What is the difference between JPEG and TIFF files?
There are several important differences to know about between JPEG and TIFF files. Where, or even if, you use them will depend on your workstreams and requirements. The main difference is file compression in JPEGs, which means they are usually much smaller in size than TIFFs. This makes JPEGs a go-to option when storage space is at a premium.
The JPEG format uses lossy compression, meaning that these files reduce picture quality to achieve a smaller, more manageable file size. This makes JPEGs easy to store on a drive, send via email, or move between cloud services. However, during compression some of the original image data is lost, causing a noticeable loss in picture resolution.
Like JPEGs, TIFFs are a raster graphic file, but this format uses lossless compression to retain image data. This means that TIFF files are generally large. They tend to take up a lot of drive space and can be impossible to send via email. However, their high quality makes them a great choice for doing any digital editing work, especially if you store them in your back-up drive afterwards.
A TIFF works well as a source image — the original file you’ll keep as a back-up. This way, you can store your image with the best possible quality for editing later. Many photographers prefer to edit higher-resolution images because there’s more picture data to work with.
JPEG works better as a finalized image ready for export, like when you need to email a client or post a picture to your website. Compared to TIFFs, JPEGs don’t store as much image data, which means they don’t offer as much flexibility in the editing process.
The JPEG’s lossy compression translates into files that are relatively small, with an average size of around 10MB. TIFFs, using a lossless form of compression, are much larger. In fact, some TIFFs can reach up to 4GB in size.
A TIFF will support transparent image elements added during the editing process, such as hidden logos or watermarks, but JPEG files won’t. The short-lived JPEG 2000 file type that emerged in the late 1990s did offer transparency capabilities, but support for that format is no longer very popular.
One of the downsides of image compression is the appearance of artifacts, which refers to the pixelation or blocky appearance of image elements when a file loses too much data. You might have seen examples of this in poorly compressed website images or particularly dark photos. TIFFs, as a lossless file, don’t produce artifacts.
JPEGs are universally compatible with most standard operating systems, editing programs, and printers. TIFFs are, too, but their large size can make them incompatible with some printers and scanners.
JPEGs, unlike TIFFs, lend themselves well to website design, with their small size making them easy to upload and manage. They’re small enough not to negatively impact page load time, which can affect overall website health.
JPEG vs. TIFF files: frequently asked questions.