Various kind of image file formats and it’s utility?

Image file formats

When you take a photograph, the camera is capturing data, which creates a digital image in the default format. But there are many different types of image file formats available which can be retrieved and edited by using a photo editing software. The question is why would you choose one over another, and what are the differences between file formats? In this article, we discuss the types of image file formats and their utilities.

So, let's find how they differ from each other -

JPEG or JPG (.jpeg, .jpg)

JPEG stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group created this standard type of image formatting. JPEG files are images that have been compressed to store a lot of information in a small-size file. Most digital cameras store photos in JPEG format because then you can take more photos on one camera card than you can with other formats. A JPEG is compressed in a way that loses some of the image detail during the compression in order to make the file small which called “lossy” compression. JPEG files are usually used for photographs on the web because they create a small file that is easily loaded on a web page and also looks good.

BMP (.bmp)

The Windows Bitmap or BMP files are image files within the Microsoft Windows operating system. In fact, it was at one point one of the few image formats. These files are large and uncompressed, but the images are rich in color, high in quality, simple and compatible in all Windows OS and programs. BMP files are also called raster or paint images. BMP files are made of millions and millions of dots called ‘pixels,’ with different colors and arrangements to come up with an image or pattern. It might be an 8-bit, 16-bit or 24-bit image. Thus when you make a BMP image larger or smaller, you are making the individual pixels larger, and thus making the shapes look fuzzy and jagged. BMP files are not great and not very popular. Being oversized, bitmap files are not what you call ‘web friendly’, nor are they compatible in all platforms and they do not scale well.

SVG (.svg)

SVG stands for Scalable Vector Graphics. It is an open standard created and developed by the World Wide Web Consortium to address the need for a versatile, scriptable and all-purpose vector format for the web and otherwise. The SVG format does not have a compression scheme of its own, but due to the textual nature of XML, an SVG graphic can be compressed using a program such as gzip. Because of its scripting potential, SVG is a key component in web applications: interactive web pages that look and act like applications.

RAW (.raw, .cr2, .nef, .orf, .sr2)

RAW files are generally available on advanced compact cameras and DSLRs and quite simply put; it is the best option if you want to get the absolute best file from your camera - this is the option preferred by professional photographers. The problem with not using raw files is that your camera will make adjustments, which are permanently embedded into your photos. Raw files are compressed using a process that retains all of the information originally captured. This means that adjustments such as white balance, exposure, contrast, saturation, sharpness can all be altered in an image editing software after the image has been taken. Photographing in raw format will require plenty of memory cards.

TIFF or TIF (.tif)

TIFF stands for Tagged Image File Format. TIFF images create very large file sizes. TIFF images are uncompressed and thus contain a lot of detailed image data. TIFFs are also extremely flexible in terms of color; they can be grayscale, or CMYK for print, or RGB for the web, and content - layers, image tags. TIFF is the most common file type used in photo software such as Photoshop, as well as page layout software such as Quark and InDesign, again because a TIFF contains a lot of image data.

Exif (.exif)

The Exif stands for Exchangeable image file format. This format is a file standard similar to the JFIF format with TIFF extensions; it is incorporated in the JPEG-writing software used in most cameras. Its purpose is to record and to standardize the exchange of images with image metadata between digital cameras and editing and viewing software. The metadata is recorded for individual images and includes such things as camera settings, time and date, shutter speed, exposure, image size, compression, the name of the camera, color information. When images are viewed or edited by image editing software, all of this image information can be displayed. The actual Exif metadata as such may be carried within different host formats, e.g. TIFF, JFIF (JPEG) or PNG. IFF-META is another example.

DNG (.dng)

This file format, created by Adobe, is an attempt to create a standard raw file format across all manufacturers and cameras. This is offered as a main raw file format, or as an alternative to the manufacturer’s native raw format. One of the problems with keeping images in their original raw format is that in years to come you may be unable to access them, as they are specific to that camera and manufacturer. But using an Adobe DNG Converter means you can also store your raw files as DNG files for maximum future security.

GIF (.gif)

GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format. This format compresses images but, as different from JPEG, the compression is lossless (no detail is lost in the compression, but the file can’t be made as small as a JPEG). GIFs also have an extremely limited color range suitable for the web but not for printing. This format is never used for photography, because of the limited number of colors. GIFs can also be used for animations.

PNG (.png)

The PNG stands for Portable Network Graphics. This file format was created as a free, open-source alternative to GIF. The PNG file format supports eight-bit paletted images with optional transparency for all palette colors and 24-bit true color (16 million colors) or 48-bit true color with and without alpha channel - while GIF supports only 256 colors and a single transparent color. PNG is well-suited to storing images during the editing process because of its lossless compression. PNG provides a patent-free replacement for GIF, though GIF is itself now patent-free, and can also replace many common uses of TIFF. Indexed-color, grayscale, and true-color images are supported, plus an optional alpha channel. PNG can store gamma and chromaticity data for improved color matching on heterogeneous platforms. PNG is designed to work well in online viewing applications like web browsers and can be fully streamed with a progressive display option. PNG is robust, providing both full file integrity checking and simple detection of common transmission errors. Animated formats derived from PNG are MNG and APNG. The latter is supported by Mozilla Firefox and Opera and is backward compatible with PNG.

