Resiliency Of Image Formats

Pretty much all Mac people have tons of photos of family, friends, events and a bunch of other stuff. Our photos are very important to us as they should be. One problem with photos which has been around forever is long-term storage. You don’t do photo prints anymore (at least most people do not). Your photos are stored digitally. The issue is how to protect your photos for posterity. One consideration for longterm storage is the type of image format of your photos. Are they JPEGs, RAW, TIFF, HEIC? I have done a little research on how to protect your photos comparing these formats. Here is what I found.

Image Formats

You can take photos or convert photos to any of the above formats. These days people take most of their photos using a Smart Phone. If you are using an iOS or Android phone, most likely your photos are saved in the HEIC file format. HEIC takes up less space on your device and still looks good. Most manufacturers started using the HEIC format within the last year or two. The problem with the HEIC format is it is more subject to file degradation over time. In other words, if there is the slightest bit of corruption to HEIC images, it performs worse than other image file formats. Check out this article involving some tests run on different image formats regarding their resistance to corruption. The bottomline is the HEIC format performs the worst of all the typical file formats. It is not a good format for long term storage in my opinion. TIFF files performed the best, but the problem is the resulting files are huge! A TIFF photo is typically very large compared to other formats. So, the article mentioned above suggests the JPEG format is a good compromise for long term storage:

Images captured on iOS devices would be better preserved by conversion to JPEG before storage, rather than leaving them in their original HEIC format, which doesn’t appear as resilient to even low levels of corruption.

But, you don’t need to convert HEIC images from your iPhone to JPEG for storage, just set you iPhone to shoot JPEG images all the time. Here is how to do that.

iPhone Camera Settings

You iPhone is probably set to HEIC format as Default, mine was. The easiest way to take care of this problem is just set you iPhone photos to “Most Compatible”. Go into the Settings area and Tap on the “Camera Setting”:

Camera Setting

Once in this area Tap on “Format”:

Format Setting

It will probably be set to HEIC. Just Tap on “Most Compatible” and you are good to go:

Most Compatible

Be sure and read the disclaimer below the JPEG setting. If you are capturing outside the frame, it requires HEIC format. I don’t do much of that, but YMMV.


Yes, the JPEG photos will take up a little more space than the HEIC versions. There are always tradeoffs. I don’t have the room to save files in the TIFF format, so for me it is JPEG going forward. I want to mention one more thing here. I am not sure if iOS updates change the image format back to HEIC, but it would not be a bad idea to check the Camera settings after an update.