Several types of graphic image or picture file types are used on the computer. These file types typically serve different purposes. The main graphic file types are cross compatible and can be edited on a PC or Mac using image editing software. Understanding the basic image file types and how they work can be useful for saving, editing and distributing images.
JPEG, which stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group, is a graphic format used frequently. JPEGs are known for accurate color representation, and it is the ideal format for photographs. The JPEG format is not lossless, meaning that each time a JPEG is saved, the quality becomes degraded. JPEG files are much smaller than other image files types and ideal for storing images on the computer.
TIFF, or Tagged Image File Format, is an image format used frequently as the format of choice when sending logos or images to a printer for reproduction. TIFF files can be lossy or lossless. The TIFF image file format is a widely accepted format for photographers. Some digital cameras can even save directly to the TIFF format.
RAW is a raw image format that some digital cameras use. Special software is needed to edit the raw image material. Before a RAW image picture file can be used, you need to save the RAW files as another picture format type (typically JPEG). RAW image data is used primarily for editing because it gives users complete access to the data the camera sees before any effects are applied. This is a near lossless format.
The GIF file format, or Graphics Interchange Format, is suitable for animations and for storing images with low colors. The GIF format is limited to using 256 colors. The file format is lossless and can be saved repeatedly with no loss. GIF is not often used with photographic-type images, but it works well with cartoon-based images.
PNG, or Portable Network Graphics, is the open-source successor to the GIF format and has many of the same features, with the exception that the PNG format supports 16 million colors as opposed to the 256 colors of GIF.
Windows bitmap image files, or BMP, are lossless and work with limited colors. This image file format is primarily used in Windows-based applications.
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