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what is the best file format to save for picture printing?

by preppystud / August 3, 2005 2:56 AM PDT

after i edited the picture, what is the best file format to save for pic printing, such as tiff, bmp, gif, jpg?


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Since you write 'best'.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / August 3, 2005 3:16 AM PDT

That could mean lossless compression. You need to stick to TIFF or even BMP which will be quite large files but the non-lossless compression would be best for most definitions. You can try the JPEG at quality 100% but even then some quality can be lost.

More definition of best may be required.


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by Dick White / August 3, 2005 5:50 AM PDT

you need to address the "where did it come from" as much as 'where is it going to." There are several levels of compression available in the jpeg format, with more compression = lost information. An original in a lossy level of jpeg, even when resaved as tiff or bmp, does not recover any of the quality lost when it was in the earlier jpeg format.


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by preppystud / August 3, 2005 6:48 AM PDT
In reply to: and...

so should i just print those pics without editting?

i plan to print those pics at walmart, etc.

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A little more detail would help.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / August 3, 2005 6:59 AM PDT
In reply to: mm.

For instance if you had some 5 megapixel picture in the midrange 50 to 80 % quality setting of the JPEG options, you may find that 3x5 prints will not show any issues.


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by preppystud / August 4, 2005 2:14 AM PDT

thanks for all the help.

from what i have read so far,

i will try to save it into tiff after editting. so i can get the best print result.

if the files are too big, i will save them in bmp.

jpg is the least choice.

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What is the best picture format?
by MadGorilla / August 4, 2005 11:24 PM PDT
In reply to: thanks.

Even with today's huge hard drives, you would be astounded at how fast you can fill one up with pictures in tiff or bmp format.

While it is true that jpg loses a little compared to bmp, at the levels most people are going to be operating the average user can't tell the difference between a picture stored in bmp format and jpg format.

I've found that jpg in an 800x600 pixel frame size and saved at 100% quality level is plenty good up to 8x10 print size. If you're a fanatic about detail, then use a 1024x768 pixel frame.

Just as with film, the size you need to end up with determines the format you start with. If you plan on making large prints above 5x7 then you need to use a base picture with a larger frame size to avoid grain and fuzzy details.

With that in mind, I recommend the following: 640x480 for pictures to be shown only on your PC screen and no bigger than 3x5 in print. 800x600 for PC or for prints up to 8x10 if maximum detail is not absolutely necessary. 1024x768 for detailed 8x10, and 1280x1024 for 11x17. All values in pixels, and at 100% quality in JPG format.

Even the larger frame sizes will still let you save a lot more stuff on your drive in jpg than bmp or till, and for all but the most critical work, the average person will never know the difference.

An easy way to eyeball it on the fly is to use a good picture editor/organizer like CompuPic to increase your source one frame size at a time until the detail starts to fall off, then back off to the previous level. It won't be long before you get a feel for what you need on the "input" side to get the desired "output."

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Low DPI just doesn't cut it
by pigonthewing / August 5, 2005 2:20 AM PDT

I don't know what kind of printer you're using, but using 800x600px for an 8x10" print, or 1280x1024 for 11x17" nets you around 75dpi, which will produce terribly pixelated and jagged looking shots. They're the ones that people see and immediately comment, "Oh, you printed these from your digital camera, didn't you?"

If you want a quality printout, something that rivals 35mm film developed at a photolab, take a few steps in the right direction:

First, go out and buy yourself a dedicated dye-sub photoprinter (the Epson Picturemate was the best $200 I spent this year).

Next, print at 300DPI when possible, and never below 150. This means that a 5x7" requires 1500x2100px; an 8x10" needs 2400x3000px. The high pixelcount is not an outrageous request when you consider the abundance of >4mp cameras and the hundreds of GBs readily available today. A single DVD+R/W disc can hold over 4GB of data!

While you're at it, activate the printer's enhanced detail setting, which increases the number of passes the print head makes on the page. Some may complain of long print times, but I certainly don't mind waiting an extra few seconds if I end up with a shot that people can't distinguish from 35mm film and lab developing.

I do agree with your comments on compression; you face the law of diminishing return when jumping from JPEG to BMP or TIFF -- the tenfold increase in filesize just isn't worth the 1-2% gain in quality achieved by lossless compression. But compression can only take you so far, and DPI still reigns king when it comes to making prints.

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Dye-sub and compression
by mediadiva / August 5, 2005 3:36 AM PDT

1) I'm curious... do you know what the dye-sub's average cost per 4x6" print is? I send my files to a lab for prints for friends and family, but have held off on printing my own favourites for albums until I find the best compromise between quality and cost effectiveness.

