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I have read posts that alot of photographers are using RAW to store photos. But the problem I am having is that how do you people view the photos easily when you need them? In the beginning I have stored my photos in RAW but I realised its a pain when Windows doesn't shows any thumbnails and also cannot be used to open using Windows Photos Viewer. I have to use Photoshop to open and view it in RAW format. Is it okay to store it in TIFF format?

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This program will allow you to preview RAW thumbnails fastpictureviewer.com/codecs –  BBischof Nov 6 '10 at 16:56
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@BBischof You need to buy the software. I do not need additional program. –  Digital Dude Nov 7 '10 at 3:02
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Ok no problem, I just wanted to let you know of it's existance. :) –  BBischof Nov 7 '10 at 5:19
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Actually.. MS had provided a codec for windows XP: microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?id=8802. Your Camera company might also have the codec for the specific installation that you have. –  Sridhar Iyer Jul 14 '11 at 8:16
    
If you're on a Mac, Canon RAWs (Don't know about nikon, I'm a canon guy) are natively supported through the OS. You can even use an unprocessed .CR2 as a desktop image! –  Fake Name Jul 15 '11 at 8:24

8 Answers 8

Storing images as TIFF files is very space inefficient compared with raw, as TIFF images store three colours per pixel (at 8 or 16 bits per colour component, 24 or 48 total) compared to raw which just has the monochrome sensor data at 12 or 14 bits per pixel total. This monochrome data is interpolated into colour by exploiting the RGB colour filters placed in an alternating pattern over each pixel. To store the full range of colours available in the Raw you would need a 48bpp TIFF, which would take up about three times as much space (before compression).

Also raw preserves the maximum amount of editing flexibility - you're not commiting to any particular white balance or noise reduction setting. TIFFs are better than lossy JPEG images for archival purposes, but still not as good as raw.

I always keep the original Raw files, and keep a matching set of high quality JPEGs for easy viewing. There are arguments for using TIFF for archival purposes as it's an older, better documented format, understood by a much wider range of software. However if you're concerned about future compatibility then you can losslessly convert your proprietary Raw format images to Adobe Digital Negative files, which is an open format more likely to be supported in the future. The redundancy in an uncompressed 48bpp TIFF will make it slightly more tolerant of data errors, however. As Reid states there are better ways to guard against data loss, such as a backup system with error correcting codes, mirrored RAIDs etc.

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TIFF isn't by any means a simple format; it's actually insanely complex with lots of options and variations. If you want a simple, well-supported non-lossy format, choose PNG. Regarding data errors, if you're worried about that, leaving things uncompressed is a poor way to address it; what you want is computed redundancy (e.g., PAR2) for the whole archive, since data-loss errors are going to take out many disk blocks at once (i.e., most of a file at least), not a few bytes here and there. –  Reid Nov 6 '10 at 17:40
    
Fair enough. I meant it's a straight up bitmap format (if you don't use compression), unlike something like JPEG, which if you opened up would be very difficult to make any sense out of without documentation. –  Matt Grum Nov 6 '10 at 18:48
    
Also, keep in mind that you could lose some metadata when converting from proprietary RAW to DNG. –  chills42 Nov 6 '10 at 19:10
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I'm very happy that my camera supports DNG natively, sames some time... In any case, disk is cheap, so I too keep the raw data. That choice is much more flexible. If you're on Windows Vista or 7, there are image libraries that will display the DNG in Windows Explorer and picture viewer (for 32 and 64 bit Windows), so I don't usually keep a lot of the JPEGs around. –  John Cavan Nov 6 '10 at 19:32

TIFF is an image format, RAW is a data format. For longevity and to fight obsolescence, between the two, TIFF is the only sensible one.

There are better formats though from an efficiency point-of-view that also are lossless, which I assume is what you were concerned about. PNG comes to mind as one of the best choices (as Reid suggested).

OpenEXR is another open-format with high bit-depth support. JPEG-2000 would have been a contender buy high licensing costs gave it adoption problems.

