What? huh? FILE FORMAT. What type of file does your camera save your images in? and why is this important. You have to think of this in the same way we used to think of film. In the old days of film you had a few choices, negative or positive (slide) film, color or b/w. The latter question was generally a pretty straight forward question to answer. But the the former was pretty confusing to most people. Why would you choose negative film over slide film or vice verse. Well there were a lot of reasons, but suffice to say that most pro’s used slide film (other than your typical portrait or wedding photographer who shot negative). The reason often had to do with resolution and color. And the fact was that we could change our minds every 36 frames. In today’s digital age, what file format you shoot in is dictated by your camera (and some cameras let you change on the fly)

What’s the big difference in file format? The skinny is this. 1. jpeg (.jpg) files are small and compact and don’t hold a lot of information (so a lot of color information gets lost), 2. tiff (.tif) files are bigger than jpgs and can hold more information. 3. RAW files are considered the digital negative. It’s the native file that a camera produces. These are the largest files and are therefore capable of holding the most information. This is why all professional cameras shoot in RAW. There are now “prosumer” and point and shoot cameras that will shoot raw as well. So why don’t all cameras shoot in raw? The problem with raw is that it requires processing. You need special software to be able to read it and then translate it into another format so that others can view it; like jpg. Since there is more information to work with, there is also greater latitude to manipulate the image to get exactly what it is you want or thought you saw, rather than leaving the interpretive work up to the format. As great as RAW is, it’s not really for the typical shooter, because it means that you will need to do a lot of work to share it with  others, be it a print or on the in web. Further, there is not just one RAW format. Just about every camera that shoots raw, shoots in a proprietary format, and unless you have the latest update of whatever software you are using to process that file, you won’t be able do anything with it. Although, as far as I know, all cameras that shoot RAW also come with it’s own software to open that RAW file.

These are the reasons why most cameras shoot in jpg. It has been around for a long time, it seems to be universally recognized, it is small and portable, and contains just enough information for 90% of the photographers out there. Furthermore, most commercial printers (like CVS, Rite Aid, Walmart, Target etc.) want you to submit jpeg files anyway; which means if you are not already shooting in this format you will have to convert to it.

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