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File Format for Printing

Tyler Wind , Mar 07, 2007; 12:41 p.m.

I'm planning to get some 8x10 pictures printed at a local shop. This will be my first time printing larger images from my files and I'm wondering what format is best to use. Some of my shots are large JPEG, which means I'm limited to large JPEG for printing (right?). However, most of them were shot RAW. Should I convert them to TIFF and take them to the shop? Or, should I convert them to highest quality JPEG? In general, what is the difference between TIFF and high res JPEG and when would you use one over the other? What format do you guys convert to when a shot is taken in RAW and you want to print it with top-notch quality? Thanks!


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Mike Pobega , Mar 07, 2007; 01:09 p.m.

From your tiff, a HQ one time jpg is fine. As long as any future changes are always made from tiff. For first generation (2nd?) you will not notice the difference between tiff and HQ jpg. Thats my workflow;

RAW---TIFF master(or psd)---jpg for output.

Carsten Bockermann , Mar 07, 2007; 01:10 p.m.

While I think you won't be able to see a difference between a high-quality JPEG and a TIFF at 8x10, I must admit that I always use TIFF on the CDs I give to my printer, just to make sure. With the low price of CDs I don't see a reason to use JPEG.


Jeremy Podolski , Mar 07, 2007; 01:34 p.m.

I agree with the above posters. You may not notice a difference, but why not get the best possible print you can, which would involve converting to lossless format like TIFF. My local shop also accepts images on a jump drive, so you don't have to even burn a CD (unless the files are larger than 50MB).

I just went through this process for the first time myself, and found the process very convenient. I used a kiosk at my photo lab and uploaded my TIFs. I was then able to order prints right on the spot. I did have one 8x10 that was over the 50 MB limit, but for that, I just gave my CD to the shop and they are tkaing care of it. I pick up the prints tonight, so am keeping my fingers crossed that they turned out well.

Also, don't forget to size the photos yourself in PS before turning them over to the lab. You will get a better result if you do the downsizing or upsizing yourself, because you can choose the resampling method and can sharpen, etc., according to the size of the print. If you give them a huge file but want a 4x6, they may downsize it with an arbitrary method, giving you a less polished result. Same would be true for upsizing if your file is smaller. Good luck.

Marshall Goff , Mar 07, 2007; 02:15 p.m.

Ask them what they want and accept.

Then give them the highest quality option they offer you. Tiff as first choice. Second choice: highest-quality jpeg, taken as the last step on an otherwise-lossless workflow.

Tyler Wind , Mar 07, 2007; 03:06 p.m.

So, a TIFF is consider "loss-less" meaning you lose no quality, correct? Another question I was wondering about it what is the difference between a 16 bit and 8 bit TIFF? I'm assuming the 16 would have better color and quality but I don't know the technical details.

Lastly, are there any websites or articles you guys would suggest me reading to learn the basics of digital printing? (ie-when you lose quality/"loss-less" transfer, what the bits mean, when JPEG is/is not as good as TIFF, etc.)

Thanks again!

Marshall Goff , Mar 07, 2007; 04:28 p.m.

8-bit vs. 16-bit is more complicated than this, but the simple version is that 16-bit files give you more flexibility in editing, but aren't necessary at the print stage because very few printers even accept 16-bit input. In other words, you shouldn't see a difference if you downsample to 8 bits right before saving the final file for printing.

Robert Martin , Mar 07, 2007; 04:37 p.m.

Tyler, in addition to the file format (TIF, JPG) you need to know what profile the image needs for the printer. Most print shops want sRGB profile, but some will specify Adobe RGB - ask the print shop what profile is required. If you view the file using non color managed software it needs to be in sRGB profile or the colors will not be correct. Photoshop is color managed, so it does not matter when viewed using Photoshop because it will convert the image to the correct profile before it is sent to the monitor. Software like Windows Picture & Fax viewer is not color managed and it needs sRGB profile.

I think all shops will want 8 bit files and if you supply a JPG file it has to be 8 bits because JPG does not support 16 bits.

Stephanie Maus , Mar 07, 2007; 05:49 p.m.


I work for a large format photographic print shop. I would have to agree with what the other people have posted. You probably would not notice any difference between a high res jpeg or a tiff at an 8x10 size, but it is better to be safe than sorry. You might as well save them as tiff files.

As for the 8 bit vs. 16 bit; a lot of lab equipment will not read a file if it is saved in 16 bit. Depending on the lab's policies you may wind up getting charged for them to convert it back to 8 bit.

The best bet is to check with the lab you plan on using and see how they would like the files formatted and which color space will give the best result. This may also vary depending on which machine they use to do the work. Most labs, if you have the time, will run a test first if you are concerned about the color output.

Happy printing!

Tyler Wind , Mar 07, 2007; 10:39 p.m.

Thanks again for all the help--here is the update. So, I'm not taking these files to a professional lab, just to Walgreen's. Now, don't laugh--I have actually been advised by a very prominent professional that the quality of their Fugi Frontier is just as good as most labs. At the advice of my friend (Vincent Tylor, who I consider to be THE demi-god of photo.net), I was planning to get some prints and then adjust my monitor to suit their printer (instead of calibrating my monitor first).

So, I did a trial run tonight. First thing I found is that there is not difference at all between the high-res JPEG and 8 bit TIFF. However, my prints came out not even resembling what I see on my computer. They actually printed 2 copies and both were exactly the same. I pulled the photos up on their monitor and the prints do in fact match what is on their monitor. But, I had one sunset picture where the sky is blue, orange, and red--it printed with almost a completely YELLOW sky! Then several of my shots have highlights that are blown out, the sharpening looks terrible, and contrast is dialed way up. Since you guys seem knowledgable in this area, I figured I'd seek some advice. Should I adjust my monitor (and pictures) to suit their printer, or is it possible their printer is the thing that is not adjusted?

In other words, if I take my pictures to another Walgreen's, would I likely get the same image or would it be totally different? I was planning on fine tuning my monitor and things coming out close to what I see but it is not even in the ballpark of what is on my screen (or what I've seen when I've pulled them up on other screens). Should I go get a couple shots printed at a few locations around the area and compare? I'm open to suggestions...I'm 100% new to this so it may be my post-processing and ignorance in getting the images ready to print.

Thanks again!

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