Digital Image Formats – JPEG, GIF, RAW .. What Do All These Mean?

We spend hours and hours, taking the best photographs we can, and when we’re done – we apply special techniques to them with a special editing software to enhance what we’ve originally seen. When we are done, we try and save them in the correct format to preserve the image in the best way possible, but most people have no idea what the differences are.

The three main files a digital camera uses to store its digital images are JPEG, TIFF, and RAW formats. We need to understand what these digital image formats are and their properties – only then will we be able to get a high quality photograph.

The first format, and the one used in graphic design and photography quite often, is JPEG – a commonly used standard method of compression of images. In fact, the majority of photographers use this as their primary image mode. One of the main reasons is because it can be used right out of the camera with no editing, as it is considered a high-quality first use image. It also transfers easily across the Internet, and as email attachments. Plus it is fastest writer from the camera memory buffer to the memory card storage.

On the other side, it is not as sharp out of the camera as TIFF or RAW modes, and every time the JPEG is manipulated more than once or twice, it will eventually become unusable. But more than any of this, every time the JPEG image is modified and resaved, it will lose more data.

PEG stands for “Joint Photographic Experts Group”, named after the joint committee which created it in 1986. The JPEG (file extensions are .jpg, along with .jpeg, .jfif, jpg., .JPG, and .JPE) format provides for lossy compression of images, which means that when data is compressed, and then decompressed, the data that is decompressed may be different than the original. Yet, it is sufficient to be useful in some way or another.

JPEG/JFIF is the format that is used when photographs are stored and transmitted on the Internet. It is preferably over GIF, which is limited to 256 colors that are not enough for colored photographs, or PNG, what produces larger image files.

But then, just as many photographers use TIFF as their primary usage. The TIFF is a file format used for storing images such as line art and photographs, developed by Aldus, now Adobe Systems, and Microsoft. A popular format for high color depth images, it is supported by many image-manipulation programs such as Pagemaker, QuarkXPress, Adobe InDesign, PhotoShop, Paint Shop Pro, etc. It is extremely high in its image quality, with excellent compatibility with the publishing companies.

Tiff can be modified and resaved, with the images being used an endless number of times without throwing away any image data. Plus the image is extremely usable, as it does not require software post-processing during or after its download from the camera. It is a flexible and adaptable , with an advantage of no picture loss, which makes it acceptable to the publishing industry.

Compared to the RAW format, it uses less storage space, and is suitable for changes from any photo-editing software. A big disadvantage is its very large file size, still choking small e-mail boxes. During photography shoots, memory cards are needed if using TIFF images, but more pictures can be taken with the same amount of memory space.

The RAW mode is a picture format where the camera has made absolutely no changes; the files are not yet processed or ready to use with an editor, etc. Not a whole lot of professionals use this mode, other than camera purists, or weird website article writers. In order for it to be manipulated, the image needs to be processed and converted to an RGB format that is either TIFF or JPEG. This means that each and every pixel that was captured by the camera is now on the image.

You can now download this image on your computer for processing. Its advantages are that a huge amount of control over the final look of the image is yours. Additionally, all original details stays in the image for any and all future processing needs.

However, when you do so you will notice that this is a very large image, probably a few MBs. This means that you will need a very large storage area or memory space if you are going to shoot images in RAW format. Your advantage is that you can sharpen, size, or crop the picture without losing any picture quality.

But your disadvantage is the file size. You cannot transmit it easily because it needs high bandwidth connections. Also, you can shoot very few photographs if you select the RAW mode. After that, you have to change the memory card or make space by erasing a few photographs. Also, this mode is generally not accepted by the publishing industry because it produces a 12-bit image. The photographer needs to modify it using photo-editing software before submitting it for publication.

Overall, if a photographer wants to keep all the original image data that was recorded, the image must be stored in RAW format. It is the closest thing that we will be able to see in a film negative or a transparency that the digital camera can make.

Top 12 Image Editing Skills Every Photographer Should Know

Before you start editing, make sure that you have a good image work flow.  This means saving originals in a separate place to prevent you from damaging or destroying the original image.  And get familiar with your program’s UNDO capability – usually the Ctrl-Z key is a shortcut to undo the most recent image change.  Don’t forget SaveAs, which allows you to save a copy of the image with another name so you don’t disturb the original.

