10 Image File Types and When to Use Each One

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Knowing which image file types to use is important to understand. Whether it’s to create a business logo, finish a project or place an image on an article, the image format you need will vary each time. Chances are you’ve used popular file types like JPEG or PNG, but there are many lesser-known image types to consider. Learn when to choose a certain image type and how they differ from each other in order to succeed. Here’s a list of ten popular image formats and details on when to use each of them.

1. PNG

The PNG image file is a Portable Network Graphic image extension. They are relatively large in size, due to the fact they display images at such a high resolution. A PNG is a raster image, meaning they are constructed piece-by-piece using detailed specifications to create the entire picture. It is a lossless compression file, which is a file that maintains its original image quality when being resized.

A picture of the PNG file type logo.
The PNG image file has beneficial compression options.

A PNG is perfect for users with limited hard drive storage space, especially if they care mainly about the quality of the image. The PNG is also a good choice for companies who are building a logo or some sort of brand design. As logos tend to be used on ads of different sizes, the PNG works well due to its lossless compression.

2. JPG

Next up is the JPG image file. The JPG is similar to the PNG because it’s capable of compressing large images into smaller ones. So what’s the main difference to consider when using JPG instead of PNG? JPG unfortunately loses quality of the image as it compresses it whereas PNG doesn’t. This is also called lossy compression and is fairly common among file types.

A picture of the JPG file icon.
The JPG is a lossy compression file.

The JPG is ideal for users with limited hard drive space, or for people building a website. A JPG won’t slow down the experience for users loading a webpage as it’s such a small image file. Furthermore, it can compress further into very small sizes when necessary. This is also helpful when putting together a library of small images where the quality of the image isn’t as important.

3. TIFF

The TIFF image file, or Tagged Image File Format, are large files that maintain optimal quality throughout changes. TIFF don’t have links in them, which can be ideal for privacy reasons. Because .tiff have no unseen data included, there will never be a virus hidden inside the files. Furthermore, users are able to verify the contents of TIFF files before opening. This is another layer of security.

A picture of the TIFF image document logo.
TIFF extensions are great for keeping records.

TIFF image extensions are ideal for important things like historical records. If a company wants to store important data that is meant to be unaltered, they should do so using the TIFF format. Finally, the TIFF is very hard to change or corrupt, making them ideal for holding sensitive files such as personal records and information.

4. NEF

NEF stands for Nikon Electronic Format and is the computer file result of a picture taken using a Nikon camera. This means that anytime someone takes a picture using a Nikon and uploads it to a computer, the image file will be stored as a NEF.  The NEF is a raw image, meaning it retains every aspect of the original photograph. This makes it very high in both resolution and file size.

A picture of a Nikon camera.
The NEF is a raw image file from a Nikon camera.

What makes the NEF image file stand out is it stores metadata alongside the image. This makes it a good candidate for a business trying to organize assets. The NEF is often converted to a different image format when it’s time to edit or resize the picture. This is because the NEF itself is very difficult to edit and is too large to share efficiently.

5. AI

The AI is an Adobe Illustrator file extension. The most important thing to learn about the AI image file is it maintains quality of the original image through expansion and reduction. Pushing the picture to its maximum size won’t reduce the quality at all. It is a vector graphic, meaning it is made up of different mathematical points. The AI is a highly scalable image format.

A picture of the AI file extension.
AI image types are great for logo use.

The ability of AI extensions to retain image integrity make them a perfect candidate for brand logos. Due to the fact brand logos will need to change size to fit onto many different things, using AI will keep their characteristics intact. Confidently use AI for all logos, including if you’re editing an existing brand image or logo.

6. ORF

The ORF image file is an Olympus Raw Image File. This is a rare file type as it requires a specific camera to take pictures in this format. Whenever a picture is snapped on an Olympus camera and uploaded to a computer, it is stored in the ORF format. It is a raw image, meaning it is the exact same detail as the original photograph. This makes it large in size and quality.

A picture of a camera photographing a lake.
The ORF is the result of an Olympus camera photograph.

One of the main benefits of the ORF is its extensive metadata features. When users search for ORF files, they find them quickly and efficiently because of the natural metadata included with them. This includes things such as date, author and background. The negative part of the ORF is its large size and lack of edit-ability. Like most camera files, it requires a conversion to a different file type in order to edit and share efficiently.

7. INDD

INDD is an Adobe InDesign file extension that generally holds layouts of things like brochures of magazines and books. It is the perfect file type to use when creating project designs, due to their sophisticated nature. Lastly, it has the uncanny ability to hold together all the different pieces of the original presentation of a project.

A picture of the INDD file icon.
The INDD is optimized for brochures.

Use an INDD when you want a project’s aesthetic to remain the same throughout an entire campaign. Think of it as the perfect way to keep things in their intended visual form. It’s also great for editing numerous pages at the same time. Finally, the INDD is a larger file type, so consider using an image hosting service to store it.

8. EPS

EPS stands for Encapsulated PostScript and is one of the most transparent file types available. The EPS image file provides descriptions of files, allowing users to view the image and image details without accessing it. It is a highly customizable and resizable file type. Unfortunately, the EPS is becoming less common because of the advances in modern software systems.

A picture of a vector image.
The EPS is a vector-based image file.

Users love the versatility of the EPS storage capabilities from its resizing traits. Even though it’s unlikely many users will work with EPS anymore, there are still some who do. This is mostly because they’re working with older files already saved as an EPS. This vector-based image file is commonly used for building company webpages, as it allows organizations to edit numerous stock photos.

9. CR2

The CR2 image file is the Canon Raw 2 or Canon Raw 2nd Edition, meaning it is the official format for all photos taken from a Canon camera and uploaded to a computer. The CR2 is a very high quality image that takes up a lot of hard drive space. It is often converted into different image file types in order to be more accessible and editable. Also, a conversion allows users to share the images more efficiently because of size restraints.

A young man and woman use a laptop to process photos from a large camera.
Raw image file types relay important bits of a picture to team members.

You should consider using a CR2 when you want raw unprocessed images from personal or professional photographs. Preserving the original gives the exact moment captured by the camera, which can be extremely valuable. The CR2 is often used by professional photographers and their clients.

10. PSD

The PSD image file is the official file for Adobe’s Photoshop program and it stands for Photoshop Document. It has the capability to store layers of images that are can be re-edited when necessary. The PSD also can hold numerous images within each file. It’s a highly editable file that is typically used to make massive overhauls and specific edits to images. It’s very likely that a graphic designer would use a PSD file to make edits.

A picture of the PSD icon.
The PSD file type has massive editing potential.

The PSD isn’t very accessible, since not everyone uses the Photoshop software. This becomes an issue when sharing the PSD. There are fortunately ways to convert it into other image file extensions for easier sharing. The optimal time to use the PSD is when you have images and layouts you prefer to evolve or re-publish in the future.

Now that you have a firm grasp on the different popular image file types and what they do, it’s important to find a system that can store them all efficiently. Canto digital asset management supports all these image file types as well as videos, presentations and other rich media. It stores images in a central location for easy retrieval and sharing. Consider digital asset management if you have extensive images you need to store.

 

Casey Schmidt – Content Manager and Industry Expert | Canto

Casey Schmidt is a content manager at Canto who enjoys taking complex subjects and making them easy to understand for readers.