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JPEG, TIFF, or RAW - Which Should I Use?

Darrell Young (DigitalDarrell)

Keywords: fundamentals, camera, basics, guides, tips, format, jpg, tiff, raw

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The TIFF format - pro's and con's

Many other photographers select the TIFF image format of their cameras for primary usage.

Nikon D100 with MB-D100

Nikon D100 with MB-D100 power pack

The list of reasons to select this TIFF file format are:

  • Very high image quality.
  • Excellent compatibility with the publishing industry.
  • Is considered a "lossless" format, since the image normally uses no compression, and loses no more data than the initial conversion from 12-bit to 8-bit in the camera's software.
  • Can modify and resave the images an endless number of times without throwing away image data.
  • Does not require software post-processing during or after download from camera, so the image is immediately usable.



The drawbacks to using the TIFF imaging mode are as follows:

  • Very large files in camera memory, so your ability to take a lot of images requires large and expensive storage cards.

  • Must have large hard drives on your computer to store these multi-megabyte images.

  • In-camera image processing is significantly slower, so you will be limited in the number of fast pictures you can take.

  • Unless you have a high-speed Internet connection, don't even consider sending one of these monsters across the Internet. My D100 in RGB-TIFF Large Mode generates a 17.6 megabyte file.

If you are a patient type, the TIFF mode is an excellent one. 

Since the high-quality files are so large, your camera will slow down significantly after each image is taken.  When you use the images on your computer, it will take longer to open and save changes to each image.  Other than that, the TIFF mode is highly desirable. Many submissions to commercial agencies are done in TIFF, since it is widely compatible with computers and graphics programs.



(6 Votes )
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Originally written on December 10, 2005

Last updated on October 28, 2016


William Wallace (Monarque7) on October 22, 2021

Thank you for the info!

Timothy Blackshear (NikoBlak) on January 31, 2019

Thank you for this invaluable information!