Crop.  This tool allows you to remove some of the image.  Generally you shape a rectangle around the area you want to keep and the rest is removed.  The area inside the rectangle becomes your new image.  Related to this tool are the rotate and straighten tools.  Rotate allows you to rotate the image, and Straighten does a similar task, allowing you to specify a horizon line or reference point. I recommend to rotate first and then crop after you have the proper orientation.

Brightness and Contrast.  This tool lets you increase or decrease the relationship between brights and darks (contrast), and increase or decrease the overall brightness of the image.  Combinations of brightness and contrast settings can have very dramatic impact to your image, adding extra “punch” or softening the visual impact.  It can also add emphasis to sunsets and other scenic shots.  If your image appears flat or dull, this is a good tool to try.

Saturation.  This tool is used to increase the color of an image.  Used to excess, the result can be artificial, and skin tones can be made to look unnatural.  But for floral and outdoor images, this tool can be used to sweeten the color impact of an image.

Resize.  This tool is used to change the size and number of pixels, or image dots, in an image file.  When sending something to a website for instance, you may want to reduce the image size so that it does not take too long to load.  When sending an image to be printed on a large size, you may want to size it larger.  Many programs will try to fill in the missing spaces if you attempt to resize an image beyond its original pixel dimensions.  Called interpolation, this program can deliver mixed results if you are trying to increase the images size too far beyond its original dimensions.  Combined with Crop, this is a good way to preview and prepare an image to be printed in a specific paper size.

Color Temperature/Color Adjust.  This tool lets you adjust the image’s color temperature.  If your camera’s white balance was not matched up to the color temperature of the predominant light source, the resulting image can have a color cast that is undesirable.  Using this tool, you either choose a color neutral selection (white or grey) in the photo and let the tool shift the color balance to match, or you tweak some settings or sliders to make the image “warmer” or “cooler”.  It’s better to get it right in the camera, but this tool can help rescue photos that otherwise have improper color casts.

Curves and Levels.  These tools are a more sophisticated verion of the Brighness and Contrast tools.  Levels allows you to change the white, mid and black points of an image and it will shift the image accordingly.  It is useful in pushing darks darker, whites whiter, and adding some lightness to midtones.  It is useful to bring up skin tones on faces while keeping very bright elements unchanged.  Curves is even more flexible, where you can describe a very sophisticated transformation of the original image’s characteristics.  Both of these tools can also be used to excess, and the result is often surreal or abnormal in appearance.

Clone/Rubber Stamp.  This tool lets you remove items from the image or otherwise retouch the image.  For example if you have a telephone pole in an otherwise perfect rural image, you can use this tool to duplicate the part of the picture next to the pole and paint over the pole with that section.  With some practice, you can edit out glare on glasses, braces, background objects and much more.  Related tools include Scratch Remover and Object Remover in some programs.

Eraser.  This tool lets you remove sections of an image.  This leaves behind a blank spot or hole.  It’s useful to isolate an object to place on another image, for example, to cut out a person so you can drop them into a location that was not in the original image.  A variant of this tool is the Background Eraser.

Layers.  Learning to use layers opens up an entirely new world in editing.  Basically you create two or more overlays that can have varying amounts of transparency so that you create a new image combining parts of these layers.  You can specify how the layers interact with each other, so that one may enhance the color of another.  That feature is called the “blend mode”.  You can also use layers to superimpose items on each other, for example to put your subject in a new location.

Sharpen.  This tool lets you increase the edge contrast of the image, which makes small features stand out more.  You will generally sharpen only as a last step after resizing, because sharpening emphasis will change with the image size.  You can selectively sharpen parts of the images, such as eyes, to draw attention to them.  You can also apply a sharpening to the overall image.  The Unsharp Mask will let you specify just how small and how much to apply the sharpening effect.

Channel Mixer.  This is a tool that allows you to change the amount of red, green and blue in the image.  But its real value is in being able to tailor a black and white conversion to include specific amounts of red, green and blue.  If you choose “monochrome” as the output, you can mix the red green and blue channels to bring out features that a straight black and white conversion will not be able to do.  The defaults include 33% each of red, blue and green.  Experiment with 80%/10%/10% of various modes and see how elements like bricks or blue sky or green leaves will change from dark to light in relation to other objects in the image.

