Sending photos to clients can be confusing. With so many image formats to choose from, how do you know which one is right for each client?
The format you choose depends on factors like how they plan to use the photos, the number of images, and the file size limitations.
This guide will explain the most common photo formats, when to use each one, and tips for seamlessly sending images to clients.
- An Introduction to Common Photo File Formats
- Choosing the Right File Format
- JPEG Image Quality and File Size
- Tips on how to deliver photos to clients
An Introduction to Common Photo File Formats
There are 5 main file formats that photographers use to send images to clients:
JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) is the most common image format online. JPEGs use lossy compression, which reduces file size by permanently removing some image data.
The level of compression can be adjusted, resulting in different levels of image quality and file size:
- Low compression = larger file size, higher image quality
- High compression = smaller file size, lower image quality
JPEGs are supported across all operating systems and applications. The smaller file size makes them easy to share online and attach to emails.
The loss of data means JPEGs are best for photos that don’t require high image fidelity, like those shared on websites or social media.
TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) images are uncompressed, so they offer the highest level of image quality.
TIFFs produce large file sizes, so they aren’t ideal for sharing online or sending many images. The large files can also be difficult for some applications to process.
TIFFs are useful for photographers who need to preserve the maximum amount of image data for editing or printing photos.
PNG (Portable Network Graphics) is a lossless image format that uses compression without removing image data.
PNGs allow for transparency in images, unlike JPEGs. This makes PNGs ideal for graphics, logos, icons, and other images with transparency.
PNGs are comparable to JPEGs in size and quality when the same level of compression is applied.
RAW images contain unprocessed data directly from the camera’s image sensor. RAW files are very large in size.
Each camera brand has its own proprietary RAW format. Special software is required to open and edit RAW files.
RAW images provide the maximum flexibility for post-processing. Photographers working with RAWs have access to more image data than any other file type.
Clients should only receive RAW files if they specifically request them for editing purposes.
PDF (Portable Document Format) can be used to compile images and text into one document.
PDFs maintain image quality no matter what device they are viewed on. Some print labs and publishers require PDF formats.
Choosing the Right File Format
There are a few key factors to consider when choosing a file format to send photos to clients:
How will the client use the photos?
- Online use - Smaller file sizes like JPEG or PNG are best for sharing online and emailing.
- Printing - Lossless formats like TIFF maintain maximum print quality. Some labs may require PDFs.
- Editing files - RAW images provide the most editing flexibility.
- High resolution usage - TIFFs provide maximum image resolution for professional use.
How many photos are you sending?
- Many photos - Smaller file sizes like JPEG allow you to send many images without running into file size limitations.
- Few photos - Larger formats like TIFF can be used for small batches of photos.
Are there any file size restrictions?
- Email - Emails often limit attachments to 10MB or less. JPEG or PNG are good choices.
- File transfer - Services like Dropbox allow larger file sizes. TIFF, RAW, and PDF are options.
JPEG Image Quality and File Size
One key consideration with JPEGs is balancing image quality and file size:
JPEG Quality Settings
JPEG quality is set on a scale of 1-100:
- 100 - Maximum quality, largest file size
- 50 - Medium quality, average file size
- 1 - Lowest quality, smallest file size
A quality of 80-100 is recommended for most uses:
Quality vs File Size for a 24MP JPEG:
Lower JPEG quality is suitable for web use or sharing photos online where smaller file size is preferable to maximum image quality.
Image Quality Comparison
Here is an example comparing JPEG quality settings (100% Crop):
At quality 100, no image degradation occurs. At quality 50, blurring and artifacts become visible. The average web user likely can't tell a quality 80 JPEG from the original.
Tips on how to deliver photos to clients
Follow these tips to seamlessly deliver images to your clients:
Resize Photos Before Sending
Resize overly large images to reduce file size. For sharing online, photos only need to be 1024 or 2048 pixels on the long edge.
Use a File Transfer Service
Rather than emailing images, use a file transfer service like Dropbox or Framebird. These allow you to easily send large batches of high-resolution photos.
Lightroom Export Quality is Not JPEG Quality
Quality settings in Lightroom range from 0% to 100% but n reality there are only 13 Quality Levels that equal to Photoshop Quality Levels as you can see in the table below:
Use Framebird for Simple Photo Sharing
Framebird makes it easy to share high-resolution photos with clients. Just upload your full-size images in any of the supported filetypes, and Framebird will handle resizing them for easy sharing or downloading.
Choosing the right file format allows you to send clients photos tailored to their needs.
Use JPEG or PNG for online sharing, email, and large batches of images. TIFF and RAW provide maximum image quality and editing flexibility for professional use cases.
Following tips like resizing images and using dedicated file transfer services prevents delivery issues.
With the right approach, you can share photos with clients in any situation seamlessly!