JPEG vs TIFF: an explainer for film photographers

JPEG vs TIFF: an explainer for film photographers

There are two common file formats for photography: JPEG and TIFF. Put simply it comes down to whether file size and compatibility across the web/social media (JPEG) vs the flexibility to edit further (TIFF) is most important to you.

When you order any of our film processing packages you will have the option of choosing between the file formats, as well as the 'bit-size' of TIFF.

If you do not intend to further edit your images, both file formats will look identical when viewing on screen, and are of the same scan resolution and quality.

The benefit of tiff scans comes if you are editing further in Photoshop / Lightroom or other software. Each time a jpeg is edited and saved, further data information is lost, which can lead to blockiness or artefacts being introduced to the image. With the uncompressed tiff files this does not occur, and the files can be edited and saved indefinitely without data loss


8-bit vs 16-bit

The advantage of 16-bit tiff over 8-bit only comes into play when you intend to make very large edits in post processing, for example applying heavy brightness, curve or level adjustments for creative effect. 

The extra bit-rate of 16-bit tiffs avoids any risk of colour-banding in large areas of smooth toned colours when these large edits are applied; as there are many more colour / tonal values available on each pixel. This is particularly important when processing C-41 films.

For printing, a colour depth of 8-bit is recommended, but 16-bit images can be downsampled to 8-bit after editing to do this if required.

16-bit tiff files can only be opened in certain editing software (Photoshop/Lightroom etc) and cannot be used for uploading online


Summary of Differences:





Lossy - uses algorithm to combine detail and shrink the overall file size

Lossless or no compression

Image Quality



File size (not resolution)


approx 6MB per standard 35mm frame

High: 8-bit approx 18MB per standard 35mm frame

Huge: 16-bit approx 36MB per standard 35mm frame

Colour Depth


8-bit (approx. 16.7 million colours) - more than can be displayed on a monitor or phone screen

High: 8-bit or 

Huge: 16-bit (approx 281 trillion colours) - more than can be seen with human eye

Best For

Online display, instagram and efficient file storage

Advanced editing / archiving (16-bit)

Printing (8-bit)

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