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Why the downvote? some good info there. I would like to add though that TIFF is an acronym, Raw is a proper noun ;) –  Matt Grum Nov 6 '10 at 18:40
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I don't think the future-proofing argument holds for TIFF vs. raw - since the TIFF format is so complicated, it's easy to have a "TIFF" even now that can't be opened by some programs. On the other hand, all the major raw formats are supported by open-source software which isn't going away. –  Reid Nov 6 '10 at 21:17
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I disagree with the data/image comparison. TIFF is an interpretation of data and information is lost. Any loss of information produces an inferior maximum possible result. A TIFF image can only ever approach the information in a RAW master. RAW is the mother-lode. TIFF is a crafted product which may be more convenient than RAW in many situations, but it can never be "better". –  Russell McMahon May 11 '12 at 16:14
    
@RussellMcMahon The reason you are wrong is that you are missed the point that RAW data have to be interpreted. TIFF has a standard and the interpretation of the data is defined the the standard. There is no RAW standard and the interpretation of the data is in the proprietary vaults of the camera maker, some of whom will no longer be around in 20 years or wont care about old RAW files. DNG has an open specification for the format but its interpretation is NOT COMPLETELY defined by the standard and therefore suffers from the same problem. –  Itai May 12 '12 at 2:22
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@Itai - Your point is EXACTLY the point that I was making. Yes, RAW data has to be interpreted to create an image. It can be interpreted to JPG / BMP / TIFF or other. BUT the RAW data is THE data - the actual pure most available information there is of what the camera 'saw' Anything else is 2nd best or worse. TIFF may be useful and powerful, but it's like a skilled copy of the Mona Lisa - it's NOT the real thing. Abandoning RAW for TIFF is putting convenience ahead of excellence - a choice each my make if desired. The argument about losing the software is irrelevant to the main point. –  Russell McMahon May 12 '12 at 13:48

It's now 18 months since the question was asked ... :-)

In the beginning I have stored my photos in RAW but I realised its a pain ...
Is it okay to store it in TIFF format?

No! Not if you do not want to lose "data".
If data loss is not important to you then any format that meets your needs and standards can be used.

TIFF is an interpretation of data and information is usually lost on conversion from RAW. ie given a RAW file you can always regenerate a TIFF file if you know the decisions and assumptions made. But given a TIFF file it will usually be impossible to reconstitute the master RAW files regardless of what you know about settings etc. Whether this loss of data is acceptable is up to you.

Any loss of information produces an inferior maximum possible result.

A TIFF image can only ever approach the information in a RAW master.

RAW is the 'mother-lode'.
TIFF is a crafted product which may be more convenient than RAW in many situations, but it can never be "better".

It has been claimed that RAW files may not be able to be processed in future.
There is no reason for conversion abilities to be lost in future for any data format which is even slightly mainstream and which is formally defined. Whereas hardware to read an 8" / 5.25" / 3.5" floppy diskette or a daa pack or a reel-to-reel tape or a cassette tape or ... may get increasingly hard to obtain with the passage of time, if the data is of value then retaining a means of manipulating it is easy and essentially zero cost. It may get slightly harder for information long archived but there are too many photographers in the world for such capability to ever now get lost.

And yes, I am well aware of the hubris involved in such a claim and of the shortcomings of human nature. But, it's still essentially true.


ADDED:

This answer has been down-voted - presumably by somebody who places convenience ahead of quality - a valid choice in some cases.

@Itai said:

... RAW data have to be interpreted. TIFF has a standard and the interpretation of the data is defined the the standard. There is no RAW standard and the interpretation of the data is in the proprietary vaults of the camera maker, some of whom will no longer be around in 20 years or wont care about old RAW files. DNG has an open specification for the format but its interpretation is NOT COMPLETELY defined by the standard and therefore suffers from the same problem

Yes, RAW data has to be interpreted to create an image.
It can be interpreted to JPG or to BMP or to TIFF or some other convenient format.
BUT the RAW data is THE data - the actual pure most available information there is of what the camera 'saw' Anything else is 2nd best or worse. TIFF may be useful and powerful, but it's like a skilled copy of the Mona Lisa - it's NOT the real thing. A TIFF files includes the user's interpretation after the photographic event of how they want the scene to appear. As an expression of artistry it can be an entirely valid decision to keep the TIFF and discard the RAW file. But you are also discarding data which the camera provided. Whether you are happy with this is up to you.

