Questions about developing high quality digital prints...

I'm new to the dslr's. I just got my 1st dslr a Canon 30D. I enjoy not only taking photos but really like photoshopping. I have heard that when you edit the photos in jpeg they loose some quality. What do most professional photographers shoot in, raw format? Do they then convert raw to jpeg or tiff for print? Is there a way to print in 16 bit instead of 8 bit? And if so does it make a difference int he quality fo the print?.

I have taken a bunch of library books and have not had much luck. Could someone explain this all to me, I would very much appreciate any info on this..


Comments (8)

I usually shoot in the best quality jpeg. The camera's processing is better than I can do to a RAW at this time. When I do work on a photo, I save it as a tiff or psd because saving and reopening a jpeg does loose detail. When I'm ready to post or print a picture I will save it as a jpeg for that purpose but of course keep the tiff or psd for future use.DavidDallas, TX..

Comment #1

Thanks for the feedback!.

Is jpeg better quality for print than tiff?.

If I PS jpeg then save as a tiff can I continually save in tiff without loseing quality?..

Comment #2

Anastasia wrote:.

Thanks for the feedback!.

Is jpeg better quality for print than tiff?.

Tiffs are better quality than JPEGs because they do not lose data when compressed, but are are much larger. However, for printing there will normally be minimal difference if you save the JPEG with minimum compression..

Very occasionally I get visible artifacts in a print from a minimum compression JPEG, normally visible patterning in a large area of flat colour, but this is maybe 1 in 1000+ prints..

If I PS jpeg then save as a tiff can I continually save in tiffwithout loseing quality?.

Yes. Tiffs do not lose data when saved, even if compressed..

Chris R..

Comment #3

You can open and save indefinitely with tiff because it is not compressed. All of the data stays intact. You don't have to save to a jpeg to print. You would actually get the best quality print from your processed tiff, but if you are uploading to a photo printer, they may not be able to handle it and the file is much larger. My typical full size tiff is about 17 Mb whereas the jpeg is only about 3 Mb..

DavidDallas, TX..

Comment #4


There are at least 3 different subjects here so I'll try to address each one..

- Compression.

"JPG" and many of it's counterparts is a form of compression. Mind you, there can be good compression and bad compression..

Many of us computer folk know of: .Zip, .ARJ, .CAB, .TAR and dozens of simular lossless compression formats which do pretty much the same thing: compress a large file into a smaller file without loosing any data in the process. Its considered "loss less" when the same exact file is produced when uncompressed..

Some files are more "compressable" than other files. Its all dependant on the data within the file itself. Take for example: "1 1 2 2 3 3 4 4" and "1dy7egc692dh4y71", both data sets (between the quotes) have 16 charators. The 1st example has a easily recognisable (and compressable)pattern and the 2nd one has no pattern and would be impossible to compress..

"Lossy" compression was invented because of the need to make files smaller outweighed the need to keep them exactly the same. Hence we have: .MP3, .MP4, .JPG and a few dozen other formats. All these formats attempt to do the same thing: throw away information that may be meaning/useless to the use of the file..

The classic MP3 format attempts to throw away sound information that the human ear would not notice, the MP4 format does the same thing but for the eyes and lastly, the .JPG format attempts to do the same thing - reduce the amount of information in the file so that it can be made smaller..

While pureists will mention that the .JPG format allows for lossless compression, all cameras use lossy compression when making .JPG files out of our photographs. By default, when you select .JPG format, it will be a "lossy" compression..

The problem with any lossy compression format (besides the tossing away of data) is that the decisions it makes in the process of compressing the file can create NASTY "artifacts" in the photo itself. Imagine (for example) taking a photo with the lense cap on and saving the file to .JPG format. What you'd expect is simply a BLACK photo (nothing else). What you might end up with is some strange "patterns" of color/light within the otherwise black photo. This is what is called "compression noise" or compression artifacts. Simply put, artifacts are picture information that are not part of and detract from the origional photograph..

This is one of the reason that the PRO's use RAW. "what you see is what you get", it is really just the RAW data read off the cameras sensor and tossed into a file..

- In camera processing..

Most modern cameras do in camera processing of the photo before it is compressed into .JPG. Things like white balance, color saturation and sharpening are all things that can happen to your origional photo before it is compressed with lossy .JPG format..

In many cases, this might be all well and good, but the processing power in your camera pales in comparison to your desktop computer running photo retouching software. Simply put, Photoshop will do a better job at processing your photos than your camear can..

This is reason #2 that the PRO's shoot in RAW format. No onboard camera processing of the photo..

- Print format/Color space.

Capturing, displaying and printing color correctly can be easy to difficult at best..

Your camera might be more sensitive to RED (for example), your monitor can only display "X" amount of colors at one time and your printer is also limited in the amount and range shades/colors that it can reproduce at a time..

My camera is (what?) 10bits per color(BPC) 30bits per pixel, video card is 32BPP, monitor is 16BPP and printer is 24BPP. (more bits = more unique colors).

As you can see, my computer is doing some color "guessing" for me in the process of displaying and printing my photographs. Life would be easy if the resolution (BPP) is just incressed on each step along the way. IE: 30BPP camera, 32 video card, 32-48 monitor and 32-48 BPP on printer. In the real world the different amount of colors is translated at each step by the software drivers on your computer. Sometimes you'll be happy with the translation(s) other times not..

