What’s the Best File Format to Save Photos In?

If you’re not sure which file format to save your photos in, consider what you’re using the images for. Images come in a few different types, and each has a specific use.

In general, images for the web or mobile use should be saved in a JPEG, PNG, or GIF format. If the images are featured in print, use TIFF. If you’d like the image to remain editable, use your software’s file format, for Photoshop that would be PSD.

Here are some additional general guidelines for the uses of each kind of file format:

When to choose JPEG

Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG) is best used for images when you want to keep the file small and are ok with giving up some quality in exchange for a large reduction in size.

When a JPEG file is created, the compressor views the image, identifies areas of common color, and uses them instead. The colors the compressor fails to identify as common are lost. The amount of color information in the image decreases, which also decreases the size of the image.

When using the JPEG file format make sure to set a quality value for the image, similar to the Photoshop image options. Also, keep in mind the JPEG file format is not suitable for images with large blocks of color, text, or shapes because the lines will blur, and colors can shift as well.

When to choose PNG

PNG files are smaller than TIFF images. Use a PNG file when you want to retain the quality of your image but need a smaller file size.

If you need to retain full transparency in your image, save it as a PNG-24, and not a PNG-8. You can use PNG-8 if you need to reduce the file size and you don’t need transparency.

The PNG file format is most commonly found in images for iPhones and iPads. These images aren’t compressed and they are much larger compared to JPEG files.

When to choose TIFF

Tagged Image File Format (TIFF) is best used for any bitmap (pixel-based) image that will end up in print because this file format uses the industry’s CMYK color standard.

Because of a common resolution of 300 ppi, TIFF can produce large files with no quality loss. TIFF also retains alpha transparency, layers, and other features when saved from Photoshop.

When to choose GIF

GIF is suitable for basic web graphics with limited colors. A GIF file format creates small, quick-loading graphics that are best used for banners, cartoon-like drawings, web buttons, and text headings. GIF’s can also be used for small, compressed web animations.

The GIF file format is not commonly used for photos, however, due to the frequent use of mobile devices and social media in today’s society, there has been an uptick of GIF images and GIF animations over the last several years.

When to choose PSD

PDS is the file format used for Photoshop. Save your image in PSD when you want to retain transparency, layers, masks, adjustment layers, clipping paths, layer styles, blending modes, shapes, and vector text.

Some editors will open PSD files, but for the most part, only Photoshop can open and edit PSD files.

Remember to Archive

It’s good practice to archive all your original, unedited images from your camera or scanner in an online photo storage device or cloud server, especially for JPEG because images lose quality when saved in this file format.

Also, it’s good practice when your editing an image to always save any changes made to the image in a different file in a different location. It can be problematic to overwrite or delete your original image if later on, you decide you need to save it in a different file format.