© Kaspars Grinvalds / Shutterstock.com

In the early days of computers, tasks and activities were limited exclusively to text. But, as computers and technology became more advanced throughout the 1980s and 1990s, images came into play. Today, we have a whole slew of image file formats to choose from.

But what sets them all apart? Take the JPEG vs TIFF, for example. What’s the difference between these two file formats? How do they compare and contrast with one another? And what’s the ideal usage for each? Let’s discuss this JPEG vs TIFF debate at length below.

JPEG vs TIFF: Side-by-Side Comparison

Extensions.jpg, .jpeg, .jpe, .jif, .jfif, .jfi.tiff, .tif
Media TypeImageImage
Stands ForJoint Photographic Experts GroupTag Image File Format
Maximum Size65,535p x 65,535p4 GB
DevelopersJoint Photographic Experts Group, IBM, Mitsubishi Electric, AT&T, Canon Inc.Aldus Corporation (Adobe)
First ReleasedSeptember 18th, 1992September 12, 1986
PurposeImage compressionRaster graphics storage
Lossy or Lossless?LossyLossless
SuccessorJPEG 2000Exif, DCF

JPEG vs TIFF: What’s the Difference?

While there are plenty of nuances that exist between the JPEG vs TIFF file formats, there are three main distinctions we can make between the two. These are their differences in use, their differences in development, and their differences in image quality.


jpeg vs tiff
The term “JPEG” is an acronym for the Joint Photographic Experts Group, which created the standard in 1992.

©Fauzi Muda/Shutterstock.com

Firstly, there is what is probably the most apparent difference between JPEG vs TIFF: the difference in usage. JPEGs are intended and reserved for lossy image compression. This helps shrink the size of the image and its metadata without resulting in any noticeable lack of quality when sharing or receiving the images.

TIFFs, on the other hand, are intended for use in storing and sharing raster graphics. These make them ideal for those in the industries of photography, graphic design, print layout, and so on.


Secondly, there’s a difference in development between JPEG vs TIFF. The Joint Photographic Experts Group standardized and published the JPEG’s image compression algorithm back in 1992. The TIFF, on the other hand, was created and popularized by the Aldus Corporation — which we know now as Adobe.

The JPEG was developed for use in sending and receiving images over the computer, whereas the TIFF was developed to store raster graphics for editing and publishing images on the computer.

Image Quality

jpeg vs tiff
TIFF is an image file format for storing raster graphics images.


Thirdly, there’s overall image quality to consider between JPEG vs TIFF. This image quality debate manifests itself in the fact that JPEGs are lossy and TIFF files are lossless. In other words, JPEG files are compressed by their very nature.

Through the compression algorithm, JPEGs have unnecessary or inconspicuous aspects of the image and its metadata is deleted to shrink the image size. TIFF files, by comparison, maintain their image quality and size to remain the best possible version of the image. Think of it like this: The TIFF is the original, and the JPEG is the miniature model.

5 Must-Know Facts About Image File Formats

  1. The most common types of image file formats are JPEG, PNG, and GIF. JPEGs are best for lossy image compression. PNGs are best for lossless digital images. GIFs are best for graphics, logos, and animations.
  2. When discussing image file formats, you’ll hear one of two things: Lossless compression and lossy compression. Lossless algorithms preserve a perfect copy of an uncompressed image while lossy algorithms preserve a smaller copy of that uncompressed image with certain inconspicuous aspects (such as wider color ranges or metadata) removed.
  3. You’ll typically see image file formats broken down into four groups: capturing, authoring, and, delivering, and creating. JPEG is a delivery type, whereas TIFF is an authoring type.
  4. Beyond these four groups, you have two major image types: pixel and vector. Vector image formats differ from pixel-based JPEG and TIFF files by displaying images in a geometric format — this allows them to be increased or decreased in display size without loss of quality.
  5. PDFs are considered both pixel and vector types, combining both format groups into one uniquely interactive format.

JPEG Explained

The JPEG gets its name from the Joint Photographic Experts Group. This large group is comprised of the members of two smaller ones: ITU-T Study Group 16 and ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 29. The members of the Joint Photographic Experts Group have been meeting and working together semi-annually since 1983 at the earliest, though they did not come together to standardize the image file format now known as the JPEG until the year 1992.

