We are literally drowning in information these days, and for most of us who are not of a Rain Man persuasion, it’s impossible to retain it all or even come to a definitive conclusion about something, because the more we’re told, the more we realize the less we actually know. One just has to think about any teenager or even your past self, and, if you’re quietly honest, you’ll remember that when you were 16 you knew everything. Then, when you were 25, you realized quickly that wasn’t the case, and by 30, you’re not even sure which way is up.
I try to mitigate retaliation for my shortcomings in knowledge by trying to be humble about what I do know, and through heavy disclaimers even though I’m pretty well versed. That’s not really typical of what you’ll find in our field. Just recently in New York at PhotoPlus Expo, I met someone who runs photography workshops, charges good money for them, and didn’t even know you could fine tune your lens calibration. Sure it’s just one little thing, but the occurrence is frequent; this I find horrifying because there are lots of people out there pushing product that are really charlatans.
However, at PPE I also found myself in a conversation with a man who was probably one of the most intensely knowledgeable people I’ve met in the field of digital photography. I do know a good amount so I was probing him with some of my best, but within about 2 minutes I realized that, in terms of a technical knowledge challenge, I was outclassed. In boxing terms, this would be like Mike Tyson getting in the ring with Taylor Swift. His name is Eli Lubitch, a previous VP at Kodak and R&D at Scitex, an image scientist, and now President of BEAMR which makes JPEGmini.
What is JPEGmini?
Simply, it is a program that allows you to compress your JPEG files to the utmost point before losing any perceivable quality.
Understand that we do love the JPEG on a whole. It’s an incredibly versatile image format that lets massive image files be saved at a fraction of the size with ‘minimal’ loss. You can choose your compression levels, which makes the JPEG the image file type of choice for the internet, sharing, and storage. I would wager that for most of you, you’ll use Photoshop or Lightroom as your compression engines, and while they are good, JPEGmini is better.
JPEGmini’s quality measure algorithm guides and drives the standard compression to the point that eliminates all the redundancies beyond human vision, but retains the original quality you can see. As Eli said,
We will stop short only just before there are any noticeable visual artifacts to humans, because that’s what the quality measure is aligned with. Other compression technologies in programs such as Lightroom and Photoshop will ask for a percentage or some quality parameter. With JPEGmini they don’t ask any questions, so sometimes they’ll save 90% and other times it’ll be 70% or 60%, because the algorithm commits only to the quality.
How Good Is It?
Since you can get the JPEGmini plugin for Lightroom, it seamlessly integrates with your workflow and allows you to set it even when you’re exporting a RAW file or TIFF into a JPEG. Here’s an example:
The original image here is in Sony’s RAW ARW format and is coming in at 35MB. Exporting it at 100% JPEG through Lightroom generates an image that’s 9.8MB. Doing the same but using the JPEGmini plugin, it becomes a 3.2MB file. That’s saving more than 2/3 of the space. Here are 100% crops and even a 300% crop. Visually, there’s no difference.
To go even further, I decided to throw them both back into LR and see how much data could be used if you were, for some odd reason, to process these files. The difference is negligible.
Frankly, it blows me away.
You can also check out this video of a 25-year veteran pressman at a printery analyzing two JPEGs to see if he could spot the difference with the JPEGmini version.
So What? I shoot RAW
I’m not sure you should give yourself a pat on the back there, because so does pretty much everyone else. But when was the last time you emailed a RAW file? When was the last time you used RAW or even TIFF files when you created a client gallery online, or sent them proofs? When was the last time you sent a RAW file to be printed? Are there circumstances you may do any of the above, perhaps, but that would be the exception and not the rule. And if you’re selling large professional prints, then, of course, you’ll approach your file much differently.
And let’s say you shoot RAW, catalogue in LR, process in Photoshop and, therefore, end up with huge TIFF files in LR. Those files are so huge you can’t really send them with ease, and you wouldn’t upload those to a site. Then even extracting a JPEG from those (if you want to keep degradation to a minimum with no artifacts), the expense will be files that are still quite large. It’s here that JPEGmini will shine, because you can retain the highest quality 8-bit JPEG with a massive reduction in file size. I’ve not seen another option for compression and optimization of information that handles it without negatively impacting the data like this.
Reducing the file sizes will not only give you much more space on your drives, but allow your computer to load them faster, and allows your websites to load much faster also. At SLRL, we know that a slow loading page of images tends to do less well than one that loads quickly – there’s no surprise in that – so JPEGmini is going to take your finished file, and give you a visually identical (almost) version at 1/3 the size, allowing your site to load faster, and maybe allow you to purchase less online or offline storage. Purchasing and using JPEGmini then is a case of spending cents to save dollars.
Let me reiterate here that this is really going to benefit the professional most, and JPEGmini is really to be used for a final result, and not to reduce a file to then go back and edit it. But to you wedding shooters out there, you are immediately going to see the massive value in this.
How Does It Work & How Do You Use It?
I’m not an image scientist, so as far as I am concerned it does its job by witchcraft, that crazy witchcraft. Using it, however, requires nothing as complicated or sinister.
Firstly, you can purchase JPEGmini, JPEGmini Pro, and JPEGmini Server. The basic version is a standalone program for $29.99 and is fine for the casual user. It actually will do for most images and many people. You just drag and drop the images or folders into it and let it do its work of converting.
The Pro is really what we’re concerned with as professionals if but only for one reason, regardless if it says it can handle larger files, and that’s the Lightroom PlugIn. Its seamless integration with LR makes this the obvious choice if you are a prolific shooter. It costs $99. Some of you may balk at that, but I don’t think you should. Of course, if you’re a casual, infrequent shooter, or you don’t deal with websites and so forth and you require your full files all the time, then you may not need this. However, I’m willing to bet you are a working photographer, and will benefit greatly from this.
Installation is a breeze, and the standalone app is as easy to use as drag and drop. Actually, that’s exactly how you use it. The plugin, too, is simple to setup and allows you to easily toggle it on or off if you ever don’t want it to work on your exports. This integration is the clincher and I think worth the greenbacks. It’s already saved me tens of gigs of space and the site loading of these images is noticeably quicker.
What Eli and team have created here is something of a marvel, and between this, ImageRights, which I spoke of yesterday allowing for copyright registering directly from LR, and the Preset System allowing fast and beautiful image processing, Lightroom is sitting pretty comfortably as an all-encompassing tool.
I highly recommend JPEGmini, and you can get a free trial on their site. I have and use the Pro version, and I have a code for the paid basic version to the first person who requests it in the comments below. Even if you’re not the first and fortunate one, we are all fortunate that it exists.
You can get JPEGmini from B&H here.
You can also see this video for an idea of how this wedding photography couple uses JPEGmini. It’s marketing, sure, but you’ll get the idea.