Abandoning RAW for TIFF is putting convenience ahead of excellence - a choice each my make if desired.

The argument about losing the software is irrelevant to the main point.
It's an important one but should in no way affect the understanding of the fundamental difference between RAW and TIFF.
Worrying about converter unavailability is similar to worrying that the rolling code remote control for your older BMW may fail and not be replaceable in 10 years time - except that the car system relies on hardware and the RAW converter relies ONLY on software. If you can backup and retain your images for 5 / 10/ 20 / 30 years (or 100) it is every bit as easy to retain the software. And if there are 100,000+ users of any given RAW standards worldwide, the chances of the converter being unavailable and unrunnable in say 25 years time is less than the chance of the sky falling on Chicken Little. Operating systems change - an where it matters to people, emulators keep them alive.

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I hear your point on the "real thing", but I think it's not quite right. The real thing of a photograph comes from the photographer, not raw data from the sensor, and an unprocessed RAW isn't that. Consider the difference in value of an original print by Ansel Adams vs. a print from the same negative by a different printmaker. The RAW is like the negative — it isn't the photograph. It's not a finished work like the Mona Lisa. A TIFF can be — it's a final, "developed" image. It's not like your example of a copy of the Mona Lisa at all. –  mattdm May 12 '12 at 16:47
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@mattdm - We agree :-) As I said "As an expression of artistry it can be an entirely valid decision to keep the TIFF and discard the RAW file. But you are also discarding data which the camera provided. Whether you are happy with this is up to you." My key point is that you can regenerate a semi-infinite number of TIFFs if you know the decisions made to create them, but you often cannot get back to the RAW image from its derivatives. I agree with your Ansel Adams negative/RAW & Print/TIFF analogy. Offered an Ansel Adams negative and a print from it by a top print maker, I know which I'd take! –  Russell McMahon May 12 '12 at 18:04

There are very good reasons to save the raw and equally good reasons to save it as a TIFF - even without considering the preview. (this answer assumes you want to keep the images for the long term, if you only care about the next few months you can ignore it)

  • Raw is the original, it is the only original, converting to TIFF loses data and editing options - so you should save the RAW

  • Raw is camera specific, and with the speed of technology progress it's entirely possible that in ten years you wouldn't be able to find a program that can process today's raw - so you should save the TIFF

  • DNG is an interesting compromise because its a non camera specific raw format - but 1. it's not widely adopted yet (compare to TIFF, JPEG, PNG or even Canon's CR2 nad Nikon's NEX it's virtually unused), it's entirely possible that the format will be abandoned (and having your data in a standard file when no one is writing software to read it is just as problematic as a proprietary file that no one can read) it's also possible that as the file format evolves with technology software will stop supporting the old "obsolete" parts of the spec - again resulting in a file you can't use - so DNG has the same drawbacks as saving the original raw.

So, my recommendation is save both the RAW and the TIFF.

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Interesting discussion, one that has led me to some conclusions of my own. To comment on one of the above answers: "Consider the difference in value of an original print by Ansel Adams vs. a print from the same negative by a different printmaker." I think the art world would value that specific print; but if the negative were somehow destroyed, that would have been a terrible loss to the late Ansel Adams since he could always make another print.

So who's viewpoint are we taking here? The gallery owner? Or the photographer? And consider that, although a print might be the final masterpiece, the photographer might want to come back to that negative and print it a whole new way, from a new matured sensibility -- or maybe "just because." To the photographer, the raw material, the negative, has considerable value, possibly more PRACTICAL value than the print because the print (the "interpretation") can always be re-rendered. And don't forget that many of the great photographers had their negatives printed by others, so we can't always assume that "a different printmaker" lessens the value, or the importance, of the negative.