This first project in 1983? Adding high-quality, detailed graphics to text terminals on the computers of the time. You might have heard these text terminals by a different name — perhaps text console, perhaps terminal — but one thing remains true about them regardless of the moniker.

In the early days of computers, these text terminals played a vital role in the function and performance of the technology. Because computer interfaces at the time were only designated to support text entry displays, there was eventually a need for images that began to arise in those early years. This underscores the important pioneering work of the ITU-T Study Group 16 and ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 29.

By the time the JPEG group had officially formed in the late 1980s, there was a new task at hand: communicating via images over a computer network (i.e. picture messages.). Next on the agenda? The digital image compression format we now know as the JPEG.

As we said above, the group officially specified and standardized JPEG guidelines in 1992. You might occasionally see JPEG spelled without the E, abbreviated simply to JPG. This is actually the same thing as a JPEG. All early versions of Microsoft’s OS needed three-letter file formats. Thus, the JPG name was coined.

TIFF Explained

The Tag Image File Format — commonly referred to as either TIFF or TIF — differs from the JPEG in several key ways, right down to its very purpose. Instead of being used to compress images for easy storage and use, the TIFF file is used exclusively for storing raster graphics.

These images (or should we say graphics?) are most popular with publishers, graphic designers, artists, photographers, and others working with raster graphics on the regular. (Raster graphics are 2D images depicted in a rectangular grid made up of square pixels.)

TIFF files are most commonly used and shared via fax machines and scanners, word and image processors, desktop publishers, and other software and services pertaining to the above industries. Instead of being formed by a group or a coalition like the JPEG, the TIFF file was actually made by the Aldus Corporation (who we now know better as Adobe).

They created the file format for their desktop publishing software PageMaker (now InDesign). The other goal for the TIFF file format was to establish an agreed-upon standard for all the different desktop scanner vendors in the mid-80s.

Before TIFF, countless other proprietary file formats were used for raster graphics. The creation and establishment of TIFF helped alleviate the headache of artists, designers, and photographers needing to navigate and convert from format to format.

At its start, TIFF was merely a binary image format to match the capabilities of desktop scanners at the time. But, as time went on and the tech became more advanced, TIFF was able to become more advanced in turn. Today, TIFF is on Revision 6.0. TIFF published Revision 6.0 way back in 1992 and it has remained more or less unrevised since.

JPEG vs TIFF: Pros and Cons

Pros of JPEGCons of JPEG
Very broadly compatibleCompression is lossy
Smaller image file sizesNo support for animation or transparency
Pros of TIFFCons of TIFF
Lossless compressionLarger image file sizes
Also quite compatibleHarder to send and receive

JPEG vs TIFF: Which One Is Better?

In some debates, there are clear winners. In others, there are only winners depending on the kind of work you’re doing. This latter scenario is the case with the JPEG vs TIFF debate. Simply put, the superior format is always going to be the one designated for your specific task at hand.

If you’re sending a funny picture to a friend, you’ll want a JPEG. If you’re sending a batch of headshots to an editor to touch up, you’re going to want to use a TIFF file. This is ultimately what the JPEG vs TIFF debate boils down to: specific use cases with ideal formats for each one.

JPEG vs TIFF: 3 Differences And How They Compare FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What does JPEG stand for?

JPEG stands for the Joint Photographic Experts Group. The group actually consists of members from two smaller groups: the ITU-T Study Group 16 and the ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 29. They were officially established in 1986, but had been working together unofficially for a few years prior.

What does TIFF stand for?

TIFF stands for Tag Image File Format. It is a lossless image file format used to store high quality photos for use in graphic design, publishing, photography, and so on. It was first established by the Aldus Corporation in 1986. We now know the Aldus Corporation as Adobe.

What is lossless compression?

Lossless compression preserves a perfect copy of an uncompressed image while shrinking its file size.

What is lossy compression?

Lossy compression preserves a smaller copy of an uncompressed image and deletes any information it deems unnecessary or repetitive in order to shrink the file size.

What are TIFF files used for?

TIFF files are used to store raster graphics and images. This makes them a staple for those in the industries of graphic design, publishing, photography, and the like.

TIFF files are present during faxing or scanning, during word processing, during the editing of images, during publishing and layout design, and so on.

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