In a previous post I listed some photo editors, a few of which are free. Most “point and shoot” consumer cameras store photos in the JPEG format. JPEG is an acronym for the organization that created it – the Joint Photographic Expert Group. In computer jargon it is classified as a “lossy” format. Let me explain this in a little more detail.
Your camera will have the option to save your photos in a number of different resolutions. Typically these range from 640X480 pixels (VGA) up to 7.2 megapixels (a nigh quality 8X10) photo. When you snap your picture the sensor in the camera picks up the image in its maximum resolution. Then, a computer algorithm built into the camera’s firmware compresses the image to the resolution you have selected. In this compression process some information is lost. The result is your initial JPEG image that gets loaded into your computer ready for photo editing. IMPORTANT: You should NEVER edit your initial image. Make a copy of it and work with the copy. The reason is obvious, if you mess up your editing you will always be able to start over.
While you are editing it might be convenient or smart and even necessary to save your work in progress. This is where a small problem arises. Each time you save a JPEG image the computer algorithm is applied and there is some loss of information. An image may survive several saves with little discernible rot but eventually it sets in. It’s like making copies of copies on a photocopy machine. The small print gets blurry and is eventually unreadable.
Fortunately there is a simple solution. There are other common non-lossy image formats and most photo editing programs support them. I would recommend saving images in the PNG (Portable Network Graphics) format. That’s it! No more rot. Now it is conceivable that you might need your final image in JPEG format. In that case simply make your final SAVE back to JPEG or use a converter. Free converters for any OS are easy to find on the internet.