When it comes to digital picture formatting and sharing, there are two filetypes that crop up more than any other: JPG (or JPEG) and PNG. They are far and the most common types used for commonly used for websites, for example, and the casual user would probably think of them as interchangeable.
But when you look at the details of each photo format, there are quite a few differences.
To determine which file format is right for your purposes, let’s break down each and explore their strengths, weaknesses, and ideal applications.
The JPG Format
JPG files trace their origins back to the early days of the internet, when sharing picture files online was still difficult, bordering on impossible. To remedy this, photographers focused on making smaller files that would be more practical to transmit.
The result was the JPG, named for the Joint Photographic Experts Group that developed it. In fact, JPG and JPEG are functionally the same file type, just with different numbers of characters used.
What makes JPG special is its ability to compress an image while only producing a negligible loss in image quality. To the naked eye, the difference between a 200 MB file and the same image compressed to 20 MB is almost imperceptible. This has made JPG the standard format for sharing images online, as smaller files are quicker and easier to transmit.
The smaller image size comes at a cost, though.
Although it’s hardly noticeable, the compression process does cause an irreversible loss of quality. And every time you edit a JPG, the loss is compounded. This makes it a poor choice for archival.
Also note that while you might not notice the quality drop on a screen, it will be very much noticeable if you try to print that image for any purpose, so it’s a poor fit there as well.
The PNG Format
PNG (Portable Network Graphics) is a lossless file format created to remedy the shortcomings of other file formats.
Unlike JPG, it experiences no loss of quality when it’s edited, making it a much better archival format. If you have a lot of JPGs you want to preserve, learning how to convert jpg to png is an essential skill.
And because it provides a perfect pixel-to-pixel representation of whatever might be on a screen, it’s the default format for screenshots.
PNG is also the preferred choice for web design because it allows for transparent images. This means that logos and other designs can be superimposed over other elements of a website.
The tradeoff is that PNGs come in much larger file sizes, so using too many on a single page can increase loading times.
Picture Formatting for Your Project
Neither JPG of PNG could be called better or worse than the other. They’re simply different. But those differences could make one format better suited for your needs than others.
So which one is right for you depends on what you need out of an image file.
But whatever your project is, business or personal, still images are only one facet that you need to concern yourself with. To make sure you’re making the right tech choices every time, be sure to keep up with all of our latest tips and guides.