What's a TIFF?

Icon for a TIFF digital image file

TIFF is the acronym for Tagged Image File Format, a digital standard for image files.  The TIFF is not as popular as the JPG standard, but the TIFF boasts "lossless" quality and raster graphics features.The TIFF image file is popular among graphics artists who wish to incorporate raster graphics.  It also allows multiple edits to the image without any loss in quality.  The TIFF's lack of compression means the file may be sized up to ten times larger than the same image saved as a JPG/JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group).  However, this same lack of compression allows the TIFF image file to retain it's quality over multiple color changes, croppings, and other edits to the image.

A TIFF image file is similar to the PNG (Portable Network Graphics), which also supports "lossless" editing.  However the TIFF image format supports other features that make it even more suited for use by graphics artists and the publishing industry that require an image file to also store raster graphics.

PNG, TIFF, and JPG digital image files are all accessed using a similar technology.  Except for seeing a ".png", a ".tiff", or a ".jpg" file extension, the viewer will seldom know the difference.  Each digital image file format comes with costs and benefits.  

Many graphic artists capture digital photos as JPG files, and then convert to a TIFF file to better support editing and the addition of raster graphics.  Once the image is perfectly set, these same enthusiasts will then convert the file to a compressed JPG file to support more expedient file sharing.  It can be helpful to think of JPG images as "viewing version" of a photo while the TIFF image is more like a "work in progress".

TIFF is the perfect image format for complex images that have a mixture of photography, graphics, and text.  It often is used as the standard for scanning documents.  You can choose a variety of TIFF image resolutions, but higher resolutions result in larger files and higher costs.  The 300dpi standard is a perfectly acceptable resolution for viewing files on most digital screens, but Heirloom recommends a 600dpi or 1200dpi resolution to allow for good quality on larger displays.

The TIFF digital image file is extremely resilient and moves across the connected world at the speed of light.  As digital data, it can be copied and stored in multiple locations, further increasing it's life expectancy to what one might consider indelible.  This has lead to a worldwide boom in photo scanning to copy old printed photographs, photo negatives, and photo slides into a digital format.

If you still need to scan your old photos and documents to digital, consider getting started with Heirloom.  Once received at their digitization facility in northern Virginia, Heirloom will sort, count, and provide an exact quote to scan all that you send.  They even send a digital sample for you to approve quality before paying for the service.  Prices start at only $0.15 per image, and there's no need to precariously remove printed photos from adhesive pages in an photo album!

Get Started