On this standard-issue office stock photo, we reduced the image size from 3.32 MB to 95.3KB. This means that the image resolution and even colours have seriously deteriorated. Be aware too: following compression, if you didn’t keep the original, you wouldn’t be able to restore the image to its former glory either.
The good news is you’ll mainly discard metadata and background details that the end-user probably won’t notice. But if you compress your images too often or too much, the depth, quality and nuance of your original can suffer.
What is lossy compression used for?
Lossy compression makes it easier for you to upload, download, save, store and transfer your images. If you handle, edit and share images every day, this can save you a lot of time and space.
It’s also a very useful tool for web performance. To create an engaging, accessible website, you need great images — but photos, graphics and logos can slow down page load times. By compressing your files, a personal website or online client showcase can get eyes on it without risking technical issues or before users quit in frustration.
Advantages and disadvantages of lossy compression.
When it comes to lossy compression, for every pixelated image, there’s a faster load time. So, you need to find the sweet spot in between.
Let’s go through the upsides and downsides in more detail so you can strike the right balance.
Why is lossy compression beneficial?
- Easy image storing — Lossy files are often smaller than lossless alternatives — freeing up useful space on your server, hard-drive, cloud or smartphone. If you take hundreds of snaps on a regular basis, this form of compression really is your friend.
- Smooth image transfers — It can be a struggle to send large files to a client or move them around effectively. With lossy images, you can make uploads, downloads and transfers simple.
- Solid image quality — By and large, lossy compression can produce an image with passable or even unnoticeable differences from the original. It’s all about balance.
Faster website load times — Reducing resolution and file size means that your images will load quicker online. This can make your website more user-friendly and even and improve search engine rankings too.
- Customisable and simple — Whether you use Photoshop or a native computer programme, it’s normally pretty easy to customise your compression for different purposes. Sometimes, this is as simple as sliding a scale or selecting a box for high, low and medium rates. You can also install plugins that compress your images automatically.
Lossy compression disadvantages.
- Loss of detail — When you compress an image, you can lose nuance, colour and depth. This can be fine for everyday web use, but if you’re using your photo in a bid to turn heads, the image might fall flat.
- Irretrievable data loss — When you use lossy compression, you can’t retrieve the data. You’ll need backups if you want to restore your image to its original quality.
- File limitations — Once you’ve compressed your image file, there is only very limited potential for editing, post-production and archiving. Any photo perfectionists out there should take note!
- Lack of control — Digital cameras sometimes compress image data automatically. Similarly, continued edits, saves and resizes can deteriorate your file automatically without input.