HEIC vs JPEG: What to Choose & Why?


Images are a fundamental part of our daily lives, from capturing cherished memories on our smartphones to sharing visual content on the web. Two prominent image formats, HEIC (High Efficiency Image File Format) and JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) have emerged as popular choices for storing and sharing these images.

The choice between HEIC and JPEG can have a significant impact on image quality, file size, compatibility, and more. In this comprehensive comparison, we aim to shed light on the key differences between these two formats.

Image File Format: HEIC vs JPEG

Image File Format-HEIC vs JPEG

HEIC (High Efficiency Image File Format)

HEIC, short for High Efficiency Image File Format, represents a modern and efficient approach to image compression and storage. Developed by the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG), it was first introduced in 2013 as part of the HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) standard.

HEIC boasts several noteworthy features and advantages. It includes superior compression capabilities, support for advanced image features like transparency and animations, and the ability to store multiple images in a single file.

As a relatively new format, HEIC is gaining traction due to its potential to revolutionize how we manage and share digital images.

JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group)

JPEG, or Joint Photographic Experts Group, is a well-established image format that has been the standard for digital photography. Created in 1992, JPEG revolutionized digital imaging by introducing a lossy compression method.

Its widespread adoption and compatibility across a wide range of devices and platforms have made it the go-to choice for sharing photos and images online.

However, JPEG does have its limitations, particularly in terms of compression efficiency and support for advanced image features. It has led to the development of alternative formats like HEIC to address these shortcomings.

HEIC vs JPEG: Compatibility and Support

HEIC Compatibility

So, the HEIC format enjoys growing support across various modern platforms and devices. It is well-supported on major operating systems, including iOS (Apple’s mobile operating system) and macOS (Apple’s desktop operating system).

Additionally, many recent Android devices also offer HEIC support. Several web browsers have started to include HEIC compatibility for viewing images directly on web pages.

While HEIC compatibility is on the rise, older devices and some third-party applications may not fully support this format. In such cases, users may need to convert HEIC files to more universally supported formats like JPEG for seamless access.

JPEG Compatibility

JPEG’s compatibility is one of its standout features. It is supported by virtually all operating systems, including Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, and many others.

Additionally, it is compatible with a wide range of software applications, both proprietary and open-source. This universal acceptance has made JPEG the standard choice for sharing images across diverse platforms and devices.

JPEG’s universal accessibility extends to the internet, where it is the de facto format for web images. Its widespread adoption has cemented its status as a reliable and universally accessible image format.

Editing and Processing

Editing and Processing- HEIC vs JPEG

HEIC Editing

HEIC format offers native editing capabilities on platforms that support it, such as Apple’s ecosystem. Users can make edits to HEIC images directly within their devices, utilizing features like cropping, adjusting exposure, enhancing colors, and more.

Many image editing software applications are increasingly adding support for HEIC files. Leading software, including Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, and GIMP, have incorporated HEIC compatibility.

However, it’s essential to verify the compatibility of your preferred editing software to ensure a seamless workflow with HEIC files.

JPEG Editing

JPEG, being the longstanding standard for digital images, boasts broad compatibility with a vast array of image editing tools and software. This extensive support ensures that users have access to a wide range of editing features and capabilities.

JPEG’s ubiquity has established common editing workflows that are well-understood by professionals and enthusiasts alike. This simplicity and familiarity make JPEG a convenient choice for editing and processing images in various contexts.

Metadata and Features

Metadata and Features-HEIC vs JPEG

HEIC Metadata

HEIC format is designed to accommodate advanced metadata features. It allows for the inclusion of extensive information about the image, such as EXIF (Exchangeable Image File Format) data, GPS location, copyright details, and more.

Photographers and content creators can greatly benefit from HEIC’s advanced metadata capabilities. It allows them to embed detailed information about camera settings, lens specifications, and even post-processing steps directly within the image file.

This can aid in cataloging, copyright protection, and ensuring that crucial details about the photograph are preserved. It makes HEIC a valuable format for professional photography.

JPEG Metadata

JPEG format also supports metadata, primarily in the form of EXIF data. EXIF data includes information about the camera used, settings such as exposure and ISO, date and time of capture, and sometimes even GPS coordinates.