SWF (.swf)

The term "SWF" has originated as an abbreviation for ShockWave Flash. SWF is an Adobe Flash file format used for multimedia, vector graphics, and ActionScript. Originating with FutureWave Software, then transferred to Macromedia, and then coming under the control of Adobe, SWF files can contain animations or applets of varying degrees of interactivity and function. They may also occur in programs, commonly browser games, using ActionScript. Programmers can generate SWF files from within several Adobe products, including Flash, Flash Builder (an IDE), Adobe Animate (the replacement for Adobe Flash as of Feb. 2016), and After Effects, as well as through MXMLC, a command-line application compiler which forms part of the freely available Flex SDK.

PDF (.pdf)

PDF stands for Portable Document Format. PDFs were invented by Adobe with the goal of capturing and reviewing rich information from any application, on any computer, with anyone, anywhere. I’d say they have been pretty successful so far. If a designer saves your vector logo in PDF format, then you can view it without any design editing software (as long as you have downloaded the free Acrobat Reader software) and they have the ability to use this file to make further manipulations. This is by far the best universal tool for sharing graphics.

PSD (.psd)

This file type is what Adobe Photoshop uses as a default to save data. The big advantage of PSD files is that it allows for manipulation on specific individual layers, rather than on the main image itself. This makes it absolutely essential for any sort of extensive manipulation of the original photograph – such as retouching. This gives far greater flexibility and the ability to fine-tune an image as layers can be added, removed or edited at any time without any effect on the original photo (as long as all editing has been done on layers) or other layers. But remember that once a layered PSD file is flattened (this process essentially merges all of the layers) it can’t be undone, so make sure you save your file as a PSD file before flattening.

XCF (.xcf)

XCF stands for eXperimental Computing Facility. It is the native image format of the GIMP image-editing program. It saves all of the data the program handles related to the image, including, among others, each layer, the current selection, channels, transparency, paths, and guides. The saved image data are compressed only by a simple RLE algorithm, but GIMP supports compressed files, using either gzip or bzip2. The compressed files can be opened as normal image files. The XCF file format is backward compatible and in some cases, forward compatible.

HEIF (.heif)

The High-Efficiency Image File Format (HEIF) is an image container format that was standardized by MPEG on the basis of the ISO base media file format. While HEIF can be used with any image compression format, the HEIF standard specifies the storage of HEVC intra-coded images and HEVC-coded image sequences taking advantage of inter-picture prediction.

WebP (.webp)

WebP is a new open image format that uses both lossless and lossy compression. It was designed by Google to reduce image file size to speed up web page loading: its principal purpose is to supersede JPEG as the primary format for photographs on the web. WebP is based on VP8's intra-frame coding and uses a container based on a RIFF. The format was first announced on 30 September 2010 as a new open standard for lossily compressed true-color graphics on the web, producing smaller files of comparable image quality to the older JPEG scheme. On October 3, 2011, Google announced WebP support for animation, ICC profile, XMP metadata, and tiling (compositing very large images from maximum 16384×16384 tiles).

EPS (.eps)

EPS stands for Encapsulated Postscript. EPS is a file in vector format that has been designed to produce high-resolution graphics for print. Almost any kind of design software can create an EPS. It is more of a universal file type (much like the PDF) that can be used to open vector-based artwork in any design editor, not just the more common Adobe products. This safeguards file transfers to designers that are not yet utilizing Adobe products but maybe using Corel Draw or Quark.

BPG (.bpg)

Better Portable Graphics (BPG) is a file format for coding digital images, which was created by programmer Fabrice Bellard in 2014. He has proposed it as a replacement for the JPEG image format as the more compression-efficient alternative in terms of image quality or file size. It is based on the intra-frame encoding of the High-Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) video compression standard. Tests on photographic images in July 2014 found that BPG produced smaller files for a given quality than JPEG, JPEG XR, and WebP.

DWF (.dwf, .dwfx)

Design Web Format (DWF) is a secure[citation needed] file format developed by Autodesk for the efficient distribution and communication of rich design data to anyone who needs to view, review, or print design files. Because DWF files are highly compressed, they are smaller and faster to transmit than design files, without the overhead associated with complex CAD drawings or the management of external links and dependencies. With DWF functionality, publishers of design data can limit the specific design data and plot styles to only what they want recipients to see and can publish multi-sheet drawing sets from multiple AutoCAD drawings in a single DWF file. They can also publish 3D models from most Autodesk design applications.



Lastly say, the most common image file formats, the most important for general purposes today. These are not the only choices of course, but they are good and reasonable choices for general purposes. If you have experienced some other useful image file formats, then share with us in the comments section. Thank you!

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