Add to the above missmatch of colors the differing dots per inch (DPI) in each step. My camera takes photos in xx DPI, my monitor displays in 72 DPI and my photo printer prints in 300 DPI..

You can see where it can get confusing quick..

With all three color spaces being equal, if I could only take a picture at 300DPI, display it at 300DPI on my monitor and then print it at 300DPI on my printer, I would have a very high expectation that the photo printed would be a exact copy of the photo I took..

In the real world the BPP and DPI at each step (camera/videocard/monitor/printer) are different and some level of translation is done at each step. Controling and/or accurately prodicting the results of these translations and the final result is the "holy grail" of great photography..

Personally, I shoot in RAW as much as possible, I have Canon cameras and photo printer, I print my photos directly (from RAW) to the printer using Canons DPP (or photo record). If I use a external printer service (like costco) I translate the RAW file to .TIFF or .BMP (both lossless) and submit which ever the service excepts and only use .JPG files to email to friends and post on the web..

Sorry if this is overly long, I was bored..

Technologist @ Large- Mark0..

Comment #5

You may need to understand more about RAW before you decide if it is right for you?Understanding Digital RAW.

Press the Shutter Release in your camera, What Happens?.

1) Light strikes the CCD.

Light strikes the CCD when the shutter release is pressed. Raw data is produced by the CCD. (This CCD takes the place of film in the old film cameras)This RAW data from the CCD is not yet stored. (see Understanding Digital RAW).

2) A RAW data file is produced:.

If the Camera if set to RAW, then a raw data file is produced and stored in the camera. This file may contain the camera settings (ie: White Balance, Sharpening, Color Mode, Saturation, etc.) but these parameter settings have not been applied to the raw data file. They are stored in the file for reference only and called metadata. Changing these camera settings will not affect the raw data in the file. The amount of light falling on the sensor will change the raw data and therefore the shutter speed, aperture, ISO and lens filters will effect the raw data. This raw data file is a proprietary file type which is different for different manufacturers.

Jpg file produced in camera:.

If the Camera is set to jpg, then the computer in the camera uses the camera settings, of White Balance, Sharpening, Color Mode, Saturation, etc. to produce a jpg file on the fly from the raw data. This takes place right when the shutter release is pressed. The camera has it's own RAW conversion program, just not as versatile as the programs discussed in the next paragraph, below. Once the jpg file is produced in the camera, changing any in camera settings will only affect new pictures taken. The conversion from RAW to jpg can not be redone, as it can with the raw conversion programs discussed below..

3) Transfer the RAW file to computer for processing:.

Once the raw data file is transferred into your computer you can perform post processing of the RAW data and then save it into another format (tiff, jpg, etc), by using Nikon Capture NX (CNX) or Adobe Camera Raw (ACR), or any other raw conversion program. The conversion parameters you use in these programs can be changed and the conversion of the raw data performed as many times as you like. The raw file is not changed. Only the processing parameters are changed and saved. You can use the same parameters that were set in the camera if you like, but then you end up with the same jpg file that the camera would have produced. These programs instead, offer many more parameter changes and adjustments that are not available in the camera.

Transfer jpg file to computer for editing and processing..

If you selected a jpg file in camera, then you will transfer this file to your computer for editing, not for RAW data processing which has already been done in the camera. You will use editing/organizational programs such as Photoshop, Lightroom, Bridge, (Capture NX also does some of this) etc. Each of these programs offers a different set of features and objectives. Some are more editing oriented, others more organizational, and some overlap in features. Some of these programs also accept files directly from the raw conversion programs. But these programs are not to be confused with the raw conversion programs themselves.

Note: as stated some programs like Capture NX may do both RAW conversion and some other editing features..

Some advantages in using raw data files.

1) RAW data is normally in 10 or 12 bit depth, where the converted jpeg file in the camera is 8bit..

2) Raw conversion programs offer many more and more detailed adjustments, than available in camera RAW conversion programs..

3) Conversions which can be applied to RAW data, can not be applied as successfully to RGB data files such as Tiff, jpeg, etc. You have more control over raw data resulting in better processing results..

4) Raw data conversion parameters can be changed and then applied again to the same raw data. If we are not satisfied with our results, we can just tweak the parameters and try once again..

5) The raw data in RAW data files is not altered. The conversion parameters are being changed and stored with the file (or in an associated file), but the raw data is left unchanged..

Some disadvantages in using raw data files.

1) Raw data files are 2-6 times larger than the corresponding jpeg files..

2) Post processing takes some extra time. How much really depends on your demands and criteria. Most raw conversion programs offer batch processing to speed things up when applying the same conversion parameters to multiple images..

SeeThom's Quick & Dirty Guide to RAW

See alsoThe Advantages and Disadvantages Explained.


Comment #6

Thank you for your helpful feedback!.

I usually get my photos printed at an external printer service Walgreens, They do except tiff..

Is there a difference with photos printed in tiff (raw coverted to tiff) vs jpeg (raw converted to jpeg)?.

Thank you!..

Comment #7

Anastasia wrote:.

Thank you for your helpful feedback!.

I usually get my photos printed at an external printer serviceWalgreens, They do except tiff..

Is there a difference with photos printed in tiff (raw coverted totiff) vs jpeg (raw converted to jpeg)?.

Thank you!.

You may wish to re-read the above..

RAW+TIFF+Print= No lossRAW+JPEG+Print= Loss.

Technologist @ Large- Mark0..

Comment #8

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This question was taken from a support group/message board and re-posted here so others can learn from it.


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