To Digitize Photos: JPEG or TIFF, That is The Question

Posted by ed oboyle on Mon, Dec 09, 2013 @ 08:00 AM

digitize photosAlmost everyone has become familiar with technical digital image “lingo,” like TIFF, JPEG, or GIF. When it comes to understanding why these different format types exist, many people are in the dark, and never give formats a thought until they begin to digitize photos and attempt to edit or share them.

However, each photo format has its own functions, pros and cons. If you’re planning to digitize photos or use, edit or share them, consider the differences between these two common image formats that a photo scanning service will work with most – JPEGs and TIFFs.

Different Formats to Digitize Photos

TIFF Format - Pros

Typically to digitize photos, the pictures are scanned to TIFF formats, meaning images don’t lose data when scanned. TIFFs are uncompressed, resulting in large files and making them perfect for preservation of extremely detailed, high quality photos.

TIFF files are most often used by commercial businesses for printing purposes, so if you’re planning on printing photos, having them in TIFF format is essential since they maintain the best quality available.

TIFF is also the more standard format for using with computer software programs and other applications, so if you plan on editing a lot of TIFF files yourself, these are what you’ll need.

In the age of digitizing photos and sharing them in online albums, on social media, in emails, or other places you need to upload digital images to, TIFFs usually aren’t the way to go. One reason TIFFs maintain such great quality is because they’re extremely large files, and their size is what gives them the ability to preserve great details; unfortunately, TIFF files also have a downside.

TIFF Format - Cons

Since TIFF files are so large, they take up a lot of hard drive space and their size makes it almost impossible to email or upload. Unfortunately, that’s also why they can’t be used on the majority of photo sharing websites, so if you’re digitizing photos to share them, it’s likely a lost cause. Their large size also limits what you can do as far as creating great photo projects like DVD slideshows.

JPEG Format - Pros

digitize photosAll of our packages for digitizing photos include JPEG files as well as “web-ready” JPEGs, and there are some good reasons why.

JPEG files, also known as JPGs, are the most common image format used in general. Practically all major photo editing software support JPEGs. Furthermore, the default setting on most digital cameras is for the JPEG format, one reason for doing so being that they take up less space.

That’s exactly why, unlike TIFFs, if you plan on digitizing photos and thus have JPEGs, you’ll have no problem sharing them online, whether it on photo sharing sites, social media, or email. That also means being able to create slideshows, including DVD slideshows, with ease and more photos.

JPEG Format - Cons

Whereas TIFFs offer incredible quality (due to their large size), JPEGs are automatically compressed when created. This is what accounts for their smaller size and takes up less room on your hard drive. Unfortunately, this compression often results in some data being lost, and consequently, poorer quality images than TIFFs. This isn’t to say they don’t have great quality – it’s just not quite as high as TIFFs, and varies photo to photo. To combat this, JPEG files can be created from TIFF files in an effort to preserve quality.

There’s one more thing to be mindful of with JPEGs if you’re concerned about quality: every time you edit a JPEG file, it loses some data, so personal editing should be kept to a minimum. However, this is why JPEGs are great if you’re only digitizing photos for preservation and not art, print, or commercial reasons.

Preserve Your Photos with a Photo Scanning Service

Regardless of format though, preserving your photos is crucial, so check out our packages for scanning and digitizing photos to find the options that fit your particular needs. 


Photos by: Flickr, Flickr

Topics: convert photos to digital, tips for photo scanning

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