What Does JPEG Stand For


In the world of digital images, have you ever found yourself wondering what does JPEG stand for? With all of the terms out there for image types--GIF, TIFF, JPEG, PDF--it's easy to get confused. Keep reading to sort out some of the differences so you can stop wondering what does JPEG stand for.

What Does JPEG Stand For?


The actual abbreviation of JPEG stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group, which is the name of the organization that first introduced the digital form in 1992.

What is a JPEG?

A JPEG is one of many types of compressions that can be used for a digital image. For example, when a camera creates a JPEG image, it is trying to most accurately represent what it has taken a photo of in the smallest amount of space. Different compression types (such as GIFs) compress images in different ways than JPEGs.

How Do JPEGs Compress?

JPEGs compress images in one of two different ways: lossy or interlacing. Lossy compression means that some of the image quality will be lost in the storing process. Often these differences are rarely perceptible to the human eye (depending on the megapixels used in the image). Lossy JPEG compression is by and far the most common.

Interlacing is far less common but substantiates any potential loss in image quality. Instead, the image is stored in a way that it will slowly develop. The best way to think of interlacing is to think of an image loading on a webpage slowly: you will slowly get part by part but will not have a complete image until it is fully loaded. This form of progressive JPEGs is not common and it is often hard to find devices and software that will support the form.

What Else You Need To Know About JPEGs

Often when talking about JPEGs, one will see the letter Q, followed by an equal sign and then another number (such as Q=75). This number refers to the quality of the image itself. Q=100 is full image quality, Q=50 is average image quality and Q=1 is the lowest possible quality. Larger numbers (Q=55+) often take more file space while lower numbers (Q=45 or less) often tend to show a significant decrease in image quality. Quality under Q=25 often tends to show a high level of pixelation and the image tends to be clearly distorted. It's easy to see the difference between the best and the worst quality image. In the first image, the words and the background are clear and the colors are sharp. In the second, lower quality image, the words become fuzzier and there is clear pixelation in the background.

Q=90 Q=10

What Are JPEGs Used For?

JEPGs are commonly used in most digital cameras to take high-quality images. The form works well for recreating larger scenes. JPEG is the best file format for landscapes, nature shoots, portrait work and anything of the like. However, for more detailed work--such as certain macro work or highly detailed wording (such as taking a picture of a plaque at a statue)--the file format does not serve the picture best.

Pros of JPEGs

  • One of the biggest advantages of the JPEG format is that it is commonly accepted. Along with GIFs, JPEGs are a common format for uploading photographs to the Internet. Many digital cameras will also take JPEG images by default.
  • JPEGs capture color truer than any other digital form.
  • For those with the tools to do so, JPEGs have multiple compression forms (as mentioned above).
  • JPEGs can be further compressed on a computer without too much of an image quality sacrifice.

Cons of JPEGs

  • If you plan to photograph a lot of drawings, lines or super-detailed subjects, JPEGs can make these subjects seem blurry unless the file size is very high.
  • JPEGs sometimes cannot show differences in similar colors well. With that in mind, the format is not the best to take photos of greyscale subjects.
  • If you plan to make your JPEGs transparent with photo editing software, it can be almost impossible.
  • Edges can blur with JPEG formats.
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What Does JPEG Stand For