When comparing metadata features between HEIC and JPEG, HEIC stands out for its ability to support a broader range of metadata types and offer more detailed information. JPEG’s metadata is sufficient for most common use cases.

On the other hand, HEIC’s advanced metadata features are advantageous for professionals and those who require comprehensive documentation and organization of their image files.

Compression and Image Quality

HEIC Compression

HEIC employs state-of-the-art compression techniques to reduce the size of image files without compromising image quality. This format utilizes a combination of techniques, including both lossy and lossless compression, to achieve efficient compression.

One of its notable methods is HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) compression, which efficiently encodes image data and reduces redundancy. HEIC’s advanced compression methods offer significant advantages in preserving image quality.

HEIC files tend to maintain a higher level of detail, color accuracy, and overall image fidelity compared to other formats. This makes HEIC particularly suitable for scenarios where image quality is paramount, such as photography and professional imaging applications.

JPEG Compression

In this approach, the format discards certain image data deemed less essential to human perception. Specifically, it removes high-frequency details and color information that may not be easily discernible to the human eye, resulting in smaller file sizes.

JPEG uses lossy compression, which can noticeably affect image quality, especially when applying high levels of compression. As it discards image data, it may show artifacts like blurriness, blockiness, and color distortion, commonly known as “JPEG artifacts.

While JPEG is excellent for reducing file sizes, it may not be the best choice for applications where maintaining the highest possible image quality is crucial. This trade-off between compression and image quality has led to the development of alternative formats like HEIC.

File Size Comparison: HEIC vs JPEG

HEIC File Sizes

HEIC excels in achieving notably smaller file sizes compared to many other image formats. This efficiency is primarily attributed to its advanced compression techniques, including both lossy and lossless methods, which effectively reduce redundant data within images.

The compact file sizes of HEIC have several important implications. Firstly, they enable users to store more images on their devices without exhausting storage capacity.

Additionally, when sharing images online or via messaging platforms, HEIC files can transmit more quickly and consume less bandwidth compared to larger file formats.

JPEG File Sizes

JPEG, while a widely adopted image format, tends to produce larger file sizes compared to HEIC. This is a consequence of its lossy compression method, which preserves image quality to a certain extent but retains more data, resulting in larger file sizes.

While this format has been optimized over the years to strike a balance between compression and quality, it may not match the efficiency of HEIC in terms of file size reduction.

The larger file sizes of JPEG images can pose challenges, especially in scenarios where storage space is limited, such as on mobile devices or cloud storage. When sharing images, the larger size may lead to slower upload and download times, especially in areas with limited internet bandwidth.

Who Should Consider Using HEIC?

Photographers and Content Creators: HEIC’s advanced compression, metadata, and image quality preservation make it a compelling choice for professionals who prioritize high-quality images and detailed metadata.

Apple Ecosystem Users: If you predominantly use Apple devices and software, HEIC is well-integrated and optimized for efficient storage. Also, it’s perfect for sharing within the Apple ecosystem.

Modern Device Users: Owners of newer smartphones and devices that natively support HEIC can benefit from its smaller file sizes and superior image quality.

Where JPEG Is Still Preferable?

Universal Compatibility: JPEG remains the go-to format for ensuring compatibility across a wide range of platforms, devices, and software. This is ideal for sharing images with a diverse audience.

Web and Social Media: When sharing images on the internet, JPEG’s widespread adoption ensures that your images will be accessible to virtually all users without compatibility issues.

Legacy Hardware: Older devices and software may not support HEIC, so if you frequently interact with such systems, using JPEG can help avoid compatibility hurdles.

Final Thoughts

As technology continues to evolve, image formats are likely to follow suit. We can expect ongoing innovation in image compression techniques, metadata support, and compatibility features. Formats like HEIC represent a shift towards more efficient and versatile image storage.

While JPEG maintains its relevance due to its universal accessibility. Keep an eye on emerging formats and stay adaptable to changes in the digital imaging landscape. That’s how you can ensure your image management practices remain up-to-date and efficient.