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Photography Question 
Debra K. Johnson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/8/2005

What Format to Save?

I was wondering which format is best for saving your images for print.

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9/17/2007 8:04:36 AM

John P. Sandstedt
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/8/2001
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  If you're simply printing, it might not matter. But, if you're doing any editing before printing, you want to save in either PSD [assuming you're using Photoshop] or TIFF.

Both allow you to save layers, increasing the file size but allowing you to edit the image in further sessions.

Most cameras save in JPEG and the file size reflects the size of the sensor. For example, my Canon 30D saves JPEgs as 3500 MB files, this is typically good enough for printing AFTER I resize and change the resolution to 300 ppi.

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9/17/2007 8:25:52 AM

Ariel Lepor
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/8/2005
  You mean 3500 KB files! ;)

It doesn't matter the format. As long as the program you are using shows the image properly, it uses its own method of printing; a program converts whatever file format you are using into its own "format".

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9/17/2007 10:52:04 AM

David A. Bliss   You could get 50 different responses, and they all can be correct. You didn't give us a lot of information, like: Are you printing at home or at a lab, what kind of camera do you use (film, DSLR, P&S...) and what file type you use to shoot?
My workflow (for what it's worth) is like this:
I mostly shoot Raw (Canon DSLR), sometimes JPEG. I save (move the files from the card to the hard drive) the original files whether Raw or JPEG. I then open the image on which I am going to be working, do whatever processing is needed, then save as a PSD. I tend to save it with layers, so I can go back and do adjustments as needed without starting over. I then flatten the image, crop if necessary, then save as a JPEG at level 10. The JPEG is uploaded to my lab's site, and I order the print(s).
There are variations, to be sure, but this is basically my workflow. I have yet to see an issue where a JPEG is saved as the final print file and it didn't print as well as a TIFF (or other file format). Without getting into what a JPEG can withstand, simply save a copy of your finished image as a JPEG at 10 or higher compression level (lowest compression rate) and you should be fine. If you need to make further changes, you have the working version saved as a PSD or TIFF that you can go back to.
Again, I am not saying this is the correct workflow, but it is the one that works for me!

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9/17/2007 11:49:11 AM

Debra K. Johnson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/8/2005
  My camera is a Digital Rebel xt. I use Photoshop 7, and I use mpix for printing. You have already been so much help. Thank you.

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9/18/2007 5:53:20 AM

David A. Bliss   With the xt, you have the option of shooting Raw or JPEG. I am not going to tell you which is best, since each has its upside and downside. Regardless of which you use, be sure to save the original file. If shooting JPEG, never save over the original. Keep it as an "electronic negative."
My suggestion is to save the working file as PSD. There are two reasons. First, JPEG does have some loss when saved, and it can show when saved multiple times. Again, I won't go into the whole JPEG argument, but why not save with a compressionless file format? Second, PSD is the native file type of Photoshop. There is no chance of conflict or misinterpretation of data when opening and saving the file. You can work on it and save it as many time as you like, and the only damage to the file will be your processing. Processing an image can be considered "destructive," simply because of the act of manipulating pixels. It is not a bad thing, unless it causes visible issues. But that is another discussion... ;-)

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9/18/2007 7:15:02 AM

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