Compressing Digital Photos

Simply said, compressing digital photos means compacting these photos so that they take up a smaller file size.

Compressing digital photos will not only save you lots of hard disk space so you can store more pictures, but it will also help you load your digital photos on the computer screen faster.

Another thing, if you are going to upload pictures in the web, compressing your digital photos and optimizing them for web use make your web pages load faster and save your visitors waiting time. GIF file formats are commonly used in this case.

But for our regular digital photos for personal collection and for sharing between family and friends, the most common and most recommended file format is the JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group).

This is because digital photos saved in JPEG format are high quality enough for everyday use and yet it takes less space compared to TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) which is another popular file format.

Advantages and disadvantages of JPEG

Some of the advantages in saving and compressing your digital photos in the JPEG file format include:

  • JPEG will stay for a long time, and your digital photos can be easily viewed in different computers and platforms
  • JPEG takes less space than other file formats so you can store more pictures
  • Depending on the compression level, the quality is indistinguishable from those saved in larger sized file formats

JPEG is not perfect, though. Some of the color details of your digital photos are lost when saved in this format. Although the human eye does not notice the difference if the compression level is low.

Also, when you keep editing parts of your picture then saving it, further details are lost. The image quality of your digital photos are somewhat degraded.

That's why some professional photographers work in an alternative file format.

What's the alternative for JPEG?

TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) and RAW files are two of the common alternatives for JPEG.

Let's look at TIFF first, it saves high quality images because no data or color information is discarded when editing or saving the files. But unlike JPEG, an image saved in TIFF takes up a lot of space.

On the other hand, RAW files are pure and completely unprocessed data as captured and saved from your camera's image sensor. It's like a digital negative that you can later adjust in your computer. Btw, RAW files take less space than TIFF.

For artists or professionals, these two file formats are really useful. However for ordinary folks, JPEG is pretty convenient and high quality enough.

How to set the compression level when compressing digital photos

If you're compressing digital photos using Jasc Paint Shop Pro, Choose File, Save As in the menu then click the Options button. Slide the Compression Factor slider to 1 which is the highest quality and lowest compression level. Increase it if you would like more compression.

It's actually the opposite in Adobe Photoshop. When you save a picture as JPEG, a JPEG Options window pops up and shows you the Image Quality options. Slide the bar to the farthest right side (highest quality: 12) and you'll save your picture with the lowest compression possible.

Remember, the higher the image quality and the lower the compression level, the bigger your file size will be.

I personally save my pictures in Adobe Photoshop with an image quality of 10 to save space and still have a high quality.

Where should you store your compressed digital photos?

Aside from your hard disks, you can store your compressed digital photos in CD-Rs, zip drives, or upload them into online albums such as Snapfish, Shutterfly, etc.

The advantage of storing them in removable media like CD-Rs and zip drives is that you can bring them with you wherever you go.

While if you upload your digital photos into online digital photo albums, you can access them through any computer in the world with an internet connection. Plus you can easily share them with family and friends.

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