2) Re: resolution and compression
I agree with pionthewing that there's no reason to reduce the resolution, considering how accessible high quality cameras, relatively cheap 1Gb CF/SD cards, DVD's and massive hard drives are. I take massive numbers of photos and use them in my design work and as reference for painting, and if you're likely to ever want to crop the images or print them larger, it's important to save them as large as is reasonable for your speed and storage needs with minimal compression. Since jpgs are lossy, you want to minimize the number of times you tamper with the file and resave it too.
I rarely shoot RAW or TIFs because of the great drain on camera resources, but I keep 2 copies of each max. res / highest quality jpg when I download them. One goes to an "unaltered photos" directory in a neatly named folder. The other goes into a folder with a matching name in "My Pictures" - and that's the file that I will rename, edit in Photoshop, metatag, and save alternate TIF versions of for printing. Both directories get archived regularly to an external hard drive and DVD.
That way I always have recourse to the untampered version, saved a minimal number of times if I want to reuse it for something else.

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$0.29 Picturemate Prints
by pigonthewing / August 5, 2005 6:40 AM PDT

$0.29/print, ink and paper included.

Epson sells a specialized kit for the Picturemate for $29 that includes 100 sheets of 4x6" glossy photo paper, and a 6color/6jet dye sub cartridge with enough chemicals for 100 full color prints.

If you print heavily in one color (sepia tones for instance) it will burn out that color prematurely, but for balanced shots, I've had no problems getting the full life out of a cartridge.

At that price, you're better off doing it at home than going down to the corner to pay $0.40 or $0.50 that many of the kiosks charge. Kiosks also don't have Photoshop.. Wink

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Nothing beat AgX Prints from your digital camera.
by Kurt Sanger / August 5, 2005 11:31 AM PDT

Our local grocer sells Digital 4"x6" AgX prints for $0.25 apiece. You burn a CD or bring in your SD Card and get your prints within an hour.

Walmart will beat that price.

The Digital Thermal Prints are a little more expensive, but you get them without the wait, and they don't run when you get them wet.

Or you can print digital thermal prints at home. Kodak sells an EasyShare Printer Dock for Home. A 40 pack of media is around $20 at Walmart for a cost of $0.50 each. But you get to print them at home whenever you want. Its great at parties, and the kids get a kick out of watching the color develop as it prints, Yellow, Magenta, and then Cyan. You can get these prints wet too, and you don't have to wait for the ink to dry before you touch them.

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Another "best"
by Yew / August 3, 2005 7:46 AM PDT

Strictly speaking, Bitmap (bmp) would be the "best" since it's uncompressed. Even lossless compression won't compare.

However, PNG is a format that's both lossless and gets pretty damn good compression ratios for most things. The one drawback is that it's not as widely supported. Virtually all graphics programs will support it, Firefox supports it, IE supports everything but the transparency effect last I knew... A few of the more esoteric programs might not support it however.

So unless you're dealing with images that are low color, like say comics, PNG would probably be the "best" when you consider all the various aspects. If you're dealing with low color images, GIF works wonders. It's 256 color limit helps keep file sizes down below what other formats could... Provided you don't need more than 8-bit color.

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PNG features
by pdminer / August 6, 2005 1:00 AM PDT
In reply to: Another "best"

Another great feature of the PNG format is that it supports alpha channels and transparency if you plan on using that capability beyond just pictures. Only TIF and GIF offer that as well, but PNG is lossless compression so you get the best of all the features.

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Confusing points
by BlahBlahNyborg / May 9, 2014 9:32 PM PDT
In reply to: Another "best"

If "lossless" compression doesn't look as good as Bitmap, it's hardly lossless is it?
It's not as widely supported / all graphics programs will support it.
Are you recommending PNG or GIF for low colour images?

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This thread is more than 3201 days old.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / May 10, 2014 1:58 AM PDT
In reply to: Confusing points

You may want to start a new discussion.

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At 29 cents a print
by glb613 / August 3, 2005 8:08 PM PDT

why don't you try one of each and judge for yourself?

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The unit price is small...
by jas0nhe / August 3, 2005 8:40 PM PDT
In reply to: At 29 cents a print

But multiple prints could rack up a lot of $$$. If it's a standard print, I'd just use whatever format the photo started with.


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by preppystud / August 4, 2005 2:05 AM PDT
In reply to: At 29 cents a print

well, i don't want to spend 20 cents to print out the same pics several times, that is why i am asking this question on here. Happy

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How can you evaluate the differences
by glb613 / August 4, 2005 2:31 AM PDT
In reply to: ya.

when you have nothing to compare? Someone else's opinion?

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by Noizxland / August 3, 2005 8:26 PM PDT

I always use jpg format, I think it's very convenient.
I print my photos after editing in Photoshop, and I can't see much difference btw jpg, psd, tiff. But I've heard that tiff is really better resolution. Anyway it's not comfortable to keep image in tiff, as it takes much space.

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by ocyl / August 4, 2005 8:27 PM PDT

Portable Network Graphics

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Digital image formats
by mooseantlers / August 4, 2005 10:45 PM PDT

For what it's worth, here's my 2 cents. I am in no way an 'expert' and what I do is based on what i've read and some advice from a few [so called] 'very knowledgeable' individuals.

I have been batch processing all photo's from the memory card to the computer using the tiff format. This is not to say that any of the other 'uncompressed formats' aren't as good, it's just what i've been using. Most descent 'photo programs' should allow you to batch process [tranfer] the pics in pretty much any format you desire to use. [Somewhere I read that most pros save them as tiff files; whether or not that's true is ??]

