, where it is the most widely used file format.

Gif to Png

There are a few ways to convert Gifs to Pngs.
You can use a file converter such as browserling to do it for you.
If you are using Photoshop, use the ‘Save As’ function after changing the color profile to RGB from the Mode submenu.

Jpg to Gif

EZGif is a free, online converter that will change your file from a Jpg to a Gif.

As Gifs are usually animation, you’ll need to transfer across many images. You can do that here easily.

Serene flatlay photo of a teacup, page of a book and three flowers on a dark background - understanding different file types, formats and file extensions

Png File format

What Is Png?

Png gets its name from Portable Network Graphics. It was created as a free, open-source alternative to the Gif format.
The Png format operates with 8-bit paletted images and 24-bit true-color images. This means 16 million colors, whereas Gif file formats only support 256.
Png format provided a patent-free replacement for Gif, until Gif became patent free itself.
It works well in online viewing applications, such as web browsers.

Png Vs. Jpg

Pngs excel when the image has large, uniformly colored areas.
Jpgs are usually the first choice in image file format. But Pngs are well suited to store images as it is a lossless format.

Png vs Tiff

Unlike Png files, TIFFs can be opened by almost every image editing program.
They can be saved compressed or uncompressed, and they can store ‘layers’ within the file.
TIFFs can hold all color depths and groups, such as RGB and CYMK. The biggest difference is that TIFFs can store IPTC metadata.
A concert photography shot of other audience memebers taking shots of the band with smartphones - different photo format types

PSD File format

What Is PSD?

A Photoshop Document is the default format that Photoshop uses when saving data. This file format allows the user to work with images’ individual layers.
Within Photoshop, you have the option to flatten the image into a Jpg, Gif or TIFF, et al. Once this happens, it is no longer possible to convert it back to a PSD.
The best way to work with these files is to create a PSD file, and subsequently flatten file formats when needed.

TIFF File Format

What Is TIFF?

Tagged Image File Format is a lossless file format that is used by photographers and graphic designers across the globe. The information is retained in layers, but it depends on how you save the file.
This is a favorite for printing as there is no loss in quality. It is supported by various photo editing software such as Photoshop, Lightroom and Illustrator.
These files are extremely large, similar to Raw files. The problem here is that you can’t display images on the internet with this format.
A creative colored water drop photo - different photo file types

DNG File format

What Is DNG?

A Digital Negative is a file format created by Adobe. It is patented, and offers a lossless raw image format. These files are ‘truly’ raw as they are unprocessed data coming from the camera sensor.
This format can’t be read by all editing and post-production software packages. However, a DNG file like all raw formats preserves the most amount of information from a scene, such as dynamic range.
Leica, Hasselblad, and Pentax adopted this file format and use it as their standard and native raw file format.

DNG Vs. Jpg

It takes a long time when converting to DNG files, whereas Jpg happens much faster.
Unlike the Jpg format, the DNG format removes unrecognized metadata from Raw files.
Due to the fact that alterations are written directly into the DNG file, you have to back up the file each time a change is made.
A ,man walking upstairs at Regent st, st. james tube station in london - photo file types and extensions

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