TIFF format

An image file format that uses ‘lossless’ compression but produces much larger files than JPEGs. It’s sometimes offered as a file format on more advanced cameras but it’s more useful later on as an image file format for image editing and manipulation on a computer.

MP4

MP4 is a video file format used by many digital cameras. It’s simple to work with because it produces a single file containing both the video and audio and it’s simple to drag from one device to another. It’s often provided as a similar alternative to AVCHD on Sony and Panasonic cameras.

JPEG

This is a standardised, universal file format for digital photos that can be displayed by practically any device without any kind of conversion. It uses powerful compression to reduce the file size of digital photos so that you can get more on to a memory card or a hard disk, and they’re quicker to transfer. There can be some loss of quality (often invisible to the naked eye), so for ultimate quality many photographers shoot photos in their camera’s RAW format instead. It’s only more advanced cameras that offer this RAW option, and it produces much larger files which you will need to process yourself later on.

DNG Converter

This is a handy free tool you can download from the Adobe website for converting digital camera RAW files into Adobe’s generic DNG format. It’s useful if you have a new camera but an older version of Photoshop, Elements or Lightroom that won’t open its RAW files.

Compression

A software process that reduces the storage space taken up by photo or video image files. It comes in two type: ‘lossless’ and ‘lossy’ compression. Lossless compression is used by TIFF files, for example and retains all the image data but does not produce the biggest savings. Lossy compression is used for the JPEG format and produces much smaller files, but some data is lost in the process – though this may not be visible in real-world viewing conditions.

AVCHD

A video file format commonly used by Sony and Panasonic cameras. It’s an efficient file format for high-definition video, keeping file sizes relatively small while keeping the quality high. It uses a complicated directory structure, though, so that you don’t get simple self-contained video files in the way you do with other video formats.

8-bit image

These are photos which use 8 bits of data for each of the red, green and blue colour channels. This is enough to give over 16 million colours – more than enough for photographic images. The JPEG photos taken by digital cameras are 8-bit images.

16-bit image

These are photos with 16 bits of data for each of the red, green and blue colour channels. These aren’t created directly by the camera, but you can generate 16-bit images from RAW files and they withstand heavy image manipulation better than regular 8-bit images. The file sizes are much larger, though, which puts more pressure on your computer’s storage capacity and slows down file transfer speeds, and not all software can edit 16-bit images.