TIFF Versus PSD: Which Is Best for Photographers?

Ask 10 different photographers how they save their images, and you will get several different answers. Which format is best for you and why?

There really is a time and a place for all the various file formats you can save your images in your editing program of choice. This week, Blake Rudis of f64 Academy is back once again to walk us through this very subject in his latest video. If you don't know your TIFFs from your PNGs, then this video is for you, as Rudis explains the main differences between the many file formats that most photographers use day to day. One thing I especially liked in the video was the comparison table, which helps to visualize the difference between the file formats side by side. I also liked the real-life demonstration where Rudis saves the same photo in several different formats to illustrate the major differences in file size. This part of the video will be particularly useful for those short on hard drive space. One thing which was news to me was the difference between the layer compression options RLE and ZIP when it comes to TIFFs and how drastically different they can be in the file sizes they create.

Which file format is best for you will boil down to many factors, such as future editing needs, desired image quality, and storage limitations you may have. By all means, ask other photographers what they do, but don't blindly follow them, as their methods may not be right for you. Having a good workflow in place is less important for occasional photographers, but if you shoot regularly, then these decisions can have huge implications when you are juggling thousands of images.

What file formats do you use day to day? We'd love to hear your workflows in the comments below. 

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10 Comments

Marc Perino's picture

That is how I do it as well. And additionally I use this plugin for Mac:
https://johnrellis.com/photoshop/psbquicklook.htm

Because the mac does not preview PSB files properly.

Brian Rodgers Jr.'s picture

Awesome! I think I ran across this a while back but never tried it out. Usually when I'm managing my archive of images, I'm using LR which now sees PSB files natively (Finally). It would be nice to have the added benefit of seeing previews in Finder. Thanks for the link man🍻

Marc Perino's picture

No problem. Sometimes it has a few hickups but in general it works quite well.
I don't use lightroom that often so for me it is quite helpful.

Brian Rodgers Jr.'s picture

Even if you do use LR or another asset manager, it's still nice to have the ability to view PSBs in Finder for sure

Marc Perino's picture

Definitely. ;)

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

I use Capture One so I save as TIFF. Make final adjustments using Affinity Photo then export as jpg. I keep both TIFF and JPG.

Dave McDermott's picture

Same here. I always keep TIFF and JPG.

Karim Hosein's picture

This is where for me as a non-Adobe user. Only three points of saving are important for me; original, intermediaries, and final.

Currently, my originals are stored as whatever my camera produces, (currently, PEF, but I do have a few DNGs, when I experimented with finding out if it gave me any advantages). The thing is, whenever I take a fresh look at an image, I start from scratch.

“But what about when you want to reproduce it as before?” Then I either have the final format, or just export again from the program, which stores all the edits in both a RDBMS library, as well as a side car. Keeping the raw is akin to keeping a negative, (except a negative is developed once, and I can redeveloped this negative a million times, (mostly)★.

For intermediaries, I use OpenEXR, the creative industry de facto standard format. It uses a 32-bit floating point format, and is quite large, but it is a transient file. It will not be an archive, (my raw), and it won't be a final delivery for print nor Web. It will not be kept beyond the completion of the project.

Final delivery needs to be in a form usable for print and the web. Small file size may be relevant. Fast decoding/transmission may be important. Transparent background might possibly be relevant.

For this, one might think JPEG JFIF or PNG. I think one of two formats; WebP, or AVIF. Both are much smaller than JPEG JFIF, both offer alpha transparency, (and are much smaller than PNG), both are Web friendly,† and both offer lossless saving, (although irrelevant for a final format). [ASIDE] Less important, they both offer animation, with more colours and smaller file size than GIF. (Why is the world do we still have GIF?!?). [/ASIDE]

The difference? Currently WebP is ubiquitous, and is usable just about everywhere, (although many do not seem to realise this), while AVIF, a smaller format, faster decoding, greater colour depth, is a brand new baby, yet has more industry support than HEIF/HEIC or WebP. Indeed, all the supporters of WebP, and all the big, influential supporters of HEIF/HEIC, plus many more influential creative industry big players all support AVIF, as members of the Alliance for Open Media, (AOM).

This suggests that it will eventually have wider support than any previous format, and is already supported by the two major Web render engines. I have prepared my workflow for the transition to AVIF, and already produce AVIF. I do not yet deliver in this format, (except for Web), and probably won't until it gains a wider acceptance in software titles.

TL;DR →

I archive in raw, and I deliver (and keep) in WebP, (for now), and I do not save my intermediaries.

★ If raw images were not captured at the native sensitivity, then the camera has already done some amount of irreversible development of the image; usually gain, and often NR and colour shift correction.

† WebP is natively viewable in all modern Web browsers except the Apple Safari browser, as Apple was pushing for their HEIF/HEIC format over the Google-backed WebP format. AVIF is natively supported by Chrome-based and Mozilla-based browsers. This includes the latest Edge browser by Microsoft, and Opera. Safari does not yet have support, but Apple, an AOM member, is working to attain that soon.

Glen Barrington's picture

As an amateur, Using ACDSee Ultimate and *.ORF files, I have the luxury of not having to worry about industry standards and working with others.

I work in native raw, *.ACDC for unfinished layered intermediate work, and Flattened TIFF files for archival puroposes. For distribution, that is, printing (commercial or home), or web use I create a jpg, specific to whatever use I have in mind and then discard it when done. I rarely require PNG except as part of some sort of composite imaging.

I don't keep the *.ACDC files once I get to the finished product. Anytime I revisit a photo, it is to do something completely different. So it is no great loss for me. I could save the jpg, but as a relatively low volume amateur, the competed Tiff files are not a burden for me to store, and to maintain the greater level of info inherent in a TIF over a jpg.