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Do you know what are the essential image formats in photography?
It is important to clarify this topic from the beginning to avoid errors and loss of time, consolidating a correct workflow, in the shooting phase and in post-production. There are different formats and the choice of one or another will depend on the intended use of the image.
To help you, in this article, I will explain which are the most important formats for the development of an image in the field of photography, evaluating the advantages, disadvantages and when to use them.
This is the raw format, also called “digital negative”.
Depending on the brand we use we can find it under the extensions: .CR2 (Canon), .NEF (Nikon), .ARW (Sony), .RAF (Fujifilm).etc.
– It is a raw, unprocessed format with no loss of information and a great depth of color. With RAW there is a greater possibility of recovery of exposure, white balance, high ISO noise, color, detail, and contrast. This allows the full potential of the sensor and optics to be exploited;
– It cannot be overwritten. You can convert an image to other formats from the RAW, but this original file will always be available for future digital developments.
– As it is an uncompressed format, it takes up more space. This means you will need more space to store it, both on the camera’s memory card and on the computer;
– Without a suitable memory card, storage time may increase during shooting;
– It is necessary to use a special photo retouching program to open and modify it. RawTherapee and Darktable are valid free options. Payment options include Adobe Lightroom, the Photoshop plugin Camera Raw and Capture One.
When to use it?
– Almost always! This is the mother format, it contains all the information of the image. The basis for higher quality results.
– It is not ideal if you do not yet use photo-editing programs such as Photoshop. Without developing it you cannot use it, neither for print nor for the web.
If you have just started photographing and you don’t reveal the image with a program, don’t worry, it’s normal! If you have the possibility (large memory cards, such as 16 or 32 GB) I suggest you choose the option to save RAW + JPEG. This way you can easily open your JPEG photos and save your RAWs for later.
It’s a pretty common format. It is not possible to choose it in the camera, to get it you have to convert with a photo-retouching program a RAW to TIFF.
– It’s not compressed, there’s no loss of information.
– It requires a lot of space, it is not recommended to convert all the images to TIFF.
When to use it?
– For images to be printed;
– When you want to save an image on your computer with the highest quality.
It is the most popular image format in the world.
– It has a high compression capacity, so it is still the most used format for the web;
– It takes up less space on the devices;
– It’s read by most programs;
– The output image from the camera is more attractive because it is processed through the selected “picture style”, with default values for sharpness, contrast, saturation, and color hue, which are not applied in the case of RAW (in that case you will have to do it with a photo-retouching program).
– It is a compressed format, with loss of quality. Artifacts (defects) may be generated due to compression;
– It allows less recovery of exposure, white balance, noise due to high ISO, color, detail and contrast.
When to use it?
– When converting images for web use (sites, social networks, etc.);
– To save most of the images on your computer, as it is not possible to convert everything to TIFF for space reasons;
– If you know that, after the shot, you’re not going to use a photo-retouching program like Photoshop.
These are the image formats that I regularly use during my photography workflow. I hope that the differences between them are clear and help you understand which one to choose depending on the use you are going to give it.
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