RAW, TIFF or JPEG? The difference lies in the accuracy of fine detail, colour encoding and the amount of compression. Let us focus on each of the three formats in turn.
The most commonly used! Colours obtained by combining the primary colours: red, green, blue. Each primary colour is encoded with 8 bits of precision, giving 256 levels. The number of colours possible is therefore 256 (red) x 256 (green) x 256 (blue) = 16.7 million.
Use: sending and receiving images over the Internet, creating images for web sites or sending files to photo laboratories.
The RAW format is not defined by any single standard. Each camera manufacturer has its own proprietary format, with a different file extension: .CR2, .NEF, .RAF, .PEF, .X3F, etc. What is the special feature it offers? As the name suggests, it preserves the raw data from the sensor, and therefore contains much finer detail than a JPEG file: a RAW file encodes colour information with 12 or 14 bits of resolution, i.e. 16,384 levels per primary colour!
Your camera lets you to save a single photo in two different formats at once: JPEG, RAW, RAW + JPEG. Save in both RAW and JPEG format, storing them in two separate files: RAW for image processing, and JPEG for quick viewing.
This is a format commonly used in the graphics industry. It is non-destructive, as every single pixel is stored in the file, thus retaining the maximum image quality possible.
Use: keep TIFFs for saving a final version of a file after you have made any required edits in your image processing software. Fine details of the picture will then be retained.