A Guide to Choosing the Best Image File Format

A Guide to Choosing the Best Image File Format

When you’re working with image files, some specific formats are often better than others, depending on what you’re trying to achieve with your images. The information below should help you to choose the right image format when you have to save any of your images. Each of the formats has its own advantages and disadvantages, and if you know what these are, you will be able to maximize your image displays for any application you might have. It can be a critical choice in some cases, since digital images take up a good deal of memory, and also require a specific amount of time to load on a web page. In order to maximize your usage of each of the image types, you should be aware of their characteristics, both good and bad.

JPEG files

A Guide to Choosing the Best Image File FormatIf you’ve never heard this before, JPEG actually stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group, and is pronounced “Jay-Peg”. This file format has a 16-bit data format and therefore can literally display millions of different colors. It has an extremely complex compression algorithm, which makes it ideal for storage on a website. JPEG file formats should be used when it’s necessary to reduce the size of an image, because it retains its clarity better during reduction.

JPEG format is the standard file format which is used by most of today’s digital cameras, and the file format is compatible with PC desktops and Mac machines, as well as most web browsers and image editors. This kind of universality has contributed to its popularity, and the image quality is generally very good. Some image details are lost during storage, but this is considered inconsequential, since the human eye is incapable of seeing color detail in all its precision.

While some color detail is sacrificed, less storage space is required because of the lost level of detail. There are also some tools available such as JPEG Mini-Tool, which allow you to compress your photos up to five times without significant loss of clarity. The best uses for JPEG file formats are when it’s necessary to use complex coloring, when greater detail is needed for light and darkness, for real world images such as photographs, and for still images.

GIF images

A Guide to Choosing the Best Image File FormatGIF actually stands for Graphics Interchange Format, and this format was created in 1987 for the express purpose of transferring images more rapidly across connections that are slow. The GIF format makes use of dithering, which is a process that causes two pixel colors to combine in order to create a single color, thus reducing the number of colors which are actually needed. Because it has fewer colors, GIF images start out even smaller than JPEG images, and when compressed, they lose no data whatsoever.

GIF images can be interlaced, so that progressive loading will at first show a low-quality version, after which detail continues to be added until a sharper version of the image is displayed. This file format also allows for single-bit transparency, in which a single color can be selected to appear transparent. Another very appealing quality of GIF images is that they can be animated, and this fact has been exploited by countless developers on the Internet. The best use of GIF images are for things like web graphics where a few colors are needed, small-sized icons, simple images such as cartoons, single-color borders and line drawings, and of course animations.

PNG files

These were developed in the 1990’s to circumvent patent issues which had arisen with GIF images, and they include some of the advantages of both JPEG files and GIF files. PNG stands for Portable Network Graphics, and this file format has lossless compression, which means that there is no data loss which occurs during normal compression. There are two distinct versions of PNG files, those being PNG-8 and PNG-24. PNG-8 files are more like GIF files, having single-bit transparency and making use of 256 different colors. They are also smaller than GIF files, so they can be loaded more quickly, and will be less likely to bog down any computer system during transfer.

A Guide to Choosing the Best Image File FormatPNG-24 files have 24-bit color and are much more like JPEG files than GIF files. Because of the 24-bit configuration, there are more than 16 million colors which are possible using PNG-24 file format. Because it has lossless compression, files in this format tend to be larger than JPEG files. PNG images can be placed on any kind of background, including one which is colored, and still keep their original appearance.

These files also allow for transparency to be set in a range somewhere between opaque and transparent, thus providing a translucent, faded appearance. It’s possible that some relatively old browsers might have difficulty supporting PNG files because they use alpha channels. The best uses for PNG files are for complex images such as photographs, web images like logos that call for transparency, and images in the middle of the editing process.

TIFF format

TIFF stands for Tagged Image File Format, and it is the format of choice when it’s necessary to maintain a high level of image quality, as well as top-notch file security. TIFF also has lossless compression, which means that it does not lose file quality under compression. Of course, the sacrifice there is that the file size remains larger even when being compressed, so it will take up more storage space than will JPEG format files.

It’s very difficult to make any alterations to TIFF images, and that makes them ideal for protecting the information included in them, and for archiving such images. Another security feature which appeals to a great many people is that TIFF files contain no hidden data or links, and for that reason they can never have any kind of viruses embedded within them. Business people have often selected TIFF images for this very reason, and have even converted many of their PDF files to TIFF format to gain the advantages of those security features.

TIFF files are supported by a great many applications, and they have a number of compression options which can be used for various storage requirements. This file format also allows for multiple pages, so that you can combine numerous files into a single TIFF file. There are also a number of applications available which help you to convert other image files into TIFF format, to take advantage of its appealing features. It is the standard image format used for fax transmissions, and this fact alone makes it a standard for most businesses.

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Heather Hart

Heather Hart

Operations Manager at $99 Social
Heather began working with $99 Social in April 2014 as a content writer, but quickly moved into a customer support role, then to Operations Manager in May of 2017. She loves exploring different artistic mediums, including copywriting, drawing and painting, website coding, and helping people succeed.

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