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What are the Different File Formats & What is the Difference?

Image File Types

  Image File Formats | Larsen Digital


  JPEG image files are quickly becoming the most common format for photo storage. The downside to JPEG files is that repeated editing and saving of JPEG image files will reduce the image quality. With JPEG, you should always keep a copy of the original unedited images for your archival copy of the image. Opening the files or copying the files will not affect the quality. But when you edit the JPEG file and then resave it, it must recompress the image and each time that process takes place the image quality suffers a little. You can use the minimal compression / highest quality setting on your JPEG images. It is virtually impossible for all but a professional expert to see a significant difference between a TIFF image and our JPEG images. Jpeg files can be relatively small in size, but they still look crisp and beautiful. Jpegs support up to 16.7 million colors, which makes them the right choice for complex images and photographs. With the wide range of colors, you can have beautiful imagery without a bulky file size. JPEG's use RGB 24 bits (8 bit red, 8 bit green, 8 bit blue) and use lossy compression.

Tagged Image File Format

  TIFF files are consider the highest quality format available. The image pixels are what they are though so if you use JPEG files and don't overdue the compression they will appear the same as a TIFF file. They are extremely large when compared to JPEG files. TIFF files are great for images you plan to really edit or if you are making large prints with them afterwards. If you need to maintain layers in Photoshop TIFF files will do that as well. TIFF files use RGB (24 or 48 bit), CMYK, LAB and many others. 24 bit scans is industry standard, 48 bit can be done upon special request. Uses no compression or LZW compression.

Graphical Interchange Format File

  GIF images are great for creating low resolution files to use on a website. You typically use a gif for simple logos, icons, or symbols. Using GIF files for photos is not recommended, because gifs are limited to 256 colors. In some cases you can use even less. The less colors that are in your image, the smaller your file size will be. Indexed Color is 1-8 bits, Color is 24 bits but only 256 color maximum. Uses Lossless LZW Compression.

Portable Network Graphic

  Typically used for websites like the GIF files. PNG files don't support annimation like GIF files do though. Has a lot more color options for beautiful images but also comes with a larger file size that you GIF format. Use RBG (24-48 bit)Alpha Channel for RGV transparency - 32 bits, Grayscale 8 or 16 bit, Indexed Color 1-8 bits, Line Art 1 bit. Uses Zip compression which is lossless.

Adobe Photoshop Document

  Not typically your first choice for a photograph. Used mostly for graphics. You will want to save as a PSD when you have many layers that you want to preserve. Saving this way will retain adjustment layers, masks, shapes, layer styles, clipping paths, blending modes and transparency. They are large in size especially if you have many layers. The downside is you will need to save to a different format if giving to someone who doesn't use Adobe products as they will not be viewable. Supports RGB, CMYK, Grayscale, and many others.

Bitmap Image File

  BMP files are an old file format that isn't used very often anymore. BMP's have extremely large file sizes. They don't excel in an area that another format doesn't already but they have a lot more managable file size. Uses no compression.


Video Files

  Video File Format | Larsen Digital
Audio Video Interleave File
  Works with a wide range of editing and compression programs. AVI's can support multiple audio or video streams. AVI's tend to be larger than most video formats because they use minimal compression. They can be played by many video players but players must support the codec used to edcode the video.

Apple Quicktime Movie
  Smaller is size than AVI files are. Uses MPEG-4 compression. This file format is popular for Apple users.

MPEG-4 Video File
  Like the AVI files but they are compressed. MP4's are compatible with more decides and programs. MP4's do require you to wait for prebeffering before viewing.

MPEG Video File
  Provides an okay quality video using much smaller file sizes. Most widely used in recording video's. MP4's preform better but have a bigger file size and are more popular.

Windows Media Video File

  WMV files were originally developed for internet streaming. It is commonly used for video demonstations and slideshows.


Audio Files

  Audio File Format | Larsen Digital
MPEG-2 Audio Layer III
  MP3's have lossy compression. This means that you will have a smaller file size than your WAV or AIFF files. They are easy to share because of the smaller file sizes. Even though their quality is less than WAV or AIFF files they are still very popular. They are best used for sharing music over the internet.

Waveform Audio File Format
  Usually the first digital copy of audio is a WAV file. They are a lot larger than most other files and have the higest quality.

Audio Interchange File Format
  Very similar in file size and audio quality as the WAV file.

Windows Media Audio File

  Competitor to the MP3 file. It is an older file format developed by Windows Media Player. The file sizes for a WMA file are usually smaller than the MP3 file.