Photography File Types

What is a JPEG?

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Written By Nate Torres

In this guide, I’ll be diving into everything you need to know about JPEG files.

I’ll be covering the definition, who invented them and when, why they’re used, and lots more.

Let’s dive in!

What is A JPEG?

In essence, a JPEG, which stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group, is a commonly used image compression format that efficiently reduces file sizes while preserving visual quality.

A JPEG is like a mini superhero working behind the scenes of your everyday online activities.

It swirls around in the unseen world of web pages, social media photos, and email attachments, helping your digital life smoother.

Imagine trying to fit a dozen oranges into a small box. You’d have to squeeze them, right? And in the process, some juice would surely get lost.

This is similar to how JPEG, a lossy compression format, operates.

It effectively reduces the size of an image file to make it more manageable, sacrificing some detail—analogous to orange juice—in the process.

You appreciate pictures with many bright and vibrant colors, and so do JPEG files.

One of their strengths lies in their ability to display millions of colors.

Photographers and web publishers love utilizing JPEGs due to their color-popping proficiency and convenient modest file size.

As a result, your favorite photography websites or online photo galleries punch their weight with JPEGs aplenty!

Let’s say you’re decorating your home, and you have only a small space for a large piece of furniture.

You’d likely opt to ‘compress’ the furniture by removing unnecessary parts so it fits better without losing much of its original charm.

Similarly, JPEGs are developers’ go-to option for websites as they contribute to faster page loading and efficient storage, making the online experience better for users like you.

Now, picture trying to open a door with the wrong key. It can be incredibly frustrating. Like keys open doors, different software serves as ‘keys’ to opening JPEG files.

Fortunately, JPEG is a widely-used format where you can view the image using default image viewing programs on your computer or phone or through software like Adobe Photoshop.

To top it off, JPEG is a seasoned veteran in the world of digital imaging.

It became popular mainly due to the slow internet speeds of yesteryears, which necessitated smaller image files.

Over time, its widespread support and integration into internet standards have helped it remain a dominant player on the digital photo scene.

Just remember, while JPEG is a star player in the world of digital images, its lossy nature means that repeatedly editing and saving JPEGs might degrade image quality over time, like repeatedly photocopying a photocopy.

And sadly, unlike a chameleon, JPEG can’t go transparent like PNG files – it just doesn’t support it.

But next time you scroll through web pages filled with images or share a photo online, remember you have JPEG to thank for it!

jpeg file extension
JPEG file extension

Who Invented The JPEG Format?

Who invented the JPEG format?

Think of the JPEG format as a globally renowned chef’s secret recipe, developed not by a single individual but by an entire team of experts.

In this case, that group is aptly called the Joint Photographic Experts Group.

It’s like they’re the Avengers of the photographic world, pooling their knowledge and expertise to craft this universally used image format recipe—hence the name—JPEG.

The JPEG format was a combined effort of these experts to create a way of storing and displaying everyday images, primarily on digital platforms.

When Was The JPEG Format Introduced?

Just as your favorite band has their breakout album, for the world of image formats, JPEG was the big hit that was dropped in the late 20th century.

Now, imagine you’re dusting off an old vinyl record and placing it onto your turntable. The needle drops and the music starts.

That’s similar to how JPEG came onto the scene—it was officially introduced in 1992 by the Joint Photographic Experts Group.

Yes, that’s quite a mouthful. But just like you’d refer to your best friend, James Alexander Frederick Gibson, as “Jim,” we’ll call it JPEG.

Now, this might seem like ancient history in the fast-paced digital world.

But back in the early 90s, when dial-up modems were king and internet speeds would give today’s users heart palpitations, JPEG was revolutionary.

Imagine you’re trying to move a grand piano into your new apartment, which won’t fit through the entrance.

JPEG was like the removalist genius who said, “Hey, why don’t we just take it apart and put it back together inside?”

By using a technique known as lossy compression, JPEG could shrink the size of image files dramatically, allowing them to load up much quicker.

This was like condensing a bulky 300-page novel into a slim magazine, making it easier to carry around and share.

So all-in-all! The JPEG, our good old friend for storing and displaying images, has been around since 1992.

Just like the Beatles’ album, which revolutionized the music scene, JPEG was groundbreaking in the late 20th century, forever changing the way we see and share memorable moments.

Where Is The JPEG Format Commonly Used?

Where is the JPEG format commonly used? Imagine you’re casually browsing through your favorite website, admiring the array of beautiful, vibrant images it displays.

Each picture is not just a mere color and shape but a story captured in a moment, which you effortlessly load, thanks to JPEG.

From social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram to your favorite online marketplace, JPEG files underpin the world of digital photography and image sharing.

Being the go-to image format, JPEGs are even active in emails, and they’re the profile pictures you display on your numerous app accounts.

