Genealogy: Which image file format should I use?

Digital photography is all about lighting and locationThe most common image file formats—the most important for general purposes today—are TIF, JPG, GIF, and PNG. These are not the only choices, but they are good and reasonable choices.

Best File Types for These General Purposes:

Photographic Images

  • Properties: Continuous tones, 24-bit color or 8-bit gray, no text, few lines and edges.
  • Best Quality for Archived Master:  TIF or PNG (no JPG artifacts).
  • Smallest File Size: JPG with a higher quality factor can be decent (JPG is of questionable quality for archiving master copies).
  • Compatibility (PC, Mac, Unix):  TIF or JPG (the simplest programs may not read TIF LZW).
  • Worst Choice: TIF or JPG (the simplest programs may not read TIF LZW).

Graphics, Including Logos or Line Art

  • Properties: Solid colors, up to 256 colors, with text or lines and sharp edges.
  • Best Quality for Archived Master:  PNG or GIF or TIF (no JPG artifacts).
  • Smallest File Size: TIF, LZW, GIF or PNG   (graphics/logos usually permit reducing 2 to 16 colors for smallest file size).
  • Compatibility (PC, Mac, Unix): TIF without LZW or GIF.
  • Worst Choice: JPG compression adds artifacts, smears text and lines and edges.