Can you explain the difference between the various image formats that photographers regularly use?
Puniya Aggarwal, New Delhi, via email

RAW is a format that stores the largest amount of image data, as captured by the sensor when you release the shutter, with minimal or no editing. If you enjoy processing your images, this format will give you the most detail to play with. Depending on the camera you use, the file format for RAW will differ—CR2 (Canon), NEF (Nikon), ARW (Sony) and so on. However, this format is not viewable without a RAW editor.

DNG was created by Adobe as a way of creating an industry standard format for RAW. Often a RAW update for Photoshop may not be immediately available. In such situations, you can convert your RAW files into DNG and continue editing. It is also the default format for Pentax cameras and RAW-capable Android phones.

JPEG images are default for electronic viewing today. As a result of lossy compression of the RAW file, JPEGs have significantly smaller file sizes. In contrast to JPEGs, TIFFs are the relatively lossless format for image viewing. They are also the preferred choice for photographers when it comes to printing their photos. This is because it stores a larger amount of image data, tonal range and detail in shadows and highlights when compared to JPEGs. TIFF also lets you save the image with individual Photoshop layers.

PSD is the native Photoshop format to save your work. In addition to saving layers, you can save filter settings, minor corrections and all the various changes you make to the edit. However, PSD files are quite large and not as compatible with other editing software, unlike TIFFs and JPEGs.

This article originally appeared in the June 2021 issue of Better Photography.

Tags: better photography, Raw, JPEG, TIFF, ask the expert, May 2015, image formats