Technology has vastly changed the way we use and distribute images, and with that change has come a transformation of how images are rendered to suit these needs. Different file types were created to cater to available imaging software, size restrictions, and the main functions of images on websites or in print.
The most common image file type is a JPEG or JPG extension. JPG prioritizes file size over quality; it can compress image files into a very small size, but in turn, this will cause a noticeable drop in the crispness and quality of the image as it gets smaller. JPG file types are most useful when e-mailing images, saving them to a small data card or maximizing space on a web server. While they do not offer the best image, JPGs are the most common due to the flexibility their small file size has to offer.
TIF is another common file type, although not as widely used online. TIF is favored by the commercial printing business as the standard, as it is very flexible and offers lossless compression. Unlike JPG, a TIF file can be edited and resized without loss of the quality. However, it is not a standardized file type and is not supported by every web browser.
When it comes to moving animations or more simple graphics, GIF is often a preferred file type. Created even before the JPG file type, GIF best displays a limited amount of colors and looks better than JPG when using a less dynamic image. GIF also supports transparency and animation, and because it has been around so long, it has nearly universal software support. It is often used for website animations and simple logos with transparent backgrounds.
PNG is a file type that was created as an alternative to GIF and can also function in a similar was to TIF files. It has become a commonly used extension for storing photographs and complex images, as PNG is lossless and thus can be edited without loss of quality, and the file sizes tend to be smaller than a TIF or GIF. While not as commonly used, PNG is an impressive file type that prioritizes quality and is supported by most web browsers.
These image types are common, but they all offer different benefits with their use. Whatever an image is designed to be used for, the right kind of file type will help accomplish that goal.