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The right file format for your photo prints

The 10/10/2019 at 10:54

Many digital cameras are capable to take your photos in 2 different formats: RAW and JPEG. As old as the first DSLR, which format choose is nevertheless still an actual subject. 



If every format has its advantages, it also has its disadvantages. 


The RAW format, the photographer interprets the file, not the device. 


A RAW file is an uncompressed digital file that contains raw information recorded by the camera's sensor. The photographer must interpret the file by developing all the information (color space, white scales etc.) from his computer. This format involves an infinite number of different images.


Its advantages: 

The quality is the main advantage of this format, since it doesn’t lose any data received by the camera’s sensor. Everything is therefore subject to change (the white balance, the details of shadows and high lights etc.)

Changes to the image are reversible.

It can be exported in JPEG, DNG, TIFF or PSD format, and this export will not alter the rendering of your retouching, especially in JPEG format.


Its disadvantages: 

The RAW format is time-consuming and in fact it is like a negative, it requires retouching. Without retouching the file will not become image. This requires mastering post-processing software (e.g. Adobe Lightroom).

It is very heavy because it contains more information and is not dedicated to storage. Before sharing, the file must be processed and converted.

The RAW format is not printable because it is not an image in itself. In addition, this format can only be read by proprietary software. You will have to convert your file to JPEG or TIFF format after retouching for printing.


The RAW format is the best format to work your images (contrasts, colors) but is unsuitable for sharing.





The JPEG format, the reference format for photography


The JPEG (Joint Photographic Expert Group) format represents the best quality/weight ratio of all the formats offered. Since its inception in 1986, it has established itself to the point of being the only format that can be displayed on all applications.


Its advantages:

-The JPEG format is 4 times lighter than the RAW format (7MB vs. 30MB). Photographs can therefore be taken in bursts.

-It is universal, it is read by all devices. The photographs are therefore immediately shareable.

-It can be shared and disseminated very easily thanks to its lightness.



Overexposed JPEG format VS post-treatment RAW format 


The difference between these formats will really be seen in post treatment. 

Several formats coexist alongside JPEG (ideal for viewing and sharing) and Raw (the reference in terms of quality), but these two are the most important. The first one is the reference for sharing and displaying on a computer, the other one for retouching and archiving.

Choosing your file format to print your photograph

Not all printers accept the same files for printing, the type of file will depend on its technical specificities.

Make sure you check what format your lab requires before sending your files. The templates and specificities vary if you print a flyer, poster or brochure, but general rules are common. These rules are defined by SICOGIF (National Union of Graphic Communication and Printing Industries).



Here is a list of formats generally accepted by photographic printers:

-JPEG, which you now know. It is often used by default and does the trick perfectly for printing. In addition, the JPG format allows for CMYK, RGB, bitmap, grey levels.

-TIFF accepts feature images, RGB and CMYK images, grey levels, vector lines, masks and layers.

-PDF allows export in several color modes: stroke, grey level, RGB, CMYK and indexed colors. This format is accepted to print flyers, posters or brochures but very rarely for a photographic print.