'TIFF' File Format

The 'TIFF' file format is the traditional format for archiving finished images, and one of the two formats used for delivering images to clients (the other being JPEG).  It is seen as a very safe format as any serious image editing software will be able open the files, and the format can be set to not damage the images (there are exceptions to theses two statements - see below).

Save Options
'TIFF' Options
Quick Summary



Figure 1  The TIFF format is one of the main file formats that you will use

The 'TIFF' file is also the main format for working on images after they have been converted from a Camera Raw file.  It can hold all the extra functions that you may end up using when correcting an image, such as very large working file size, 16 bit depth, extra wide colour space, masking channels, and adjustment layers. 

NOTE:  These extra functions will be covered in an advanced section of the digital image training.

Save Options


Figure 2  The first set of saving options

When a TIFF file is saved, two panels are displayed.  The first asks for the file name, where to save the file, the file format, and at the bottom of the panel are some options (shown above).  If the images are being supplied to clients then most of the "Save" options should be greyed-out as clients will not be wanting extra features, such as Layers.  The important part here though, is in the "Colour" section.  The "ICC Profile" option will be ticked by default, but do check that this is the case.  It is very important that the image Colour Profile is always saved with the file, not just for your own work, but also for those images supplied to clients.

'TIFF' Options


Figure 3  The 'TIFF' options panel

The second set of 'TIFF' options for saving an image have some dangers that you do need to be aware of.

'Image Compression' - None:

This is the usual way to save a 'TIFF' file as it is the safest; it won't damage the image and it can be opened by any serious image editing software.  However, it will mean that the files will end up with alarge file size on disk as there is no compression.  Always use this for delivery to clients if they require 'TIFF' files, unless they expressly ask for one of the following compression types.

'Image Compression' - LZW:

This is a safe way to compress images as it causes no damage, and can be opened by most image editing software.  However, some print production systems prefer not to use this compression, so do NOT supply images to clients with this compression, unless they expressly ask for it.

'Image Compression' - ZIP:

As a general rule, NEVER use this compression.  It will not damage the image, but most other editing software will not be able to open images using this compression.  It is very unlikely that any clients will ever ask for this setting.

NOTE:  'TIFF' files with ZIP compression are still 'TIFF' files.  They do NOT become ZIP files, and so can NOT be opened by using unzipping software.

'Image Compression' - JPEG:

As a general rule, NEVER use this compression.  The images are still 'TIFF' files, but since the compression is 'JPEG' the images will always be damaged.  Again, it is very unlikely that any clients will ever ask for this setting.

Figure 4  Example of how 'JPEG' compression can damage an image if the quality is set too low

Make sure to read the page on the 'JPEG' File Format to see what damage can result if the wrong 'JPEG' settings are used.

'Pixel Order':

As a general rule, ALWAYS use the default 'Interleaved' option.  The 'Per Channel' option may save a little on the saved file size, but other image editing software may not be able to open the files as a result.

'Byte Order':

This is no longer important as these daysMacs and PCs will understand each other's settings.  However, some clients will specify in their standards that they will require one of the options.  The usual rule applies here; ALWAYS supply what the client asks for.

Other Options:

Don't use the other options, unless asked to do so.  The 'Layer Compression' options are relevant for images being sent to clients as it is VERY unlikely that you will ever be supplying layered images.

Quick Summary


Always save the images with the Colour Profile attached, by ticking the "ICC Profile" option.

If you set the compression to 'None' and leave the 'Pixel Order' to the defailt 'Interleaved', then you won't go far wrong.  But if the client askes for different settings then do use those settings instead.

Supplying TIFF files to clients does mean that the saved fike sizes will be large, so they would normally be sent on a CD, DVD, or even a portable hard drive.  Your clients will inform you of which supply method they prefer.

Some clients will supply an 'FTP' site for uploading images via the internet, but if you live in an area which still has a very slow internert connection then you will need to explain that this is not a viable option in your case.  However, a speed test was carried out in South Africa in 2010 where a gigabyte of data was sent to a client by two methods.  One via the internet, and the second by placing the data on a memory stick and tying it to the leg of a carrier pidgeon.  The pidgeon was much faster!  It's probably best if you don't suggest this as a dilivery option to the client though.

NOTE:  Traditionally Macs used the four letter file extension of 'TIFF'', whereas PCs used the three letter 'TIF' instead.  It has now become standard to always use the three letter 'TIF' file extension with images.  Macs don't have to have file extensions, but when supplying clients, then always, always, but ALWAYS supply images with file extensions.  This can not be stressed enough.

WARNING:  It has been known for photographers to put their hand on their heart and swear that they only ever saved the images as TIFF files, when the images have been rejected by a client as the files had JPEG damage.  When a client states in their standards that they do no want JPEG files, then take this to mean that do NOT want JPEG compression.  JPEG damage is JPEG damage, no matter whether it came fome a JPEG file, a TIFF file or even a PDF file.