What i've been told is that once you shoot a pic using jpeg, it is compressed within the camera and therefore will 'suffer' from some 'discarded information'. No, tranferring to any of the uncompressed formats will not recover any lost info however it prevents any further image degredation if you decide to edit any of them. Do keep in mind that the file sizes for each picture can be huge compared to jpeg. [For instance, I use a Canon Digital Rebel [6.3mp] and shoot in the RAW format then save the pics as tiff. The resulting file is is slightly over 18mb each!]. That's when hard drive space might become an issue.

Printing the photo's is a different story. What may look good in a 4x6 print may not look as good in that 8x10 enlargement.

As a sidebar, I used to work in a Wal-Mart photolab along with the digital system. You mentioned that you didn't want to waste $$ printing a side by side comparison, which is understandable. You can try this. Take 2 images, one in jpeg and the other in tiff [or 2 different formats if you wish]. Add 'text' to the photo so you'll know which is which. Then, when you go to your local WMart, preferrably on a non-busy evening, have a talk with the associate at the lab. They may be willing to print out the 2 pictures at no cost so you can make that comparison. Keep in mind a couple things; the associate may know how to operate the system but that's all. Not everyone is an expert or willing to help you out. [They used to preach to us that if it helps educate someone, you also learn. A happy customer will return and that's how they make $$]. Don't expect them them to do a printout of a pic in every format for you. At least for free anyway.

Hope that helps!

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Oops, forgot 1 'small' thing
by mooseantlers / August 4, 2005 10:57 PM PDT
In reply to: Digital image formats


I am not 100% of all the formats that the WMart system can handle. It's been a year since I worked there. I know it can handle jpeg and tiff. I also thought that it can support BMP and possibly one or 2 others, but the person I just spoke with at WMart didn't think so.
The best bet I can suggest is that you talk with the photolab manager, or someone that either knows 'em by heart, or will look it up in the system operating manual. I do not recall PNG being one of the formats, however they do, from time to time, upgrade the systems software.

Good luck!

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best format for saving photos
by maggiedev / August 4, 2005 11:08 PM PDT

i use an olympus c-8080 camera and take and save almost all photos to jpeg. if i send a photo by email, i process the photo with adobe home edition to 72dpi. if i want to print the photo, i process it to 200 dpi and get perfect, true color prints from index size to document size. on occasion i submit photos to magazines and i take those photos in raw format. the software that came with my camera allows me to convert the raw files to jpeg after i have burnt them to disk to send to magazine. all photos in my photo albums and on disk are jpeg and i have been extremely happy with the quality. my camera is 8 mp and i have a good printer in my hp photosmart 7960. the combination of good equipment makes a difference. i do not print my photos using adobe. i use the print feature in My pictures in windows xp. i found that i get the best quality and truest color by using that feature. if i need larger than document size photos, i can go to a photo lab and print 34x45. in jpeg, 5 of my photos were good enough to be published on the texas ornithological website and channel 11 (cbs)news website in houston, texas.

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what is the best file format to save for picture printing?
by Moonlight Gambler / August 5, 2005 12:09 AM PDT

- a simple question that only needs a simple answer that actually answers the question:

TIFF, with LZW compression.
TIFF is gives a quality image and is a better "behaved" format for printing.

If you want to change the DPI I use IrfanView from
It's freeware and VERY good for resizing and general image viewing/manipulation.

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TIFF 1st, then JPEG
by pmilligan / August 5, 2005 8:14 AM PDT

If I know that the picture I'm taking is going to be memorable, I use TIFF format. My default is JPEG. After editing, it may not matter too much. Still, I suppose I'd save it as a tiff, to avoid recompression. My digital cameras only offer TIFF or JPEG.

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by Sid Karp / August 6, 2005 2:57 AM PDT
In reply to: TIFF 1st, then JPEG

For all of us who do not have RAW capabilities (I have a Canon A95), I suggest that you download from your camera as JPG (because you have no other choice), convert your pic to TIFF, fix it up the way you want to and save it for storage on another drive, or a CD/DVD. Convert that TIFF pic back to a "high quality" JPG and print to the web, or to paper.

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Moving JPEG files
by Raycote / August 5, 2005 9:03 PM PDT

When you move a JPEG file does the file suffer the losses that it does when you copy it?

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No losses
by mrobzo / August 5, 2005 10:37 PM PDT
In reply to: Moving JPEG files

Converting in the same format will not harm your photos

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The best source of info
by cortgray / August 6, 2005 1:41 AM PDT
In reply to: No losses

Can any of you recommend a single source (in print form) of the differences or advantages of the various formats for saving images for home printing?

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The Raw Truth: Work with Raw Digital Camera Files...
by pigonthewing / August 6, 2005 6:05 AM PDT

I started to write out my own clarification of the image formats, but then I found a site that did a much better job than I could have done:

The Raw Truth: Work with Raw Digital Camera Files in Photoshop

Hope this helps.

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