Print from TIFF or JPEG

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Today’s Question: I have started to use Landscape Pro, which saves back to my Lightroom catalog as a TIFF file. If I then export as a JPEG, do I lose quality doing this? If so, when I want to send a file to a lab for printing and they accept TIFF or JPEG, which would you consider the better choice?

Tim’s Quick Answer: While it is possible to produce an excellent print from a JPEG image, I do recommend opting for a TIFF file when possible. While the impact may be minor, there is always at least a small degree of quality loss when saving an image as a JPEG.

More Detail: A JPEG image always has compression applied to it, and that compression always causes a certain degree of quality loss for the image. At a high quality setting the JPEG compression won’t be especially significant, but there is still a degree of risk that some of the compression artifacts will be visible in the image (and in the final print).

Therefore, to help ensure maximum print quality, I always recommend using a file format that enables you to either not apply compression at all, or to employ lossless compression. The TIFF file format is one such option.

If possible, I recommend using the TIFF format (rather than JPEG) when creating derivative images you will send to a lab for printing. When creating a TIFF file, be sure to either not use compression, or to use LZW or ZIP compression (both of which are lossless compression options).

It is most certainly possible to produce high-quality prints from a JPEG image. However, there is also a risk that a print from a JPEG file will exhibit some degree of visible compression artifacts. So, if possible, I recommend the TIFF file format rather than JPEG when creating a derivative copy of an image for printing.