Choosing a File Format


There are two types of files in general use for storing images; TIFF (or .tif), and JPEG (or .jpg). Additionally, there are others, but TIFFs and JPEGs are the most basic choice, and are the files used in scanning. Each is important, and the choice depends on the use. 

The biggest difference between the two is file size. TIFF files contain more information, and are much larger than JPEGs. If you need the absolute best quality image with the most information for archiving purposes, then TIFF format is the better choice; but keep in mind that the files may be huge and, and that many programs have trouble with them. JPEGs, which are the standard file used by most digital cameras, are the better choice for use with online applications and limited storage. For most practical uses, JPEGs will serve you well. Preservation Scans produces high quality JPEGs with minimal compression, and does not charge extra for choosing TIFF.

Not sure which to pick? Please contact us, and we’d be happy to discuss your needs.

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TIFF, which stands for “Tagged Image File Format,” is a versatile format. It is a standard in the printing and publishing industry, as well as photographic archiving and postproduction. The color information is far superior in a TIFF, being either 8 bit depth (256 colors) or 16 bit (65536 colors). One big advantage of this format is that it allows storage of multiple layered images.

A TIFF file is significantly larger than the same image saved as a JPEG file, but it can be compressed somewhat for storage purposes. The thing to note is that the compression is “lossless,” and retains all the original information. You may be familiar with Zip files, which compress and decompress in similar fashion. TIFF files from Preservation Scans are not compressed, and are generally very large.

Since they don’t lose quality or produce compression artifacts, TIFFS are a great choice for archiving; especially if you anticipate editing later. Many upscale cameras offer the option to create an image as a TIFF, but it will be several times the size of a JPEG, and may create limitations due to space requirements. If the camera offers RAW as an option, it would be a better choice, as it collects even more information, while creating a smaller file.


JPEG,  which stands for “Joint Photographic Expert Group” was specifically developed for storing and displaying photographic images. It’s a standard format for storing images in digital cameras, email attachments, and displaying photographic images on internet pages. JPEG files are significantly smaller than those saved as TIFF; however, this comes with a downside; JPEG employs compression known as “lossy.” Each time a file is saved as a JPEG, a certain amount of information is discarded to achieve a smaller size.

Fortunately, JPEGs are flexible, and the degree of compression can be altered through settings, to fit the needs of each image. The way JPEG compression works is that the most significant details of an image are retained, while discarding those considered to have less visual impact. It takes into account the fact that our eyes notice slight differences in brightness more than they notice slight differences in color. So images with smooth textures compress well, while those with a great deal of detail are not so easily compressed.

It must be remembered that the losses are cumulative, so that if a file is opened several times in an editing program, like Adobe Photoshop, and saved as a .jpg, pixels are discarded each time, degrading the image. However, no loss occurs by simply viewing the files, and they may be converted to other formats, if repeated editing sessions are necessary. JPEGs produced by Preservation Scans have limited compression, for highest quality.


  • Only save an image as a JPEG, which uses “lossy” compression once all image editing has been completed, to avoid image degradation and cumulative compression artifacts.
  • Smaller JPEG files are best produced by ensuring the lowest possible image noise levels. Among other things, that includes keeping camera surfaces clean, and using appropriate settings.

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