So -- again assuming that we will be able to read at least the popular RAW file formats long into the future -- I have to privilege the digital negative over some current interpretation that is represented by a TIFF. One negative, multiple TIFFs. One TIFF, and that's all she wrote, the image is frozen in time to a given interpretation (and yes, you can continue to further interpret and alter that TIFF, but then you are working from a copy and not the original). I'm storing my stuff as RAW, PLUS any "interpretations" (TIFF, JPG, etc.) I make over time. Storage is cheap. But if I had to choose, it would be RAW.

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Storing your photos in RAW/DNG format preserves your ability to convert or 'develop' your RAW images in different or improved ways in the future.

This is the biggest single advantage of saving your images in RAW/DNG format.
Examples of this are
- you can use a different or improved demosaicing algorithm
- you can change the noise reduction
- you can change the colour and exposure conversion profile
- you can change the white balance
- you can change the white point, black point and conversion profile

The optimum place to apply these changes is to the original RAW data where there has been no information change or loss.

While RAW formats are proprietary, and this would seem to limit their usefulness in the future, you are in fact fully protected by the Open Source nature of the alternative conversion libraries provided by Dave Coffin (dcraw). I use the words RAW and DNG interchangeably here since many cameras will store in either DNG or RAW format.

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is there any way you can view it from Thumbnails in Windows Explorer without opening a software? –  Digital Dude Nov 7 '10 at 3:06
    
I use Ubuntu Linux so can't reply to that question. But Picasa (in Windows and Linux) does a fine job of of viewing and organising RAW/DNG photos. –  labnut Nov 7 '10 at 5:52
    
@Digital Dude: BBischof's already told you how to "view it from Thumbnails in Windows Explorer without opening a software" - there are a number of available packages that, when installed, will display thumbnails for raw files in Windows Explorer. Whether you are prepared to pay a small fee for that functionality is a different matter. –  Conor Boyd Nov 7 '10 at 20:04
    
Beware of viewing RAW thumbnails. RAW files are not images, they have to be transformed. When you 'see' a RAW file as a thumbnail or preview (i.e. before developing it), you see something which may not look as expected and often looks dull and different from the image you expect to see. 'Why do my RAw images look so aweful' IS one of the most frequent questions people ask about RAW files! DNG is the same in this regards. –  Itai Nov 8 '10 at 4:14
    
@Itai: many cameras now store thumbnails/previews in the RAW image file. These thumbnails are what you would see if you had saved as a jpeg instead of RAW. –  labnut Nov 8 '10 at 10:55

I am not a professional photographer, I photograph what I like. I archive raw and its sidecar file to DVD disk. I store an artistically created via exposure and composition adjustments etc. from the raw file to a TIF format and store to two separate hard disk drives. I store a copy of a TIF to JPG conversion for searching and selection processes. I copy the TIF format for the desired end result by searching for the desired photograph from the JPG format and then go to the TIF file. The raw files are typically 25Mb, the TIF files are typically 70Mb and the JPG files are typically 250k. The JPG is fast for searching, the TIF is as I desired and the raw file is available to change to a different outcome. File space is cheap and I probably won't live long enough to exceed my availability to any of the files.

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I've been taking photos for years and each format has its applications

To explain simply: A RAW file is similar to a photographic negative as it stores the original capture, so is useful to keep.

Normally for output (positive/print) a format like JPG is required, which is easily obtained from any DSLR.

Llevo años realizando fotografías y cada sistema de almacenamiento tienen unas determinadas aplicaciones.

Para ilustrar simplemente a cualquier principiante se puede poner como ejemplo lo siguiente:

Un archivo RAW es similar al "negativo" de una toma fotográfica, a partir del mismo se puede positivar de diversos modos, pero esa base es inalterable, por lo cual es muy interesante conservarlo.

Normalmente su visualización/transformación (copia positiva) es recomendable en JPEG, labor que realiza automáticamente cualquier cámara reflex.

Cualquier otro formato se encuentra basado en el mismo principio, aunque requiera un visualizador especifico.

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That's a simple explanation of what a RAW file is compared to a final output format like JPG, but what about the question: TIFF vs RAW? –  MikeW Nov 27 '13 at 0:23
    
Please note that this is an English-language site and answers are preferred to be in this form. Thanks for the translation @MikeW –  John Cavan Nov 27 '13 at 1:10

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