How many of you are still shooting in JPEG file format for your food photos? Most food bloggers that I meet are. That’s ok, for now. There is a better way to shoot (future post), but for now I will discuss the best practices for shooting and using JPEG files that I bet you are not doing.
If you are starting out or have a less expensive camera, chances are the only file option for you to shoot in is a JPEG file. The higher end cameras offer you two file formats to choose from; JPEG, and RAW files.
I will talk about the details of RAW files in my next post, but for now, a RAW file is an uncompressed file that contains data used to produce a new image from that file. RAW files are not stand alone files. This means that you must use software like Photoshop Bridge, or Adobe Lightroom to process this file into a new file in order to use that image in any way. You use the RAW file as if it’s a negative that needs to be printed.
A JPEG file does not need software in order to be used. If the file is small enough, you could actually take a small JPEG picture with your camera and then upload it to a website without doing anything to it (not recommended). A RAW file does not work that way. The data in that file cannot be read by a printer or a website. It has to be translated into a new file that can be read by those things.
A JPEG is always a compressed file. If you are taking your pictures in JPEG format, editing them in any way, then re-saving that same file in JPEG format –guess what you have just done??? You have re-compressed data that was already compressed. This is a bad practice. If you do this a few times with the same file, you can permanently damage that file and possibly get digital artifacts that can be seen on screen in that file. These digital artifacts can be very hard to retouch later on down the road.
Oh and by the way, if you are not using photoshop yet, you must take the next step and sign up for it. You will also get Adobe Lightroom with it too – which at some point you will be using as well (not a paid endorsement) . If you have a food blog and are trying to take food photos, Photoshop is a necessary tool for a food blog.
Now, here is what you should be doing step by step.
1. Shoot your file in the largest JPEG possible. Why? You need to create a master file with the best quality you can get. That means the largest file you can shoot. What if you want to print your file at some point, or what if someone else wants to print your file? Well, you better have something that they can actually use for print –and that means a large file.
2. Download the large JPEG you just shot and uncompress the file. I know, you’re all thinking what the heck, how do you do that? What you do is open this file in Photoshop and save it as another file. You are now creating a second file from this JPEG that is not compressed any more. I save mine as TIFFS or Photoshop files. These uncompressed files will be three times bigger than the JPEG. That master JPEG file should never be touched – that is your one master file of that image. You make files from that, THEN do your editing and leave that original JPEG alone as your backup.
Above is a file in Photoshop where I am going to save it as a TIFF file. A dialog box will pop up.
Here is the “save as” dialog box – I will name this file the title of the recipe so if your post is about a peach tart, name it Peach Tart.tif and not img_10004.tif or what ever the original JPEG file name was. I’ll explain later.
Side note – I always have more than one file of an image, so I always use the actual file number of the image I like the best when naming my images. So this one is called Rustic Peach Tart 212.
Here is the dialog box for making a Tiff –I use all the preset settings in this box –
- Image Compression – None – we want the highest quality file, remember?
- Pixel Order – Interleaved – I won’t bore you with those details.
- Byte Order – IBM PC – this is not what system you are working on – it’s a setting to make a new file compatible on a very old system. Today this doesn’t matter on our newer machines.
- All others left blank.
- Press OK.
Now you have your TIFF file to work on and your master JPEG file is safe and sound and untouched.
3. This large file is the one I will do all my edits on – not the title text and logo yet, just image editing is done on this large file, like darkening areas or cleaning up smudge marks on dishes, and then I save that file with all its edits.
4. So you now have this very large Tiff file that you need to get onto your blog. You need to res it down (make it smaller), put your text and logo on it, and then save it as a JPEG for your blog.
My images are 600px wide on my blog so that is what you are seeing below, my image is now 600px wide.
After you res your file down, Photoshop shows the image as a tiny one. It’s letting you know that you just threw away a lot of data to make a small file.
You will need to view your file at 100% to put your title and logo on it – go to “View” menu and click “Print Size”, This will put your file at 100%.
*** pro tip – when you take a large file and res it down tiny enough to be on a blog, you just threw away a ton of data on that file and that will make it look soft, not as in-focus, in your blog. I do an extra step here – I use Photoshop to bring focus back into the file.
Below is the dialog box to sharpen your photos – DO NOT OVER SHARPEN your images – they will look grainy, and it’s a junior mistake to make.
I usually sharpen my files for the web at about 50% with a radius of 1.0 pixels and the threshold is set to 0.
I will put my title and logo on the image and then save this specifically for the blog.
You will now have three files for each image. You will have your master JPEG file without edits, then your large TIFF file with all your edits and corrections that you can always go back to and modify, and then the blog JPEG you will make from the large TIFF with your text and branding on it.
5. To make my JPEG for my blog I use the “save for web and devices” option in the file menu.
Below is the dialog box for making perfect JPEGS for the web. I did a whole post about this – basically you control the file size, and also make sure you check the box to convert to sRGB profile. If you don’t know what this means yet, that’s ok – it basically makes it so that your image will have the same colors on the web as you see on your screen. I make my files no larger than 150-200K for my blog. You can see this below the image to the left and I am picking the size in the Quality menu top right.
If your image isn’t showing 100% in the window, you can just click and drag the image around to see the whole thing.
Once you hit the “save” button, a screen will pop up for you to name this file and you will need to tell it where to put the file. You must stay organized here. As you can see, for each shot you will do, there will be multiple files.
*** pro tip – name your file the name of your recipe – for example Peach Tart.jpeg – this will help with your SEO on this post.
On your desktop you will now have your TIFF image that was reduced with your title and logos on it –you have a choice. You can close this image and very importantly, DO NOT SAVE it (if you save it, you just saved the large TIFF into a small one), or you can save a copy of this to have in case you want to go back and change this for your blog later. If you choose to save it, you will now be making a fourth copy of this same image – save it as a TIFF file, or a Photoshop file and make sure to give it an original name, something like “Peach Tart with Title”, so that you know this has your title and logos on it – do not save it as a JPEG because you lose the layers of the text and the logos on a JPEG and you just did that, by the way.
6. To keep this small TIFF file, go to the file menu and scroll down to “Save As…”. A dialog box will come up asking you to name it and where to put it.
So that’s how you should work with a JPEG. I know this seems like a lot of steps, if you haven’t done this before, but it will become built in when you do this over and over again.
If your camera can shoot in both RAW and JPEG file format, here is what I suggest you do for the future. Most cameras that offer the choice of RAW and JPEG will also let you shoot in both formats at the same time.
You can program your camera to shoot a Large RAW and Large JPEG at the same time – you will get two files of the same image. I suggest you do this now so that in the future, when you get to the next step of shooting RAW files you can access these files and process them when you learn how to.
You see, all pro food shooters shoot in RAW file format, not JPEGS. My next post will be about this, but for now, just know that the RAW files will enable you to make your images looks as good as they possibly can through software.
This was not a sponsored post. I use photoshop every day and they have no clue who I am 🙂
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