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How to convert your NEF files to JPG image types

by Casey Schmidt  |  February 13, 2020

3 min. read
A camera on a beach.

The NEF gives users a chance to see the original intention of photographers – a full vision of their images in a digital format. Unfortunately, when it comes time to share these files, they’re quite large. When it’s time to share or edit them, you’ll want to convert the NEF files into a JPG. Here’s a breakdown of how to accomplish this, starting with a quick rundown of the two file types.

What is a NEF file?

The NEF image file is the digital format for any image files taken using a Nikon camera and then uploaded to a computer. NEF is an acronym meaning Nikon Electronic Format. It is a digital file that upholds the exact representation of the photographed image without any quality or resolution loss. The end result of an NEF is likely conversion into a different file type, due to its limited editing versatility, lack of accessibility and excessive size.

What is a JPG file?

The JPG image file is one of the most popular image types available, especially when you consider it and the JPEG are one and the same. The JPG is the Joint Photographic Experts Group extension. The acronym fits with JPEG, which is interchangeable completely with the JPG. The JPG is very accessible and reasonably sized. It’s also a lossy compression file, meaning it loses quality as it’s reduced in size.

A person standing next to a JPG image.
The JPG image file is an accessible format.

How to convert the NEF to JPG?

Unfortunately, the software that is assigned to the NEF files by Nikon is limited in both its editing and conversion capabilities. It is possible to convert the NEF to a TIFF using the Nikon software but this isn’t our intention. We want a wider range of conversions, particularly to the JPG. For this, we will have to make an automated conversion using third-party software tools.

There are two different ways to do this. The first method involves using a browser-based service. This is ideal for users who only want to convert a few files at a time. It’s also great for anyone with limited hard drive space and fast internet speeds. I recommend using Zamzar for browser-based conversions due to its quick downloads and simple interface. The next type of conversion involves downloading and installing a program to your system. This allows users with a lot of extra hard drive space to make conversions, including converting a lot of files at once. This method is great for users with limited internet access. I recommend Imageconverterplus for these system-based conversions.

An abstract artistic image.
A conversion can have great effect on images.

Why make this conversion?

As you know, the NEF retains all the resolution of the original photograph. This makes the file very large in size. A large file size has a lot of negative aspects, including slow upload and downloading speeds and difficulty finding hard drive space to store. It also creates annoyances for anyone who you share the file with, as they are forced to download such a large file. Converting to the JPG creates a much more manageable file size.

Another concern with the NEF is the software tools dedicated to it are lacking in versatility. They can edit on a small scale but don’t have the full range of editing tools that other systems have. Converting to the JPG allows for use within numerous editing systems, giving users a chance to make extensive edits relatively easily.

The NEF definitely serves a purpose and has its own value. At the end of the day, though, it’s just not practical to accomplish the many things modern digital images are capable of. Make sure you have a good plan in place to convert it when necessary.