Is There a Benefit in Getting TIFFs Back from Post-Processing Vendors?

January 18th, 2018

Dave in California asked:

After you edit your RAW images do you save as TIFF or JPG? Is there any advantage to using TIFF and not JPG? I use professional editing services and they deliver JPGs. But I’m thinking of changing that to TIFF.

My first answer to Dave was: Yes, if a post-processing vendor sends you JPG and then you edit the JPGs and resave them, the quality diminishes! Photographers should get TIFFs back from post-processing vendors so if they re-edit images, the quality is not degraded.

However, after a little research on the subject, I found this demonstration video that illustrates that if you keep the quality indicator high when resaving a JPG, the quality is not degraded. However, if the post-processing resulted in a layered file, there would of course be a benefit in getting TIFF files back from the vendor because that format preserves layers.


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10 Responses to “Is There a Benefit in Getting TIFFs Back from Post-Processing Vendors?”

  • I have my editors deliver in 8bit DNG format. This will allow me to make slight edits in colors and exposure and not diminish quality when exporting to JPG. And not deal with huge tiff files.

  • My understanding is that saving a JPG with “save as a copy,” prevents the normal degradation that occurs with a non-copy save. That said, it is far better to have a tiff or dng for future modification.

  • I’m a little shocked to hear that there are any professional retouchers who would deliver a “throw-away” format like JPG. TIFF is the industry standard, and for good reason.

    @ Jonathan Davis,
    I’d be interested to know how your editors are doing that. In theory you could make meta adjustments to a JPG (this is what we’re doing when we mess around with a JPG or TIFF in Lightroom, for example) and then export the file along with the metadata, but I don’t know of a RAW editor that will do it. Lightroom and Photoshop will only produce a DNG from a RAW file. Also not sure what the point would be…adjustments that you make to JPGs are (sort of) ‘non-destructive’ regardless of whether it’s packaged as a DNG or not.

    The problems with working on JPGs are that they’re less malleable – a LOT less malleable – than RAW files or TIFFs, and that’s compounded by the lossy nature of JPGs. In case anyone’s not familiar with the problem, the reason JPGs are so small is that they’re “averaging” several adjacent pixels into a single data point, among other things (I’m simplifying, here). Every time you open and save, the file re-averages, with the result that over time you get a muddy, jagged-edged, mess.

    Stick with TIFFs.

  • So Scott,
    If I understand you, when the editing is complete, you save the image as a TIFF file?
    I use LR and it delivers a DNG file when I am doing my editing.
    Your thoughts or comments.

  • I haven’t saved as Tif in over a decade. In fact, none of the magazines I’ve done work for even want tifs or dng anymore… mostly they request final edit cmyk jpgs at the highest quality. Their workflows have been adjusted to that, and they don’t want to employ staff to interpret or mess with large files anymore.

    I keep my originals as dmg though, but it’s rare to never that I have to re-edit them.

  • This answered my question. Editors need to send back a tiff after editing our raw images. If tweaking is needed it is better edit a tiff. We then use Photoshop’s Image Processor to batch convert the TIFF to JPG to send to clients. It is pretty great that Scott Hargis took time to reply.

  • As I edit all my work in Lightroom I have master files should the need for further edits arise.
    I always export in high res JPG as that can be reproduced at any scale with superb results. For me, a JPG is a disposable product that is intended for use without significant manipulation.
    No publication has requested TIFF or PSD unless they need clipping paths.

    Presuming one has delivered their files to their retoucher with some passing level of post processing, the resulting finished files should be fine in 8bit JPG. The benefits of TIFF and PSD files is overrated as far as a deliverable.
    If one is working at the high end of the market, then you and your retoucher will be collaborating on RAW files.

    The ultimate truth is that the fate of images used for real estate and MLS purposes means that the files are in the hands of people who don’t know, don’t care and will be viewed on a range of random devices only to be deleted after the listing expires or the sale is made.

  • I would agree with Scott here. However, I have to qualify my statement with the notation that I don’t send out my work for external processing and I don’t save anything in TIFF format. Instead I hold my working and final HiRes images in PSD and then convert those to JPEGs (HiRes and LoRes) to deliver to my clients. After a year or so I throw out the JPEGs and just keep the PSDs. But that is simply my workflow. The point is I think you need to keep the highest res and fullest image range from which to work. If changes have to be made to an existing JPEG, then work on it in the high res PSD, Tiff or DNG and then regenerate the JPEG for your clients.

  • I usually just outsource sky replacements. Sometimes I wish to change the chosen sky. If the editor were to send me back a tif (with layers) I could change it out. Granted the file sizes would make this impossible on a large scale. Even getting full sized png files with transparency instead of a sky sounds too large.

  • I don’t use Tiffs at all, but I might want them if I were outsourcing any editing. I consider .jpg as a final baked product. It’s possible to put some sprinkles on top, but you can’t add M&M’s to the middle without making a huge mess of it.

    I convert to DNG when I import into Lightroom mostly so I don’t have .xml side car files and it’s easier to restore a catalog if LR has a complete meltdown. I export several different resolutions that I deliver to customers and after a certain period of time, a year or so, I throw out all but the DNG files, PSD work files from composites and the smallest jpgs and do a final archive to two drives. I can always recreate the jpgs that I have thrown away.

    If you are working with an outside editor, use the highest quality files that you can so you have the ability to make further edits yourself should your client request them.

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