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File format – which type is right for photo-editing

Lone Walker Misty Morning. © Silke Stahl (with permission)

Lone Walker Misty Morning. © Silke Stahl (with permission)
Problems can arise when editing with *.jpg files. Hence, the heavy red colour cast.
{Click image to view large}

Applications usually have a file format associated with them. Editors, like Photoshop, are no different. The native Photoshop file format is *.psd files. However, image editing applications can also use, and work in, a wide range of other file formats. So, what is going on?

Most applications have a native file format. The format is designed specifically to allow the application to use certain data structures and have specific abilities. So, programmers design an optimised file format to ensure storage and data-use in the application is efficient. That means files can be manipulated or re-used quickly and successfully.

Applications are often able to use a variety of formats of the same class. Image programs are a case in point. We know the common file formats for web images quite well. Examples are *.jpg, *.gif, *.png and *.webp. In general, these files are so common that most image editors can work with them. However, being able to use or work with other file formats is not the same as having its own native file type to do exactly what is required. Other formats are usually ‘add-ons’ to the application. The most flexible file type for any application is most likely to be the one it was designed to use.

Specific design

Those four web file formats, mentioned above, hold only the data that is specifically retained for showing the image. There is very little other information in the file. Web image files like these four types carry quite a small amount of data. An Internet picture can be quite a small file size. Whereas, a graphics file from an application like Photoshop needs much more information, structure and data. Such files, in Photoshop (*.psd format), may be a 1000 times larger than Internet *.jpg files.

Fit for purpose – dump the data

Web display file formats, like *.jpg, are small, easily transmitted and quickly displayed. An image editor file is used for storing and manipulating lots of data. However, it is just too large to transmit and display on the Internet. That is true even at today’s high Internet speeds. We routinely use *.jpg images of around 1000Kb (1 Mb) and it only takes seconds to render it in our browser from the Internet. However, when browsers were first invented transmission speeds were much lower. Back then, a 100kb image could take 2 to 3 minutes to render. Consequently, keeping file size down was really important.

Image file formats like *.jpg were optimised for web use and not for image editing. When image editors make these web files they must reduce the file size. So, the image editors literally dump all superfluous data to create them. These file types are generally dubbed ‘lossy’. That is because, when they are created all the data that is irrelevant to the actual display is dumped or lost.

Today, we may use *.jpg files of 1 Mb or more and they render quickly. However, a modern Photoshop file could be 100 Mb or more. If every image was in the Photoshop format (large files), images displayed on the internet would take minutes to render in your browser. A nightmare for web surfers! So, we still need these web-optimised image files.

Each file format has a purpose

Photoshop files have a very sophisticated file format. They handle large amounts of data as well as accurate and varied graphical parameters. They are also optimised for editing changes and to manipulate that data for specific output purposes. But, they tend to be very large files!

Canon, and other camera manufacturers, defined image formats to quickly gather large amounts of image data and organise it into a data file for storage. Then, the camera can quickly store that data. Next, the camera can get back to doing what it does best – the next photo. The RAW file format is specifically designed to quickly capture and store data from the on-camera sensor/computer system. RAW is not designed for editing purposes. Editing files are huge and slow down the file-making process. Not good for a camera!

As a result, we use RAW only for data capture in-camera. Then, the data can be easily loaded into an image editor like Photoshop (a sophisticated editor) or IrfanView IrfanView (Image viewer/editor) | External link - opens new tab/page (a simple image viewer/handler/editor) and edit it there. Photoshop creates its own file format to work with the data it has loaded. So, it makes a *.psd file. Do your editing in that format. You can save your work in that format too. You can even print in that format.

Working with *.jpg files

A less sophisticated editor, like IrfanView, does not have a native graphical file format. Instead, it will load the RAW file which is output from your camera. However, it will create a *.jpg file for editing. Unfortunately, *.jpg files have to lose a lot of data when they are created. Consequently, the ‘lossy’ format causes that file type to be much less editable.

In common with most other image editors, IrfanView can also save in a range of file formats. However, it works in *.jpg and converts the results to other image file types if you need them. The result is always based on the original *.jpg file. Thus, the editing ability is limited.

Knowing which editor and file format to use

The image at the top of this page is by one of my students, Silke Stahl. The image tells a great little story. It has good compositional structure and the atmosphere she has captured is well balanced. However, while editing the image in IrfanView, she wanted to saturate the reds a little to give more atmosphere to the early sunrise. Great idea!

