What format should I store photos in

With so many different file formats, a question that many people ask is us "What format should I save or archive my file in?" There is no single answer – but let us share some questions to ask as you consider options.

If you have a RAW file (*.dng, *.raw, *.nef, *.raf, *.orf, *.srf, *.sr2, *.arw, *.k25, *.kdc, *.dcr, *.mos, *.pnx, *.crw, *.cr2, *.mrw, *.pef, *.tif, *.mef) you should keep the RAW file. Raw image files are sometimes called digital negatives, as they fulfill the same role as negatives in film photography: that is, the negative is not directly usable as an image, but has all of the information needed to create an image. RAW files tend to be larger – but given the low price on storage it is well worth keeping the file in this format. However, many image viewers and many online photo hosting sites have no support for RAW formats so also saving these files in a more common format is key to having the most flexibility.

If you have the file in more common formats like TIF, PNG, GIF, BMP then we can suggest the following:

– Photographic Images – Your best options are TIF or PNG
– Graphics, including Logos or Line art: your best options are PNG, GIF or TIF

Now if you are concerned about file size or the quality is not critical, JPG will yield the smallest file size which is why it is so heavily used on the Internet where the time to download the files has a major impact on the perceived speed of a web site. JPG will also give you excellent compatibility with almost all graphics programs on a range of operating systems (PC, MAC and UNIX) using JPG.

As a general rule, if you get a file in some other format your best option is to save a copy in that unique format and a copy in TIF as this will give you the most flexibility. The unique format will assure you have the "negative" with the best quality and the TIF will assure you have a format that is widely available in case you don’t have immediate access to a program like ImageConverter Plus.

Author: David Silversmith