JPEG file size vs. quality by Joe Fitzpatrick

Peggy Farren 2012-10-30

Last week I wrote about the advantages of shooting in your camera's RAW file format. After using your software to post process the RAW images you likely went to resize and save some of the images for uploading to Facebook, the Meetup site or another place that required that the images be in the JPEG format. At that point your software likely gave you the option of what quality level to use when converting the RAW files to JPEGs.

Which quality should you choose when saving a JPEG?

So what is quality level? When a RAW image is converted to a JPEG the file size is reduced by eliminating some of the information about number of shades of color and amount of fine detail. As the quality level drops, fine details blur and edges take on a jagged look. The number of distinct colors is reduced eliminating smooth transitions between color shades.

Exporting/Saving a JPEG at a quality level of 75% or 80% instead of 100% in Lightroom or a level of 9 or 10 in Photoshop instead of 12 makes a huge difference in file size with very little loss of image quality.

See for yourself by exporting a file at the three different settings and comparing them side by side. If you are using a different program you will need to find its sweet spot. The image size and quality at a given setting varies from program to program.

JPEG quality
jpeg quality

This image was saved at a quality level of 80% in Lightroom, the fine details, texture in the bricks and range of color shades are retained.

We'll talk about image dimensions to use for specific purposes in the next blog post! - Joe Fitzpatrick

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