Do JPEG’s break down?

Numerous cameras nowadays have the option to either create images in a JPEG format or an uncompressed format, such as RAW or TIFF. I’ve been asked many times to suggest the best format for image files. In a way it’s a lot like choosing a camera – it all depends on what you’re going to do with it.

Yes, over time JPEG files will break down, but only if you open the file, edit it, and re-save it again as a JPEG. Simply opening a JPEG file will not cause it to lose information. JPEG files are considered lossy files – the computer will discard what it deems useless or unnecessary information.

On the other hand, uncompressed files do not lose information, no matter how much work you do to it. They’re much larger files but can retain all of it’s original information. There is a slight difference in the initial image quality when shooting in RAW – there will be more information retained in the highlights and shadows and a slight boost in your color information.

RAW files require additional software (as well as additional editing time) in order to be printed. Always keep that in mind when shooting in RAW. If you shoot 300 images from your summer vacation in RAW be prepared to convert every single one of those files to JPEG before then can be printed.

Do you like to print on your own? Do you want to get knee deep in the photo editing process? Then an uncompressed format is right for you.

Not much of a computer person? Would you prefer sending your images to get printed at a lab? Then JPEG is for you.

Both JPEG and RAW work for me. It all depends on the occasion.

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