1-Step Fix/Smart Fix.  This tool often combines much of the above tools into an easy to use dialog that will let you play with many things at once to improve an image.  Even if you use this tool most of the time, remember that the individual elements above can be utilized individually to create image enhancements that the simpler tools cannot provide.

Want to learn more?  Take a handful of images that you are not totally pleased with, and spend some time using each tool to see how you can expand your creative and editing skills to produce truly great works of photographic art!

Image Search Engine Optimization

While making a website most people today want their sites to look great with the help of images and flashes. It is possible for you to optimize images on your site. To make the search engine easily detect images on your site so that they can rank your page requires you to be familiar with image optimization. However not all crawlers are able to detect images and flashes, that is why you are at time advised not to use too many in your site.

When you want to use an image or flash as a technique to have your paged ranked higher there are some factors that you should consider. The originality is of great importance. Research states that original images are more likely to rank higher. The image’s originality helps you to present the features of your product which increases your opportunity of beating the competition with your competitors. You are able to brand your original images with your logo, URL or a trademark. Originality sets you apart from the cloud in the competition. Most people find it challenging to have original photos. It may be time consuming but is important in search engine optimization.

The quality is also necessary. Make it possible for you to easily adjust between full size images and thumbnails. Images with good contrast are better that those with a low contrast. In thumbnail sizes, more contrast is needed to have a better view of the image. They should be well formatted and named to helps communicate to the searchers that they are viewing the image of their choice. The name is given more weight than regular search results. You can also add special tags such as captions, comments, cross-grouping, location and themes to your image. Use an expanded audience based image to enable you attracts more potential visitors to your site. Optimizing the page where the image appears is equally important as optimizing. The content within the anchor tag and next to the anchor text highly influences the image search ranking. Putting labels and captions on the major images and graphics on your site would be a perfect idea.

When doing image search engine optimization avoid putting a click that enables viewers to see a large image inside of a JavaScript link. The ability to see a large image inside of a JavaScript link limits the search engine from accessing to the file. Most search engines that are available today have little ability to easily detect images and graphics for search engine ranking. It is however hoped that in the near future it will be possible to have all search engines using image search engine optimization.

3 Simple Ways Reverse Image Search Enhances Your Marketing Efforts

There are so many SEO tools out there and more keep being developed every day to improve how SEO is done and how rewarding it becomes in the end. The Reverse Image Search is one such tool that has been developed to add value to how things get done online. It is search engine technology that allows image files to be used as an input query for relevant results related to the image to be unveiled.

In essence, you can find out everything about an image you are interested in including its sources and where else it is being used through this tool. Google search is one of the platforms that make use of the technology, but other search engines may also support it. Apart from search engines, the reverse image searching capacity is offered by different websites. To use the tool, you simply need to upload a picture or enter image URL on the image search page on the search tool to get the results around the image.

If you are a marketer, then you know how important quality images are for any marketing campaign. The reverse image search can help you enhance your efforts so you only get the very best of results with every effort you put in especially on the images you intend to use. But how can marketers really benefit from this tool?

It helps ensure that you are not duplicating images

If you have a blog and you publish articles from different sources, then this tool can help you ensure that you do not end up duplicating images that could land you into issues. The last thing you want is to use images and content that is stolen leading to copyright issues. Apart from ensuring you do not use duplicate images, this tool can help you find out whether your original images are being used elsewhere online together with your content. The results will help you decide on the way forward.

It helps in improving linking so original sources are credited

Crediting the wrong business for images is not a very ethical thing to do. As a marketer therefore you can take advantage of the search by image as a feature to find out who the original image source is. This way, you will manage to give deserved links to the right business. Link backs to sources that probably stole the image cannot be good and so it helps to dig a little more before publishing anything.

It makes tracking links to your original images easy

Link backs can be really beneficial in any marketing strategy and the image search tool can be used to track who is linking your original images and how. Apart from ensuring that you get credit when this is done, you also get to see how your images are performing so you can decide whether they are working according to your expectations. It is an aspect that works pretty well for infographics, but it is just as great for other types of images.