The JPEG standard specifies the codec, which defines how an image is compressed into a stream of bytes and decompressed back into an image, but not the file format used to contain that stream.[11] The Exif and JFIF standards define the commonly used file formats for interchange of JPEG-compressed images.

Typical usage

The JPEG compression algorithm is at its best on photographs and paintings of realistic scenes with smooth variations of tone and color. For web usage, where the amount of data used for an image is important, JPEG is very popular. JPEG/Exif is also the most common format saved by digital cameras.

On the other hand, JPEG may not be as well suited for line drawings and other textual or iconic graphics, where the sharp contrasts between adjacent pixels can cause noticeable artifacts. Such images may be better saved in a lossless graphics format such as TIFF, GIF, PNG, or a raw image format. The JPEG standard actually includes a lossless coding mode, but that mode is not supported in most products.

As the typical use of JPEG is a lossy compression method, which somewhat reduces the image fidelity, it should not be used in scenarios where the exact reproduction of the data is required (such as some scientific and medical imaging applications and certain technical image processing work).

JPEG is also not well suited to files that will undergo multiple edits, as some image quality will usually be lost each time the image is decompressed and recompressed, particularly if the image is cropped or shifted, or if encoding parameters are changed – see digital generation loss for details. To avoid this, an image that is being modified or may be modified in the future can be saved in a lossless format, with a copy exported as JPEG for distribution.

JPEG compression

JPEG uses a lossy form of compression based on the discrete cosine transform (DCT) . This mathematical operation converts each frame/field of the video source from the spatial (2D) domain into the frequency domain (a.k.a. transform domain) . A perceptual model based loosely on the human psychovisual system discards high-frequency information , i.e. sharp transitions in intensity, and color hue. In the transform domain, the process of reducing information is called quantization. In simpler terms, quantization is a method for optimally reducing a large number scale (with different occurrences of each number) into a smaller one, and the transform-domain is a convenient representation of the image because the high-frequency coefficients, which contribute less to the overall picture than other coefficients, are characteristically small-values with high compressibility. The quantized coefficients are then sequenced and losslessly packed into the output bitstream. Nearly all software implementations of JPEG permit user control over the compression-ratio (as well as other optional parameters), allowing the user to trade off picture-quality for smaller file size. In embedded applications (such as miniDV, which uses a similar DCT-compression scheme), the parameters are pre-selected and fixed for the application.