To put it in perspective, consider JPEG the everyday athlete of the image file universe—it may not be the most powerful or the absolute fastest, but it strikes a fantastic balance between size and quality.

Its ability to compress an image’s file size without a drastic loss in quality makes it a runner on pixel-packed websites and a power-lifter when it comes to storing and displaying photos on your devices.

Now, let’s say you’re a passionate amateur photographer capturing moments continuously.

Your camera is set to capture images in JPEG format, as they take up less storage, allowing for more pictures, and they’re ready to view and share immediately.

So, next time you swap display photos, email your cousin’s wedding photos or spend a lazy Sunday afternoon uploading your travel photos to a blog, you’ll probably be using JPEG.

Its ability to handle millions of colors and compress images into smaller files without ruining the viewing experience has made JPEG a champion in the digital world.

It might be invisible, but JPEG’s everywhere.

Why Is The JPEG Format Popular?

Imagine if every photograph you took with your phone’s camera took up a massive amount of storage space.

Instead of having thousands of precious memories at your fingertips, you might only have room for a few hundred.

1. Space-Saving Prowess

One of the primary reasons for JPEG’s popularity is its space-saving prowess.

This format, named for the Joint Photographic Experts Group that developed it, uses clever techniques to reduce photo file sizes without noticeably degrading the image quality for the average viewer.

You see, JPEG files utilize a type of compression known as “lossy compression.”

Think about packing for a vacation. You could take your fluffy down feather pillow, but it’s bulky and takes up valuable suitcase space.

Instead, you opt for a smaller, inflatable camping pillow. Sure, it might not be as plush, but it does the job and saves a ton of room, right?

JPEG files are similar; they reduce the information content in the image, like discarding that fluffy pillow at negligible cost in terms of visual quality, thus making the overall package or file size smaller.

Now, imagine you are an artist preparing a gallery exhibit. You would want to display your images with the greatest colors and finest details for your audience to enjoy, wouldn’t you?

Photographers are the same, and JPEG’s ability to display millions of colors and maintain a fair image quality despite compression is why these artists, along with web publishers, favor the format.

2. Easily Accessible

Moreover, if you want your artwork to be easily accessible and not cause your audience to fiddle around with different viewing equipment, JPEG is the way to go.

Most image-viewing programs, including Adobe Photoshop, can open JPEG files effortlessly.

However, while JPEG is fantastic for everyday use, it may not be the best option if you are a professional photographer looking for heightened control over your images.

Here’s why: It’s akin to preparing a gourmet meal with pre-packaged ingredients rather than fresh, high-quality ingredients. The pre-packaged route (JPEG) is more convenient and suitable for everyday cooking.

However, when you’re preparing that gourmet meal, you might want the added benefits that come from using fresh ingredients (like the RAW format), even if they’re bulkier and take up more space.

Finally, remember that while JPEG files are beneficial in many ways, perfection doesn’t come in one package.

These files can lose some quality over time with repeated editing, similar to how your favorite T-shirt fades after many washes, and they do not support transparency features.

For those needs, you might consider alternative formats.

But overall, the widespread support, compression chops, and easy integration make the JPEG format a prevalent choice.

Let’s not forget that this format’s integration into internet standards firmly solidifies its place in the world of digital imagery.

Like how a longstanding coffee shop tends to be well-loved in the community for its trusty lattés, JPEG has gained a loyal following due to its consistent performance over the years.

How Does A JPEG File Work?

Let’s say you’re working on a digital painting. The canvas representing the image is composed of individual squares or pixels.

In the case of JPEG, these pixels can spread across a canvas as large as 65,535 x 65,535 size. That’s like a massive jigsaw puzzle!

Now, the constant challenge is to store and transfer this complicated piece of art efficiently, right? Here’s where JPEG plays its magic.

Its crucial trait is its ability to use lossy compression, which is just like squishing a marshmallow down to get it to fit inside a tiny box.

Some of its fluffiness – or, in the case of an image, a little detail – gets lost, but the marshmallow or image stays recognizable. This compression lets JPEG reduce file sizes considerably while preserving good image quality.

Picture this: you’re an artist with a mammoth palette of millions of colors. That’s what JPEG allows you to handle with ease.

This fantastic color support is why your holiday pictures, favorite celebrity portraits, and even your food snaps look vibrant and stunning when saved in JPEG format.

In the early days of dial-up modems and snail’s paced internet, a 1MB picture file would take ages to open.

JPEG became a hero in those times, and guess what? It stuck around, mainly due to its integration with internet standards and for its economical use of storage space and bandwidth.

Opening a JPEG, however, isn’t as simple as unwrapping a candy. It must be processed and converted before you can see or edit it. It’s like ordering a piece of furniture online.

