Format and Resolution – What You Need to Know

format-resolutionWith a digital camera, when you press the shutter release, you capture an image on the image sensor. The image is then written to a pre selected format and transferred to some type of media card (that can be used again and again.) There are several different types of media cards, the manufacture of the camera determines which media card works with your particular camera. The media card itself is like a blank canvas.

What matters to you is what format you are saving on the media card and what resolution you choose to save the image at.

Most digital cameras offer three formats: JPEG ( .jpg), TIFF ( .tiff), and RAW format. JPEG’s reduce the size of the file saved, but they also reduce some image quality. The TIFF format applies all the settings of the camera and has no image quality loss, but the files are much larger! The third file format is called the RAW format. File sizes are half the size of the TIFF format, because few camera settings are stored with the image. As the name implies, RAW format assumes that you will change contrast; lighting, color balance and other setting after you get the image. If you want total control, this is the format for you.

For most of us, the JPEG format is preferred because it takes less space, all camera settings are applied, and you can view JPEGs in every photo editing software known to man. (That’s NOT always the case with pictures saved in the TIFF and RAW formats.) The example below is only a guide, since different manufactures have different rates of compression.

Example of images shot with a 5-Mega pixel** Camera:

If saved in TIFF format: TIFF = 14.5 MB per image

If saved in JPEG format JPEG = 1.5 MB per image

If saved in RAW format RAW = 7.5 MB per image

(** Mega means Million, therefore . . . a 5 Mega pixel image refers

to a photo with 5 Million pixels per square inch.)

Format and Resolution are two different things

Format would be similar to choosing oil color, water color, or pastel, before you start painting. Resolution would be the number of colors you choose to work with. A camera with 2 Mega pixels for example, would be like having a box with 6 crayons in it. (Your maximum print size would be about 5×7 inches.) A camera with 5 or 6 Mega pixels would be like having the big box with 64 crayons in it. (You could print pictures 18 x 24 inches or larger!) Can you draw with only six crayons? Of course you can, but how much more can you do with 64? Obviously, the higher the Mega Pixels a camera has, the bigger the image you can print and the more options you have. Just remember, 64 crayons takes a lot more space in your hand than only 6 crayons; likewise storing images made with a big mega pixel camera also takes up a lot more space on your hard drive.

About the Author:
Award winning writer / photographer Tedric Garrison has 30 years experience in photography ( As a Graphic Art Major, he has a unique perspective. His photo eBook “Your Creative Edge” proves creativity can be taught. Today, he shares his wealth of knowledge with the world through his website.

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