What image file format should a photographer deliver to client: JPG, TIFF or even RAW

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  • pore assumptions
    1st JPG is lossly format and the worst option for delivering a product. it will have artifacts and should the client resize and save it it will get worse and worse over time. In short JPG should only ever be used as the file format and then only when file size is an issue such as when its being rendered to a web page. It should never be used for printing, editing, archiving, etc. thus its usless as a product delivery format.

    2nd TIFF solid option, it does not present the compression issues of JPG e.g. is sutable for printing, archiving and general edits such as scaling without degrading quality, etc..

    3rd RAW, when someone requests RAW anytime I have ever known one to do so its because they would like the ability to make there own edits later. This makes since its no different than requesting source code when you contract a program, site or service to be created. Personaly I wouldn’t pay for a photographer that didn’t offer the source or at very least an unedited lossless format e.g. save the RAW as TIFF for example if your just opposed to .raw for some reason. More over I would never accept a lossly format as final delivery.

    So Option #3 that is the original source, Option #2 a compiled release of said source, Option #1 (jpg) suitable for demo, display, concept, etc. e.g. when you want it small and dont mind some artifacts here and there.

    • Frank S

      Well, you may have a different position on the topic, however, I believe you look at it from a very theoretical perspective and your arguments do not necessarily apply to most situations.
      JPG is certainly not a lossless compression but it is definitely not as bad as you describe it:
      it depends on the degree of compression you apply and internally on the compression codec used. Given that you would deliver a JPG with a 100% quality setting leaves it visually perfect und I doubt anybody will detect a difference to TIFF.
      Artifacts only would appear if the compression degree is too high, meaning the quality setting is <100%. Or if the camera itself is not the best quality or has a low resolution (…but then a RAW would also be low quality).
      So, the statement that there are always visually detectable compression artifacts is a myth. It might stem from highly compressed JPGs used for websites 10 years ago.

      RAW as an unprocessed format will show lot of issues like noise, lens distortion, and most important it looks flat and boring because no processing (e.g. color correction, sharpening and so on) is applied. RAW looks ugly without editing;

      As in my article explained, RAW needs the editing component before it can be used.
      A client would need a creative department with experts who edit the RAW.

      RAW is often misunderstood as the NEGATIVE which was in classic photography the original that had camera settings which where chosen by the photographer (like WB, exposure, etc) and all tricks applied. That was BEFORE the digital editing age. Digital Editing allows to change such settings later in post-processing.
      Logical consequence is that Editing is part of creating the ORIGINAL, therefore the final result has to be rendered and delivered as either TIFF or JPG.
      JPGs in high resolution work great for most purposes. TIFF rendered files use probably 5 to 10-times more storage than a JPG but do not provide an advantage other than to be later the better format for re-editing / re-saving.
      Many things are myths, many things are only valid in theory or in lab situations. Not in real world situations. It's like the marketing talk about a product in comparison to its real world situation performance. But… everybody has the right to their own opinion.