IrfanView is a brilliant application. It can do a huge range of image related things and it is really fast. However, it is not a very sophisticated image editor. It is intended for very quick, basic and low level edits.

As IrfanView works only with *.jpg, its colour management control is limited. The problem Silke experienced was compounded by the edits being carried out in *.jpg format with its limited capabilities. So, using IrfanView and *.jpg, Silke could not get the control she wanted over the colours and colour balance in the image. Hence, the heavy cast of red throughout. She would have been better working with ‘Curves’ in Photoshop. That facility would allow her to adjust image colour and tone, as well as contrast, with great precision.

Which file format should you use?

This raises an interesting point. We know we cannot use the original RAW file format for image editing. So, should we save the file out of Photoshop as a *.jpg file optimised only for display? You could do so. However, you are limiting the potential to make further changes at a later date. This is because, the *.jpg file from your editor is degraded by all the data it dumps. Worse still, every time you re-edit a *.jpg file it will dump more data and degrade further. The quality of the visible image can be significantly affected.

Editing *.jpg images is very bad practice. The file format gives you very little ability to make changes because of the ‘lossy format’. For best results, edit *.jpg files as little as possible – or better still, not at all. If you need to make changes to your *.jpg file, go back to the high quality graphics file (eg. your Photoshop *.psd file). Make your changes in that file format, save it, and then output/save a new *.jpg version for use on-screen or on the web.

The output file format matters

Image editor applications can export a wide variety of file format types. However, each has different properties and are used in different ways and applications. Here are the important web-based properties of the files we use for screen display and on the web…

  • A *.jpg image file is relatively small for quick transmission, but it cannot provide transparent backgrounds. Thus, it is sometimes difficult to use on some web pages.
  • As a format, *.png is similar to *.jpg but can have transparent areas so the webpage to be seen through the transparency.
  • The *.gif format does provide transparency and can have very small file sizes but a limited colour range. So, it is great for cartoon like images, and little animations.
  • Recently developed by Google, *.webp *.webp | External link - opens new tab/page format is smaller in size than *.jpg and *.png but has the advantages of both.

Wikipedia lists over 1500 file types Wikipedia lists over 1500 file types | External link - opens new tab/page. Just over 100 of those have a file format for some sort of image display, printing or manipulation. So, knowing how you will use your image is important. Then, picking the right file format for that purpose is critical to get the best out of your images.

Best practice
  • Export the RAW file format of image data out of your camera.
  • Save it as your unspoiled data storage for that image.
  • Try not to edit *.jpg files from your camera as you cannot edit them effectively.
  • Open your RAW file in a good editing program (say, Photoshop) and do your edit work.
  • After editing, create a file saved in the native format for your chosen editor (e.g. *.psd for Photoshop). Keep it for later edits or updates.
  • For future edits, printing or changes, or to output to a different file format, go back to your *.psd file and re-export in the file format you need (e.g. *.jpg or other display format).

Enjoy your editing, do it using the right file format!

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
See also: Profile on Google+.

Helping you learn photography. What do you need?

Learn photography | What do you want us to write?

• Learn photography – what do you want us to write? •
Let us know what you would like to learn about – we will find a way to write it up for you…

Photography is amazing…

There is so much to learn and so much to gain. You can go on learning for life and not learn everything. Every photo is a new experience and challenge. But photography can only ever be what you want. Other people will want something different. It is a uniquely self orientated activity.

What do you need to learn photography?

So much of your photography is a personal thing. As a result We want to try and meet your needs as closely as we can. I have some great ideas and some fun tutorials for this year. But this blog needs to be about you, our readers. As a result we want you to start sending in your ideas and problems. We want to see what you would like us to write. We want to address your problems.

Tell us and we will provide!

Please write to us to say what you need to learn photography. Tell us what we can teach you. Give us your ideas. Write a little about what you would find helpful. This blog is all about the way you learn photography. And. we would like to provide what you need.

Here’s how

There are different ways you can contact us to ask for an article. Try any one of these…

In a few words, tell us what you want us to write about. We will have a go at putting it into simple language. The aim, as always, is to give you the information to help you learn photography!

Comments, additions, amendments or ideas on this article? Contact Us
or why not leave a comment at the bottom of the page…

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Christmas 2013… and plenty more to come

Christmas is here

I intended to bring you some street photography shots of happy shoppers. I was out watching the final dash for the Christmas presents. However, after ten minutes my camera battery went.

Well that’s not a problem. I swapped it for another and started again. Hmmm! The camera, an old Canon 350D, steadfastly refused to start up. It would only show me the battery was charged. I changed the battery for another – just in case. This time I got a brief “Err05” and then it died again.


