Photography Basics: Understanding Various Digital Formats

Posted on 15 September 2020
By Pierce King
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Everyone with a good smartphone camera these days considers themselves to be photographers. But the thing is, a lot goes into getting the pictures just right.

While the basics of the camera you use and the editing tools significantly matter, the file format of the image that you save it in also needs some consideration.

Picking out the right format for your photo can be crucial, as it can affect the level of its quality. Also, it can define the level of processing you’re planning on doing.

Let’s take a look at four of the most common digital image file formats


You might be quite familiar with JPEG, as it is the most commonly known file format for images. It is also the format most cameras use to provide you with a digital output.

The main thing that you should know about JPEGs is that these file formats significantly compress the image that you capture on your camera. That means your photos may lose some detail and quality. But some cameras do allow you to set the quality, which means they won’t compress if you change the settings.


PNGs were initially designed in the 90s as an improvement for the GIF file format. They are particularly useful for use on the internet.

These files are in a lossless format, which is why they retain all of the digital detail of your image. Another great thing about the PNG format is that they don’t have a big size just because of the excellent quality. Since the webpages require small sizes to load fast, this format can be great.

Another great benefit of a PNG format is that they allow total or partial transparency, making them great for logos or overlays. You can also convert an image from JPEG to PNG, the other way around, or into several different formats for use.


The BMP is another lossless file format that was initially intended for use on the Windows platform. However, it is now recognized on the Macs as well.

These files have a greater size than most other formats because the colour data is saved in each individual pixel in the picture.

That means there is no compression what-so-ever. As a result, you will have a good quality digital image file. While it’s great for printing and other proposes, you shouldn’t use it online.


The PSD format is what your image will be in after going through some edits on Adobe Photoshop. This format is incredible for modifications on the application because it allows you to manipulate particular layers of the image instead of the picture as a whole.

That means this format is essential if you have editing skills and plan on extensively manipulating the original image.

PNG gives you greater flexibility, and it also allows you to fine-tune an image. That makes it much simpler to add, remove, or edit any layer of a photo any time without affecting the other layers or the actual picture. But, only if it’s done right.