Digital Photography – Understanding File Formats

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 18,913
    Commercial photographer Michael Stewart discusses the basics of digital photography including how to understand different files and file formats.

    Michael Stewart: Hi! I am Michael Stewart. I am a professional photographer showing you simple, digital photography. Now, I am going to talk about files and file formats. Your files are going to be saved from the media cards. It is very important that you have enough memory to make it through your vacation or to take as many pictures as you need. I suggest that you have a significant memory for 9D images on each card and probably have two cards. Because inevitably what happens is you don't download, you wait until a card is full and then once it is full, you are like, "Oh, I can't take any more pictures". I also do not recommend that you delete any files from the camera. I recommend that you download all of your files on to the computer and then format the card in your camera at that point. What happens when you delete files as you go on the camera, is that you do get rid of the pictures you don't like and make more space, but it make space fragmented on the card. That means if there are little sections of space and then when you take pictures, it tries to fill in those little sections and this can cause card corruption. So just keep shooting. Shoot lots of files. Don't erase anything and then download them all to your computer and erase them at that point. You also might find that you save some that you actually liked. So, in downloading these files, I recommend going ahead and getting a card reader. Rather than hooking up your camera to the computer. This is just a much simpler way, you can still have your camera in action. And you just leave this hooked up to your computer. Plug the card into the reader and this causes a simpler procedure than hooking the camera. Often hooking the camera up invokes all kinds of things in the computer. It wants to do things automatically that you may not want to do. You just want to download your files. Now, let's talk about file formats. Cameras record in a number of different formats. It is usually jpeg with different sizes. I see no reason not to do the highest level of jpeg you can. That is usually called Superfine and why would you throw away information that your camera could take? You might want to make a bigger print of that spectacular photo. And if you have recorded it in a smaller size. That is going to be difficult to do. A jpeg file is a compressed file. So what happens is, it's a lossy compressed file. So, it throws away some information that it thinks is not important and it compresses it to make it smaller. With today's digital media being so cheap, we want to save all the information we can. There is no need to compress it down. The other thing with the jpeg file is when you open it in your computer and then save it again, it compresses it again. So every time you open, make a change to it and save it again, you are loosing information and that is going to degrade the file in the end. Now, if you really want to move up to the next level in photography, getting a camera that can record a raw file format is the way to go. The raw file format, everything that the sensor sees and puts it on to the card. You then have that all that information and that has not been compressed at all. The raw file is designed to be a digital negative. And what this means is that, touch your negative and every time you want to do something with it, you take that raw file and you make another file from it. A derivative file. So I will take my raw file. I will use a raw file processor. And then I will make a jpeg from that. Or perhaps a tif file, a tif file, what some cameras record. I do not recommend for setting your camera to record a tif file. They are too big and too slow there but on your computer, it can be a nice way to store a file without loosing information about it. Once you have opened your jpeg and made some changes to it like color correcting, sharpening, whatever you might need to do to that, you want to save it as a tif, if you don't want to compress it again as a jpeg. Jpeg is simply for delivery of a final file and for recording in the camera. So, that is some basics on dealing with file formats. Next, we will cover exposure.