In photography, we can think about file formats as the ‘package’ an image comes in. In this class, Karl looks at the different file formats and what they mean for our photographs.

When it comes to file formats, there’s no shortage of options. While the discussion often focuses on RAW vs JPEG, each of the other file types has their part to play too. But what do the different formats mean, and which one is best?

This class looks at formats such as JPEG, PSD, TIFF, PSB, PNG, BMP, and RAW and explains what each of these means. Karl also explains the relation of bit depth and why this is an important concept to understand when it comes to file formats.

Finally, Karl takes a closer look at two of the most common file types — RAW and JPEG — and does a comparison between the processing results when it comes to shadow and highlight detail recovery, changing colour temperature, adjusting exposure and what this all does to the overall image quality.

Karl also touches on the best working practices for different files, whether you’re planning to print your image, looking to maximise storage space or retouch your photos.

In this class:

  • Understanding digital file formats
  • The differences between types of file formats
  • File types for printing, storage considerations and retouching
  • RAW vs JPEG differences
  • RAW vs JPEG visual comparison

Other related classes you may be interested in include:

Questions? Please post them in the comments section below.


  1. Hi Karl,
    I use Canon R6, it has 2 card slots, normally i select RAW for first card slot, and JPEG for the second card slot. Normally I use RAW. If the second slot sd card get damage no problem but if the first slot sd card get damage my raw files may gone. I consider to set RAW for both of them. What is your recommedation about that, can i learn your work flow please, thank you

  2. Thank you for another wonderful explanation along with the presentation! Very grateful for your website and all the work you’ve done!

    I have a question.

    Lets say I opened RAW file and IMMEDIATELY exported it as a PSD without any modifications. Now I have a PSD file and I open it in Photoshop. There is no intermediate JPEG files, no TIFF files.

    Did I also lose the ability to recovery details in PSD? Same as in JPEG? I guess I’m trying to better understand what is a photoshop layer and how much detail it preserves. I understand that if you import JPEG into Photoshop there is nothing much you can do, you get what you had. But what happens when you export RAW into PSD?

    P.S. It would be really helpful to have these two files in downloads section. I could just do experiments myself and check it myself.

    1. Hi Denis, If you exported the RAW directly as a PSD it would hold less information than the RAW but exactly the same amount of information as if it was a tiff. But there is no need to keep it as a RAW once you’ve made your adjustments using the RAW editor such as ‘Camera Raw’ in PS or LR, once you are happy with the shot then you can export it as a PSD or Tiff, if you export it as a jpeg then you won’t be able to get as much out of it as a PSD or tiff. Or if you are concerned that you may need more info than the PSD or tiff can offer then work on the RAW file as a smart object or the other trick is to export several versions of the RAW for highlights, shadows, colour etc and then bring all of those images into one PSD as layers and then you can use masks to choose the best part of each layer.

  3. Karl . . . thanks very much for your thorough explanation and many thanks again for just being here and helping educate so many of us out here. Most of what you mention in your answer I’ve gleaned from your classes so my question really should have been regarding how, if it is at all possible, someone can get anything deeper, data- & information-wise, out of old film negatives and transparencies. I anticipate that the answer will be “No” but before I give up hope on my mass of older work I thought that I’d ask.
    As an aside, I’m curious if you have any portal on your site for folks to advertise equipment for sale or to buy ? Thanks again ever so much for providing this extremely valuable website for other photographers. So much to learn and such an exciting journey ! My best to you & your Crew . . . Dennis

    1. Hi Dennis, thank you for your continued support! The only way you can get more out of a scanned negative is with a top level scanner that has greater bit depth and tonal capture capability. This may be some of the high end magnetic drum scanners like the Hasselblad Flextight scanners or the pro repro drum scanners. Essentially the better the scanner the more information it could extract. With regards advertising equipment you can use our members facebook group for KTE members to discuss photography related items, techniques and equipment sales. All the best Karl.

  4. Karl, Dennis Synnes here.
    I’m back to photography with an H6D 100C but VERY new to the digital world of photography. Your site is an incredible wealth of an education for me so thank you ever so much for what you do here.
    My old 500C/M and the ELM, and their five lenses, have sat in a drawer these past years since digital arrived on the scene but I have a bulging steamer trunk of 6 X 6 negatives and transparencies to show for past efforts. I’ve digitized my favorites but my question to you today, since watching this “RAW vs JPEG” lesson, is whether I must be content to clean and work with all of these captures as JPEG’s or is there a way that I can squeeze any deeper information out of them at this late stage. Nothing that I have is any newer than 30 years.
    Also, thanks to your guidance ( ! ) I’m working my way through learning Phocus and the Photoshop package is due to arrive here today sometime.
    Again, bless you for having this site and your very considerable talents as a teacher . . . many thanks !


    1. Hi Dennis, thank you for your comments. Well a H6-100 is certainly a way to get back into photography! In answer to your question if the negatives you had scanned were only scanned as jpegs then yes you will be limited by the information that you can get from them. If they were scanned and also saved as 16bit tiff files then you’ll be able to get quite a lot of latitude out of them. If they are only jpegs, if the negative scans were good and you were happy with the exposures as they were then all of that information that was in the scan that was visible will still be there but just not much beyond that. The benefit of a RAW file is the extra couple of stops we can pull out of highlights or shadows whilst retaining the base exposure. On thing you’ll see me teach is how you can also duplicate your RAW file and have one for the base exposure, adjust one for highlights and one for deep shadows and then layer the three together in a new image in Photoshop and then using masks you can very precisely bring out just the parts you want giving you much more latitude than could ever be obtained in a neg or transparency. The beauty of the H6 though is that if your lighting or your scene is good it records such great latitude that the images look superb with very little work. Enjoy!

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