Query from Toni Tapp CouttsI have been advised that it is better to save precious photos in TIFF. I …


Query from Toni Tapp Coutts
I have been advised that it is better to save precious photos in TIFF. I have been scanning in old family photos, slides and paper clippings, and an historian told me it is better to save these in TIFF format. Not sure why – could you please explain? I have bought a CD burner and have the ability to save them on CD so space is not a problem. Would appreciate any tips and hints on this topic. I use a Kodak DC240 Zoom digital camera.

Many thanks

Toni Tapp Coutts
Katherine, NT
March 2003

Your camera doesn’t support TIFF capture so you can’t really save your images in TIFF format when you take them – and this is the key requirement for obtaining the highest quality images. In addition, the Kodak DC240 Zoom has a 1-megapixel sensor so the shots you take will not have enough resolution to be printed beyond standard snapshot size (10 x 15 cm).

However, when you’re scanning old photos to archive them, using TIFF format is advantageous because it will allow you to save ALL of the image data captured by the scanner. Alternatively, you can select the native uncompressed file format that is supported by your editing software, such as the PSD format supported by Adobe’s Photoshop and Photoshop Elements or Ulead’s UFO format.

JPEG is a compression format that uses mathematical calculations to reduce the size of image files so they take up less space on a computer disk or memory card, and are easier to use online. Each time you save a file in JPEG format, some image data is lost. You may not notice the difference between the compressed and uncompressed files, but if you compare the file sizes, the JPEG file will always be smaller. TIFF files are usually uncompressed; i.e. they retain all the information that was captured (you can compress TIFF files in some software applications but the reduction in file size is usually quite small).

When scanning pictures for archiving, always use the highest available optical resolution and set the scanning parameters to match the output size you require. This will give you the best quality original to work on. Don’t apply JPEG compression until you have to re-size the image for emailing on posting on a website – and don’t re-compress images that have already been saved in JPEG format unless you want to re-size them.

If you’d like to learn more about digital image file formats, keep a look out for the data sheet soon to be added to this site. Also see Insider on scanning in the Apr/May 2003 issue of Digital PhotoReview.

Margaret Brown
Technical Editor