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I am putting together a photo book. I shot all the photos in RAW. The prints will be 300pi on 13x11 inch glossy paper. I am laying out the pages in InDesign, which doesn't allow me to import and place RAW images.

Should I convert the images to JPG or TIFF? I know TIFF is higher quality but is it really that much better? Is the difference noticeable?

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If you're using Lightroom, you may be interested in Jeffrey Friedl's InDesign workflow. (He uses PSD as the intermediary, BTW.) regex.info/blog/2010-11-15/1662 –  coneslayer Apr 13 '11 at 22:32
    
Part of the problem with all JPEG/TIFF questions is that you're not comparing the same thing. TIFF is a container and as such it can hold data in various formats including JPEG (and Fax among others). You have to be specific about what you're putting into that TIFF. –  James Snell Aug 31 '13 at 10:22

5 Answers 5

up vote 11 down vote accepted

These two formats are different:

JPEG general info

  1. JPEG is used to store images on smaller disk space
  2. JPEG compression algorithm changes image data while converting it. Amount of change can be controlled but not its location which is always around sharp colour changes
  3. JPEG is primarily an RGB format
  4. If you'd be saving and opening the same image several times, you'd end up with an unusable image, because every time it would save it it would generate some changes.
  5. But: Photographic image material is especially well suited for JPEG format, because it contains lots of different colours and nuances. Since JPEG's compression changes these things they become rather invisible in the image. That's why the most priminent parts with JPEG artefacts are very sharp contrast changes as shown in the below images example.

TIFF general info

  1. TIFF is primarily used in press
  2. It's perfectly natural for a TIFF file to save image data in CMYK colour space which is used in press
  3. TIFF can also compress image data but uses such an algorithm that doesn't change source data (lossless compression)
  4. TIFF format also supports alpha channel (transparency) which is also relevant in press
  5. If you'd be opening and saving the same TIFF file, you'll end up with exactly the same image as source. Nothing would change in terms of image data.

Saving

If you want your images to stay as true to original as possible I'd rather go with TIFF format (with compression) because I can later open it, manipulate it etc and not taking the risk that resulting image (once again saved) would become useless with each save.

Verdict

Since RGB -> CMYK conversion used to be bad on prepress machines it was perfectly normal to prepare all images in CMYK format and saved in TIFFs. Since I used to do prepress couple of decades ago I feel natural using TIFF whenever preparing anything for press/print because I can easily control the outcome.

Nowadays these things are more similar yet I'd still rather use TIFF/CMYK because of lossless (saved image is same as original) compression and output control.

You can more or less always tell that a certain image was saved as a JPEG because in areas with strong contrast you can see the JPEG compression artefacts. The stronger the compression the more JPEG noise or artefacts. If you'd use maximum JPEG quality these would be minimized but still not none. So some image is still distorted due to JPEG compression.

This is an example of an exaggerated artefact JPEG artefact. First the original and then the low quality JPEG so you can see the difference.

Artefact free Artefact

sidenote: both of these images are JPEGs although the original is saved with maximum JPEG quality (22.5kb) and the bad one uses lowest possible JPEG quality (20.1kb). Size difference would be significant when images are big (or even huge) and containe lots of colurs and nuances. But as previously stated, it's harder to see JPEG artefacts in nice gradients than around sharp contrast transitions. And since every lens is more or less soft at pixel level there are less sharp contrast/colour transitions that would enhance JPEG artefacts.

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1  
lossy vs. lossless compression is largely irrelevant for printing, as it only really becomes a problem (giving minimum compression during saving) when doing many consecutive load-edit-save operations on a JPEG. When saving a JPEG at minimum compression for printing from a TIFF or RAW original, you'll never notice. And that's my workflow. The shop I use accepts only JPEG (and by now I think PNG). I save the NEF, work on a TIFF, and save a copy of that as JPEG for printing which gets archived for future duplication. –  jwenting Apr 14 '11 at 6:51
    
@jwenting: I agree. That's usually easier for print shops not to deal with clients that don't know anything about colour spaces and file formats. And JPEGs are supported by OSes by default. TIFFs are not. Anyway. It also depends what you mean by printing. Is it just getting your photos or is it digital offset printing or is it maybe press printing. Each of them requires different things. But for backup purposes I'd rather use either compressed RAWs or TIFFs. You could also compress your backup folder on the system level ans save your RAWs in it. –  Robert Koritnik Apr 14 '11 at 8:24
    
few times I've sold things for magazine or commercial use the publisher wanted JPEG as well :) I prefer uncompressed TIFF over compressed because of potential compatibility issues (the compression system for TIFF is less firmly standardised than the uncompressed format, but maybe I'm paranoid). –  jwenting Apr 14 '11 at 16:45
    
@jwenting: You're right about TIFF compression support (lthough LZW is quite widely supported). But if I'd be saving uncompressed TIFFs (for compatibility purposes) I'd save them in compressed folders (I don't know about Macs but Windows support this folder feature. Such folders are usually displayed in blue colour in Windows Explorer). This way my TIFFs would be uncompressed but would take similar disk space as if they were compressed. –  Robert Koritnik Apr 14 '11 at 18:37

While TIFF is technically 'better' in that it is lossless, if you use high-quality JPEGs you will save yourself a lot of memory issues and you will probably not notice the difference in final quality.

It may be worth checking with your print company to see what they recommend.

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+1 for company-checking. All the quality is not worth the hassle if your company expects a different format. –  Leonidas Apr 13 '11 at 21:38

From personal experience with art prints, there are special cases in which using JPEG, even at highest quality can ruin the print. That happens mostly when you have smooth gradients and/or dark regions such as in this one: http://fav.me/d55guh4 . Smooth gradients are ruined even by the best JPEG format - you get banding and it can show really badly on a print. Also if there is even the slightest color/contrast adjustment to be made on such an image (for instance at the printing lab), again you get banding or lose the smoothness or detail in the dark regions. However, if you do usual photos in daylight, with different colors, then go with highest quality JPEG because you probably won't have any issues.

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What if the images are provided as JPG, some you up-res, some you don't. The question is: does converting the image to TIFF actually produce a better ( because it transforms artifacts to a smoother gradient? Or, it doesn't matter because the final art TIFF has saved the JPG's artifacts anyway?

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The TIF would be created from the RAW file, not the JPG, so would not retain the JPG's artifacts. Otherwise, yes, the TIF would contain any degradations from the JPG it was converted from. This is really a new question, not an answer to the original question - so best to click the Ask Question link above and ask it :) –  MikeW Apr 25 at 20:06

Personally I would never print something that was going to be hung on the wall from a jpeg container. Why would you want to print anything that has been compressed? You want the highest quality data to transfer to the printer. JPEG saves processioning time and space. It would be the last resort file in-case I lost all my RAW, .cr2, .png, and .tiff files.

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But is the difference noticeable? –  MikeW May 27 at 0:45

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