We’ve discussed the relative merits of shooting Raw vs. JPEGs numerous times, and the consensus is the former delivers superior image quality, far more leeway during post processing, and a number of other benefits. The primary advantage of JPEGs is the significantly smaller file sizes, which can be important for certain applications.
One aspect of this debate we haven’t covered previously, however, is how file format affects print output. So if you’ve worried about whether printing photos from JPEGs will compromise the quality of your prints, this interesting tutorial is for you.
According to adventure photographer Sean Bagshaw, who has plenty of experience behind the computer, there’s a lot of misinformation regarding this topic that is deserving of clarification. He’s answered this question (and many others) in the popular online course, “Producing Better Prints,” and you can find a link in the description beneath this video.
In this quick tutorial, Bagshaw provides his take on the specific question of whether JPEGs compromise print quality, and the answer is blunt, short, and sweet:
“You can rest assured that as long as no more adjusting needs to be done to the image, printing from an 8-bit JPEG provides the same print quality as a 16-bit TIFF.” Put another way, as long as adjustment layers are flattened before converting, and no more adjustments are made, there’s no visible difference—even at 400%.
Bagwell explains the detailed analytical process used to make his comparison, and arrive at the definitive, surprising conclusion. He also provide several examples for the skeptical, that are frankly rather convincing. One interesting comment he makes is that what appears to be color banding in Photoshop, isn’t really there. He refers to this phenomenon as “false banding.”
The goal for this video is to take the mystery out of one aspect of image output and enable you to consistently make great prints. So take a look and decide for yourself.
There’s much more to see on Bagwell’s YouTube channel to help you process images in Photoshop and Lightroom, so head over there and subscribe after watching this eye-opening tutorial.