No camera. This is not a problem! Undaunted, I whipped out the smart phone.Then I spent a happy hour capturing the best of the happy shoppers.

Now picture this… I am sitting in a car at a WIFI hotspot. I am trying to upload the photos to my laptop. The laptop completely ignores the phone. The phone tells me it is “Not tethered to any USB device”. Well… drat!

Sometimes things go wrong even if you have a backup. I have two other cameras 12 miles away. But no broadband connection there. And, it is late on Christmas Eve. Sometimes blogging is hell! But, I am still smiling.


This year, you, the readers, have been exceptionally supportive. I get a great deal of positive comments and thanks through Twitter, 365Project, Google+ and other channels. I also get comments here on the blog. So many positive things are said that it keeps me hard at the keyboard.

Courses next year

Many of my readers and friends have asked if I can start opening up my training courses more. So next year I will be doing a series of one day courses. To start with I will be running some courses on ‘going manual’ with your camera. Also, I am planning courses on portraiture and composition. So look out for those announced on these pages. Some other exciting things will be happening on this blog too so keep watching this space.

Thank you all

I want to send you all my Christmas Greetings. Whatever your beliefs or your holiday activities are about, I wish you all the best of the season and to have a great time over the next few days. I also wish you all the most prosperous and enjoyable New Year. But more than that I hope you have an excellent year ahead of great photography!

PS… Don’t forget to say Happy Christmas in the comments below!

Meanwhile, I think I will be upgrading an old camera  Camera sales after Christmas. External link - opens new tab/page shortly.

Your part in the amazing explosion of photography

Daily number of photos uploaded 2005-2013YTD

• Daily number of photos uploaded 2005-2013YTD •
Source: 2013 Internet Trends – KPCB
(2013 Source no longer available online. Latest version is shown as a slide show below).

Photography is about you and several billion other people.

The global phenomenon that is photography is growing at an incredible rate. Online posting of photographs is on-trend to double every year. In fact the number of photographs posted daily is literally mind-boggling.

Figures out

Published May 29, 2013, the “KPCB Internet Trends 2013 Report” by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers quotes some astonishing global figures for use of the Internet. The report publishes the graph above showing more than 500 million photographs are posted every day to just four online providers – Flickr, Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook. The figures are all derived from data published by the four companies.

Facebook the biggest photo-site

According to the report the biggest holder of photographs is Facebook. The social networking site handles more than 300 million photo  External link - opens new tab/page uploads per day. More than fifteen percent of the global population uses Facebook with more than sixty three percent of those using the site every month.

Despite the tsunami of photographs being posted online every day we must expect that many more photographs are not being uploaded. It would not be unreasonable to expect more than a billion photos are taken being taken worldwide everyday. Although the actual figure must remain speculation.

How many Internet devices are there in your house?

The KPCB Report gives figures for a wide range of global growth rates. Mobile Internet use and general mobile use has exploded too. Many families have more than ten Internet enabled devices in the home – computers, games machines, mobile phones, cars, televisions, tablets… the list goes on. Against that backdrop, photography is not an unusual growth case.


Another area of growth of interest to photographers is video. A few weeks ago YouTube topped 1 Billion viewing hours in a week. In some countries young people are watching more YouTube than TV these days. Calculations from figures in the KPCB report suggest that about 1,008,000 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube each week. This is corroborated by the YouTube statistics page: YouTube Statistics page  External link - opens new tab/page. Certainly the video channel is becoming a global phenomenon as it appears to be taking on TV and winning  External link - opens new tab/page. However, there are also many other online video websites.

How many other photosharing sites are there?

There are thousands of photo-sharing and publishing sites globally. I personally publish photographs on seven different sites. How about you? One thing is for certain. The global growth industry that is photography has not yet peaked.

The KPCB report in full

The latest report is in slide form which I have included below for you.

KPCB Internet Trends is published annually by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

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Write for Photokonnexion...

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Art in photography has old roots

Is there art in photography? •  The debate has raged for as long as there has been cameras.

• Is there art in photography? •
The debate has raged for almost as long as there has been cameras.
[Image from the video below].

Today photography appears more realistic

Perhaps that is more true than at any time in the history of photography. Modern cameras give a very powerful reflection of the scene. Yet, today the artistic element in photography is as alive as the art in say, the history of painting. What is not so clear is just what we mean by “art in photography”.

