Hands up those of you who know what a PNG is –
I thought so.
Years ago, when dinosaurs roamed and the ‘Net was young, we labored and labored to make our images as small in size (data) as possible while at the same time displaying as beautifully as possible. It was a losing battle, sometimes. What am I saying – Most of the time! (I won’t even get into the tiresome battle between nerds and designers that raged when corporations suddenly realized the Internet was a goldmine…)
Somewhere in all of this, a new file format was created: PNG or Portable Network Graphic (pronounced “ping”). You are all familiar of course with GIF (used primarily for graphics with flat areas of color) and JPG (used for photographic images with millions of colors). The problem with JPG was, and is: it LOSES information every time you save it and it does not support transparency. (“Lossy” compression). You’ve experienced this if you save, and save, and save a JPG over and over. Each time it degrades in quality.
PNG, on the other hand, compresses without any loss of data and supports much more subtle gradations of color and grayscale. All this while maintaining a small data size. Clearly better, you’ll certainly agree.
But despite this, PNG didn’t really catch on.
Flash forward, and I’m posting images of my work to the Web. I have images with subtle gradations that print beautifully, but when saved as JPG, display like this:
Mommy, a JPG ate my file!
Depending on your system, the rendering of gradations from black to grey in the shadows of the fabric will range in quality from barely OK to “blocky” and terrible.
And this in an image that I saved as a highest-quality JPG, and only once.
Not the way I want my work to be seen.
(scroll down to continue…)
Now compare the same image, saved as a PNG: Look at the same areas of black and gray in the fabric:
David Roddis, “Nostalgic Deception #1: Retrospection”. Archival pigment print, edition 1/20, various sizes from 22 x17″. ©2015, David Roddis.
There is simply no comparison. The shadows and highlights display beautifully, with the subtle gradations that I want.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I rest my case.
Any graphics program will enable you to save your RAW files as a PNG. Consider this option if your JPG images are not displaying the way you like.
If your camera does not produce RAW files, try shooting TIFF images (the file sizes will be huge), then saving as PNG.
I hope this helps you get better results for your web-destined files. If you have any questions about PNG, JPG or web images in general, I’d be happy to answer them here.
» See the full series “Nostalgic Deceptions” on my portfolio site, davidroddis.com «