When it arrives, you need to assemble it. Similarly, your computer unpacks and assembles JPEG data to present the picture you see on the screen.

Just bear in mind that it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. Every time you edit and save a JPEG, it’s subject to a new cycle of “squeeze into the box” compression.

Have you ever seen disturbing pixelation when zooming into an image? Those are compression artifacts, representing a loss of original detail due to excessive editing and saving of a JPEG file.

Does this mean JPEG is losing popularity? Not yet.

While advanced formats like WebP, JPEG 2000, and HEIC offer more features, including transparency, JPEG stands undefeated, thanks to its widespread support.

How to Make a JPEG File?

If you want to create a JPEG file, then it involves converting an image to the JPEG format.

Here are the two methods I like to use:

1. Use Image Editing Software

The first method for making a JPEG file is to use image editing software. I like to use Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Photoshop.

Here are the steps you follow if you are using Adobe Photoshop:

  1. Choose or Create an Image: Open an existing image file or create a new one using an image editing software like Adobe Photoshop.
  2. Edit and Adjust: If needed, edit and adjust the image according to your preferences. You can crop, resize, apply filters, adjust colors, and make other modifications.
  3. Save As JPEG: Once you’re satisfied with the image, go to the “File” menu and select “Save As.” Choose the JPEG format from the format options. You may also be able to adjust the JPEG quality settings, which affect the compression level and the resulting file size.
  4. Specify File Name and Location: Choose a name for your JPEG file and select the location where you want to save it on your computer.
  5. Save: Click the “Save” button to create the JPEG file.
Photoshop save as JPEG
Photoshop save as JPEG

2. Using Online Converters

The second method I like to use is to use an online converter:

  1. Find an Online Converter: Search for “Online Image to JPEG Converter” in your preferred search engine. There are many converter options available.
  2. Upload Image: Follow the instructions on the website to upload the image you want to convert.
  3. Adjust Settings (Optional): Some online converters might allow you to adjust settings such as image quality or size.
  4. Convert: Click the “Convert” button or a similar option to begin the conversion process.
  5. Download JPEG: Once the conversion is complete, the website will provide a download link for your newly created JPEG file. Click the link to download the file to your computer.

How To Convert a Photo to JPEG on The Phone?

Converting a photo to JPEG on your phone is similar to how you would do it on a computer.

Here are the two methods I use when I need to convert a photo to JPEG on my phone.

1. Use a Photo Editing App

  1. Download an App: Search your app store for a photo editing app that supports image format conversion. Some popular options include Snapseed, Adobe Lightroom, and Pixlr.
  2. Open the App: Install the app and open it on your phone.
  3. Import the Photo: Use the app’s option to import or open the photo you want to convert.
  4. Edit (Optional): If needed, you can make adjustments, apply filters, or perform any desired edits to the photo.
  5. Save as JPEG: Once you’re satisfied with the edits, look for an option that allows you to save or export the photo. Choose the JPEG format as the output format. The exact wording might vary, but it’s usually something like “Save as JPEG” or “Export as JPEG.”
  6. Choose Quality and Location: Some apps might allow you to adjust the JPEG quality and choose a location to save the converted photo.
  7. Save: Confirm the settings and save the photo. The app will convert and save the image as a JPEG file.

2. Using Online Conversion Website

If you prefer not to install an app, you can use an online conversion website to convert the photo to JPEG. Here’s how:

  1. Open a Web Browser: Open the web browser on your phone.
  2. Search for Online Converter: Search for “Online Image to JPEG Converter” or a similar phrase.
  3. Upload Photo: Use the online converter’s instructions to upload the photo from your phone’s gallery.
  4. Convert: Follow the steps on the website to initiate the conversion process.
  5. Download JPEG: Once the conversion is complete, the website will likely provide a download link for the converted JPEG file. Click the link to download the file to your phone.

Is a JPEG the Same as a JPG?

One question I often get asked is whether a “JPEG” is the same as “JPG.”

In short, yes, a JPEG and a JPG are essentially the same image file format.

The difference lies in the file extension used to represent the file format.

  • JPEG: This is the acronym for “Joint Photographic Experts Group,” the organization that developed the image compression standard. In terms of file extension, the standard format is “.jpeg.”
  • JPG: This is a shortened version of “JPEG”. Due to limitations in some older operating systems and software, the “.jpg” file extension was commonly used as a variant of the “.jpeg” extension for compatibility reasons.

Frequently Asked Questions about JPEGs

What happens if you take a photo as a JPEG?

When you take a photo as a JPEG, the image is compressed using the JPEG algorithm to reduce file size while maintaining a visually acceptable level of quality, making it suitable for sharing and displaying on digital devices.

What is a JPEG not good for?

JPEG is not well-suited for images requiring high detail, such as professional photography or graphics, as its compression can lead to loss of fine details and image quality.