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?
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.
It's now 18 months since the question was asked ... :-)
No! Not if you do not want to lose "data".
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'.
It has been claimed that RAW files may not be able to be processed in future.
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.
This answer has been down-voted - presumably by somebody who places convenience ahead of quality - a valid choice in some cases.
Yes, RAW data has to be interpreted to create an image.
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.
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)
So, my recommendation is save both the RAW and the TIFF.
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.
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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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.
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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