Windows Live Photo Gallery can display most image types, but can fix, edit or enhance, just some file types. Most cameras store images in a format called JPG and many also in a “raw” format. JPG is so widespread and common, most users don’t deal with anything else. Photo Gallery uses JPG by default when you make a copy, or resize a picture.
The JPG format is a “lossy” compression method. It creates files that are smaller than the “raw” images produced by a camera. This makes storage and sharing easier. The term “lossy” implies, of course, that something is lost. The more the image is compressed, the smaller the file size, but also the lower the quality of the image as fine detail is lost. JPG files can be created in a range of quality, usually expressed as a percentage. Photo Gallery is set to 98% as it comes. This can be adjusted.
To modify the JPG quality setting of Photo Gallery, proceed as follows:
- Click the “File” button, upper left.
- Click Options.
- In the Options dialog click Edit.
The JPG quality slider can be set to 100% (max right) and as low as 80% (max left).
Here is a photo which I saved in a couple of sizes and several quality settings. The image here is at quality 80%.
For this photo here are the file sizes. The file names should make clear the size and compression quality. The original file as it came out of the camera is the camera’s “raw” format (the extension for this Nikon camera is NEF). Note the huge difference between the 80% and 100% JPG files, more than five times! For the smaller sized image the difference is not as large, but still substantial.
How different is the quality? Here are enlarged sections of the smaller image. Click on the image to see the comparison more easily.
You can see differences, however, the largest differences are in areas where there is little detail, as in the sky areas of this picture. If you are going to display pictures on a web site or in a blog like here, the lower quality is perfectly acceptable. The benefit is that the much smaller file sizes will cause the pictures to be displayed much faster. Of course, using up less space on your computer or the online server is a significant benefit.