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Most point-and-shoot digital cameras make saving files easy: the only option they offer is a JPG (or JPEG) file. We'll discuss JPG files in a moment.
But first, when you move up to a digital camera with more features and options - such as a superzoom model or digital SLR - you'll often encounter other file options.
The two most common are TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) and RAW files.
RAW files are unprocessed image files - the camera saves the image information exactly as it's recorded. RAW files tend to be large, because they're also uncompressed. The advantage of saving your digital images as RAW files is that you can then exercise complete control in your "digital darkroom" - the image-editing software you use. (Note: Not all image-editing software can import RAW files.)
TIFF files save information with each pixel. So, even though TIFF files are compressed, they tend to be very large. In fact, depending on the type of compression used a TIFF file of a digital image can actually be larger than an uncompressed RAW version of the same file! As the use of RAW files has increased, fewer and fewer cameras have been offered with the option of saving TIFF files.
Virtually all of today's digital cameras offer the option of saving files in JPG format. (JPEG is short for "Joint Photography Experts Group.) This file format is popular - in part - because you can save a JPEG file using different levels of compression.
But compression is also JPEG's Achilles' heel. That's because a JPEG file is compressed by tossing out data. The format is configured to delete redundant data, but what's considered "redundant" changes with the degree of compression requested.
But don't panic if you've been saving files as JPEG's. There are ways to maintain the quality of a JPG file... and we'll cover them in another tip.