Two pictures of a mountain with clouds in the sky.

JPG vs PNG: Quality Differences You Should Know

The distinctions between JPG and PNG, the quality differences and ideal use-cases for each format. Which is best for your photography & printing needs?

Are you new to photography or graphic design and unsure about the difference between JPG and PNG file formats?

You’re in luck because I’ll share with you what years of experience in professional photography have taught me about JPG vs. PNG images.

After learning about what makes each image type special, you should be able to decide which common format works better for your needs.

JPG vs PNG: Summary of Differences

  • Lossy vs. Lossless compression
  • Smaller file vs. Bigger file
  • No transparency vs. Transparency
  • Faster web loading vs. Slower loading
  • Best for photos vs. Graphics/Logos
  • Universal support vs. Wide but varied support
  • No layers vs. Retains layers

JPG Images: A Quick Introduction

Two pictures of a man with a hat

Let’s start by defining what the JPG format is. JPG or JPEG is the abbreviated form of Joint Photographic Experts Group.

Back in 1992, this professional committee came up with a solution to reduce large image file sizes to enable seamless sharing on different mediums.

As a result, JPG image files were created as an example of lossy compression. What this means is that some of the original file details are lost during compression. However, this data is insignificant to the point that you won’t notice much difference in quality after conversion.

That’s why JPG images are used today in countless applications that require a decent balance of image quality and reasonable size.

In most cases, the compression ratio of JPG files is 10:1. For example, if you capture a RAW digital photo with an original size of 30 MB, exporting RAW to JPEG format will reduce the size to around 3 MB.

PNG Images: A Quick Introduction

The PNG format is another popular image file extension that you may need some background on. Also known as Portable Network Graphics, PNG was originally created to replace GIF files in 1994.

Yet, what makes PNG images unique is that they undergo lossless compression. Unlike JPG, the compression process doesn’t rely on merging similar pixels, giving you much higher image quality.

Same as TIFF and GIF file formats, PNG images rely on LZW—a two-string compression technique that preserves the strings of data of the original photo.

4 Main Differences Between JPG vs. PNG Images

Now that you have a better idea about JPG and PNG images, let’s get to the nitty-gritty of their key differences.

Compression Type

Without a doubt, the biggest difference between PNG and JPG files has to do with their compression method. Because this is the reason that led them to have differences in file size, image quality, and transparency abilities, it’s the first one I should discuss!

As you’re well aware by now, JPG files undergo lossy compression to keep most of their original quality without sacrificing the most important image details.

So, the first time you save an image as JPG, it’ll be hard to detect the slight reduction in image quality. Yet, once this data is gone, you’ll never be able to restore it. That’s why you’ll eventually start to notice the reduction in quality the more times you edit or save this file.

On the contrary, PNG files don’t have this problem thanks to their lossless compression method. The algorithm used in this type of image compression technique depends on unique approaches to represent the same data as the one in the original image.

As a result, no matter how many times you save a PNG file, you’ll be blown away by the level of detail preservation!

File Size

The next point that sets JPG and PNG files apart is the image size. Because JPG contains much less data than PNG, it does a better job of giving you smaller file sizes that don’t take up a lot of disk space.

That makes JPG the preferred format for uses that require faster loading times and less storage.

On the other hand, the lossless algorithms of PNG compression leave you with large files that aren’t as efficient in saving storage space. As a result, you’ll find that PNG images are much slower to load on the internet and trickier to share with other people.

Plus, if you’ll be editing a PNG image or using it to design something on Photoshop or another software, working on it usually takes more time than a JPG file.

Image Quality

Because PNGs don’t lose any data (or, to be realistic, only lose minuscule data) during compression, they excel at maintaining photo quality. This, of course, comes at the cost of higher file sizes, but that shouldn’t be the concern of people who require high graphic detail.

On the other hand, JPGs give you much less image quality, as I already pointed out. If you’ve got fine details, text, or a level of contrast in your original photo, you can expect these small details to slightly fade out after exporting it as JPG.

Then, the more you work on this JPG image or save it, the more these details will gradually wash away.

