I've been asked by a few people about digital cameras and the best file type to use. Most new cameras save in two types: JPG and Raw and with those there are several options.

First the Raw- I've stayed away from using the Raw file type on my camera because they are large and can fill up even a big flash card very fast. Another reason I stay away from raw is because it is a non-standard format, meaning that one company's raw format can be completely different from another's, and even with the same manufacturer their raw standard can change over time with different camera models as things advance. Every camera comes with software for the computer so you can read the raw file it makes, but since they are also big.... unless I was taking a photo of something that I wanted to be tremendous good, I never use it.

Now the JPG: With my camera it gives you the option to take small, medium and large JPG and each has a fine (denoted by a curve) and a normal (stepped icon) setting. The normal mode uses JPG compression to shrink the file while the fine does not use any compression.

I tend to keep all my photos as JPG files normally since that is what they are saved as by my camera, and I do not open and edit them frequently anyway- I was asked if saving them as a TIF would be better- and indeed it would. Above is an image of a flower petal (zoomed way in), on the right is the original image re-saved as a tif once, and on the left is the same image saved as a JPG. I opened, saved, closed the JPG thirty times, all on the maximum file size (no compression) setting.... it has softened slightly, but still remains very good, even at that level of magnification. Now if it was super important, I would have shot it in RAW, and saved it as a TIF.

Another reason I stick to JPG is file size. A photo taken on large and fine ends up being about 4MB, while a large normal is about 1.7mb... Something shot in RAW saved as a TIF ends up at about 23mb- and those can really add up. I have nearly a Terabyte of storage, but even I would hate to start saving all my files at that size.

An image will only be as good as the lowest quality it existed at before. To the left is a chart of the life of two files, one shot in large fine and large normal. The large fine was saved to a computer and opened and worked on a couple times and saved with no compression, and it remained at about 4mb. The file shot in large normal was saved on a computer as a TIF, and in doing that the file ballooned in size to 23mb- but even though it's a big file now, that doesn't mean that it's a higher quality file, just that it will now never degrade any. That is an attractive aspect to TIFs, but since it was shot on normal it's quality still far less than the other file. About half the image data was recorded, and saving as a TIF doesn't make up for it in the end, and even if you opened and saved the JPG file that was shot on fine a hundred times- it would still be higher quality than the lesser normal file saved as a TIF. All of this, coupled with not having to store thousands of needlessly large files, the time to open, save and work on the smaller files really speeds up life.

One of the most common tasks the average user will need photoshop for, is to create images for the web, but in a somewhat illogical way, Photoshop was developed more geared towards graphic design print work, than for the web in general, and in some ways, Photoshop has lagged behind cheaper competitors on some web tasks such as animations and other features that are used in web graphics. Photoshop 7 does come packaged with ImageReady 7, which is somewhat a new addition I think even though it does say v.7. I really feel that all the features of Image Ready should be fully incorporated into Photoshop, because the two programs are highly similar, so many users will completely overlook Imageready. You can jump from Image Ready to Photoshop by clicking the jump button at the bottom of the tool bar. In this lesson though I will start to talk about some of the more common web features already included in Photoshop7, and in the future I will start to delve into Adobe Image Ready.

One trick to web images, is saving an image correctly, and picking the best file type is important; the main choices for files are .JPG .GIF, .BMP, and the lesser known, .PNG. The following is an image I made, just a layer of the background color with my name cut in it, I then applied a drop shadow, and saved it as each format to demonstrate properties.

JPG - 15.3KB

GIF - 6.11KB

BMP - 38.1KB

PNG - 9.94KB

JPG Files: Are supported universally by all browsers, contain millions of colors, but is a "Lossy" format, every time you open and save a JPG file, it will degrade slightly, you can set it to also compress and be a smaller file, the more you compress, the greater the data loss. You can tell it not to compress at all, and it will not degrade much.

Gif Files: Gifs are the perfect partner to JPG's because they're about opposite, and are also universally supported. They contain only 256 colors, they can be animated, and contain transparencies which JPG's cannot. GIF's are not "lossy" persay, but if you have an image with more than 256 colors... they will not be saved. GIF files are great for simple images that contain a few colors, and they can have a much smaller file size compared to a JPG.... Unless there are many colors in it.

BMP Files- are a windows format also called a bitmap file, they contain millions of colors and are non-lossy. The fact that they are non-lossy and totally uncompressed means they are larger files, double that of the JPG. This has lead to them not being used as much in web design, and they are not universally supported. My web authoring program views it as a broken image.. but I know in IE it will show later.

PNG files, are a newer type, but has still been around for many years, but still not universally supported by browsers, though my page generator can view it, it is simply black text on the background, and in Internet Explorer it seems to have three times the drop shadow. So sometimes a PNG is not WYSIWYG.. and can appear different, or not at all in some browsers. In spite of this, PNG is a very powerful format. They contain millions of colors, but can also contain transparency. Save the PNG file from this page and open it in Photoshop7. You should notice that instead of being "background" in the layers, it is instead "Layer 0" and unlike a transparent gif opened in Photoshop, the transparent is still transparent, and not replaced with white. So while a PNG file might not be the best for the net (until browsers universally support it) It can be a helpful thing to have in your tool box when exporting to other software such as Macromedia Flash, which would turn its nose up at any .PSD (Photoshop Document) file you tried to import in, but it would fully support a PNG with transparency.

The trusty .PSD is always good for saving your work.. non-lossy, and all the features of photoshop like layering and effects are preserved.