Much of the modern wave of photography is about snapping the ‘picture’; just capturing what you see and moving on. However, the committed, artistic photographer, sees more in the frame than just the picture. The images we capture show form, shape, expression, balance – lots of intangible things that are not necessarily about just getting the picture and moving on. They saw the art in photography.

The art in photography debate

Early in the history of photography this very same debate raged. Some saw photography as being “realistic” and therefore not containing artistic elements. Anxious to establish photography as an art form in its own right the Pictorialists worked with the raw elements of the medium. That is particularly with lenses and negatives. They manipulated them to make the picture resemble the hand-made craftiness of paintings and drawings. They tried taking away the “realistic” look of the final picture. They were almost converting it to some sort of hand-drawn picture or a painting. They were turning the picture into an art form. They deliberately tried to create art in photography.

Perhaps this manipulation did make an art form out of some pictures. However, the basic point was missed by the Pictorialists. The underlying picture still needed an artful arrangement to carry off the translation into a ‘crafty’ final image. What the photog saw needed to be artfully seen in the frame.

Abstracts and the art in photography

This short video shows the arrival of an alternative school of photographers. The school of “Straight Photography” acknowledged the power of the camera to represent the world with a realism other art forms did not have. At the same time, Straight Photography revealed that through capturing reality you can see through the artists eyes. They went to great pains to retain the element of reality, clarity and sharpness in the pictures. Much of their work would today be recognised as abstract.

The Pictorialist emphasis was on shape, form and expression rather than the every-day and mundane view of the world we see with almost every blink of the eye. They went to great lengths to see things the ordinary picture did not show. They emphasised beauty in simplicity. The shape and form in the abstract was an important focus. It was about a new way of seeing detail by careful framing of every day objects. They created images that showed the ordinary reality by an extraordinary interpretation. True art in photography.

Pictorialist and Straight Photography

Debbi Richard

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Ten simple ideas to help your portraiture improve



Straight forward portraiture advice is difficult to come by…

In the video we have some great ideas that help you to map out a great Portraiture session. This is straight advice aimed at getting you to a good quality completed portrait as directly as possible.

I have to add that the book advertised in the video is also a great book. It is packed with some excellent ideas and written in a simple and easy-to-read way. If you are interested in following up on the book I can highly recommend it. My copy is pretty dog-eared these days!


Portrait and Candid Photography: Photo Workshop This is a great book packed with lots of hints, tips and ideas like the ones below. A really worthwhile read.


Ten points at the core of good portraiture

In the video Erin Manning highlights the importance of the following ten points…

  1. Don’t fix your subject in the middle of the frame. Instead, think about the rule of thirds – a more dynamic outcome.
  2. Poses and “cheesy” words to force a smile are false and make the photo look strained.
  3. Make your clothes simple and un-distracting. Forget patterns and fussy details. Simple solid colours help the subject to stand out, not the clothes.
  4. Avoid straight on shots with a big flash. The open pupil in the eye will cause light to reflect back to the camera and show bright red eyes… You don’t want your subject to look like red-eyed monsters. Use red-eye reduction settings if your camera has them.
  5. Vary your poses, angles and heights. The more angles you get the more you are telling a story about your subject. Get them in many different ways.
  6. Use flash to help reduce harsh shadows. The sharp sunlight of the middle of the day is very unflattering. The use of fill-in flash softens the shadows bringing out the subjects character.
  7. Look for great quality of light. Remember that hard light (harsh edges and strong contrasts) is very unflattering. Shoot in the later afternoon or early morning to get soft light with better colours. Use shade to reduce hard light if you are forced to work in bright mid-day light.
  8. Don’t stand too close and use a wide angle lens. This exaggerates the nose. Stand away and zoom in. This reduces nose size and is much more flattering. (Great advice).
  9. Pay attention to the background. If it is too busy make sure there is nothing distracting. Check to make sure the background has not created odd effects like poles sticking out of heads and flowers in ears!
  10. Make sure you have enough battery capacity and memory card space to cover the whole session. You don’t want to lose any shots when you are in full swing.
Erin Manning’s Top 10 Dos and Don’ts for Great Portraits

Erin Manning

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

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If you enjoyed this article please sign up for our
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Easter competition… two days to go – still time to win Prizes!

• Competition pictures •

• Competition pictures •
Spot the difference between the two pictures…

Spot the difference competion…

Over Easter we ran a simple spot-the-difference competition for prizes. Compare the pictures (full versions on the competition page). Pick out fifteen differences (from a total of twenty). You could be a winner!

Want to know more?

Just click here and have a look at the pictures… simple!