A good example of this scenario is those memes that have been saved, edited, and shared multiple times on social media. The final result is usually a severely pixelated image that you can barely make out due to low quality!

low quality image


The final point of comparison is whether JPGs and PNGs support transparency. If you have a transparent background, which file type will be able to process it and allow you to edit it smoothly?

The answer is, of course, PNG. This file format is the best one to go for when you want a high-quality transparent background. This feature is essential in applications related to graphics, as designers rely heavily on PNGs with transparent backgrounds to create clean-cut designs.

Alternatively, JPEGs don’t have this aspect; they’ll always translate a transparent background to a solid color. If you’re an editor who tried cutting out objects from a JPG image, you know the headache associated with getting a smooth cut-out without those annoying white slices!

JPG vs. PNG: Which Image Format Should You Choose?

Now that you can easily tell the difference between JPEG and PNG, which image file format is better for you? Well, it all depends on how you’ll be using the image in question and your line of work.

To help you decide which extension to choose, here are a few common scenarios where each image format shines!

When You Need JPG

A JPG image extension is your best bet in the following situations:

    • You don’t have much space: This includes hard disk space, sending an image over instant messaging apps, attaching a picture to an email, working with limited resolutions, etc.
    • You need to upload the image to your website or create a social media post: This ensures faster loading times.
    • You use multiple apps and computer programs: Most, if not all, apps are compatible with the JPG file format.
    • You’re a photographerJPGs are easier to save on your laptop or PC and send to clients in a short amount of time.
  • You require minimal post-production: Shooting JPEGs often results in balanced images that need less tweaking of contrast, white balance, and other aspects.

When You Need PNG

PNG images have their unique set of uses that you should understand, involving:

  • You need enhanced colors and details: This is usually the case with designers who depend on attractive posts, colorfully complex imagery, and sharp edges.
  • You’ll be printing in CMYK: PNGs preserve all the important features of an image during printing, ensuring no details are lost in the process.
  • You work with digital images that have text: If your line of work includes editing screenshots, PNGs will suit you perfectly!
  • You’ll be creating a layered design: PNGs are awesome for pictures that you’ll later use on top of a background or to create a unique watermark.
  • You’re a graphic designer: Due to their transparency qualities, PNGs support a wide range of effects and overlays that can help you with your creative demands.

A parrot sitting on a branch in a window.


Can you convert PNG to JPG?

Yes, you can convert a PNG image to JPG, but remember that it’ll lose all the features that come with it.

For example, expect your converted image to have a lower quality, smaller file size, and no transparency (if it previously did).

How to convert PNG to JPG?

Converting a PNG file to JPG is fairly easy!

Many online tools, like the Adobe Express PNG to JPG Converter, enable you to do that for free. You’ll just have to drag and drop your image in the designated area, let the tool do its magic, and download your new JPG file.

Or, you could launch Adobe Photoshop, open the image you want to convert, then simply save it as JPEG!

How to convert JPG to PNG?

You can use the Windows Paint app or even Photoshop to convert a JPG image to PNG in a few minutes. Open your software of choice, browse your computer for the image, then resave it with the .PNG extension.

Alternatively, you may choose an online JPG-to-PNG converter to get the job done.

To Wrap It Up

Today, I was glad to share with you the major differences between JPG and PNG to help you complete your photo editing tasks or photography projects.

To sum it up, JPGs undergo lossy compression, so they end up with smaller sizes due to the loss of data. This makes them a wonderful choice when you need to save space and maintain a decent image quality.

On the contrary, PNGs go through a lossless compression technique, giving you top-notch graphics with much larger file sizes. As a result, people use this file format in graphic design applications, photo layering, CMYK image printing, and transparency in images.

Hope that clears it up for you!

8 Tools for Photographers

Check out these 8 essential tools to help you succeed as a professional photographer.

Includes limited-time discounts.

Learn more here
Shotkit Writer, Product Tester & Instagram Manager

Jeff Collier is an experienced film photographer who enjoys experimenting with modern digital photography equipment, software and apps. He’s also an ex-world champion triathlete and avid cyclist, clocking hundreds of km each week in the beautiful Tweed Valley of northern NSW, Australia.

Leave a Comment



Enter your email to be sent
today's Welcome Gift:
19 Photography Tools

🔥 Popular NOW:

Shotkit may earn a commission on affiliate links. Learn more.