Do you know the difference between JPEG, GIF, PNG, and other graphic formats? When should you use a particular format, or which one is best for saving photos? Below you will find answers to all these questions.
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Lossy / lossless data compression algorithms
First of all, you need to understand the difference between lossy and lossless data compression algorithms. Lossless compression is a method of compressing an image, which preserves its quality regardless of how many times the file was compressed and recovered.
When using lossy compression, the image quality will degrade every time the file is compressed / decompressed. One of the undoubted advantages of this method is the possibility of a higher compression ratio. Lossless compression is more suitable for storing and editing photos, however, if you need to send the image by email or publish it on the web, it is better to use the second method.
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A file format that contains raw information coming directly from the matrix of semi-professional and professional cameras. These files are not processed by the camera processor and contain all the captured information in a “raw” form. These files can be over 25 MB in size. RAW files are great for editing, but their large size makes them difficult to store.
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This is perhaps the most common graphics format. It is usually used to publish photographs and images with text on the Internet. JPEG is a TrueColor format, meaning it can store images with a color depth of 24 bits / pixel. This format can display over 16 million colors.
JPEG has earned its popularity for its flexible data compression capabilities. If necessary, the image can be saved in high quality. When using a lossy compression algorithm, image quality is lost with every save. Shown below are high, medium and low quality JPEG images.
JPEG with high quality (100). Size 113 KB
JPEG with medium quality (50). Size 59 KB
JPEG with low quality (20). Size 27 KB
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The GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) format is not happy with the color depth (8 bits). It can store losslessly compressed images in up to 256 colors. One of the features of GIF is animation support.
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This format was developed as a replacement for GIF. PNG stands for Portable Network Graphics. Unlike GIF, PNG has transparency gradation support due to an additional alpha channel. Usually, transparency is indicated by a checkerboard background, as seen in the image below.
Outwardly, PNG files are virtually indistinguishable from JPG images. PNG compresses data losslessly. If transparency is important to you, it is better to choose this particular format.
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This abbreviation stands for Tagged Image File Format. It is a high quality format used to store images with high color depth. TIFF files can be stored either compressed or unpacked. The big advantage of the format is support for almost any compression algorithm.
Image in TIFF will not lose quality after every file save. But, unfortunately, it is because of this that TIFF files weigh several times more than JPG and GIF.
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The BMP (bitmap) format is one of the first graphic formats and is not very popular at present. BMP stores images with color depth up to 64 bits. This format supports transparency, but it is not readable by some Microsoft applications. In other words, BMP files are best converted to other formats.
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So which format should you use?
PNG is the best choice. It is perfect for large images. If a higher compression ratio is required, for example, to send a photo by e-mail, JPEG is better. The TIFF format is complex enough to work with and is hardly supported in browsers.
Below is a comparative table of the characteristics of various formats.