In the world of digital photography, maximum quality tends to come at a price: file size. Optimization you apply to your pictures can only go so far and the line between good quality digital files and optimal file size is a precarious one.
JPEGmini Pro is a solution that will optimize your images without obviously sacrificing quality. On your website your visitors on all devices connecting through various internet connection types will still see fantastic pictures, without the burden of huge file sizes. You’ll be able to stretch your hard drive space further and JPEGmini Pro may even make you think about how you do client image delivery, opening the door to potential cost savings.
It’s been around for a while but I know there’s a lot of people who are no doubt unfamiliar with the software in general — so I’m going to discuss it at length — and probably a few standalone users tired of having to drag, drop their Photoshop exports who will now be pleased to learn that there’s a nifty Photoshop CC extension available.
What It Is
Available as a free trial, the regularly priced $99 JPEGmini Pro is a simple Lightroom plugin or Photoshop CC extension that applies its algorithms on photo export to remove redundant binary data from your images.
Explained simply: think of how the MP3 file type compresses file size by removing parts of a song that fall outside the range of normal hearing — JPEGmini Pro (or any compression tool for that matter) works in a similar way.
Installation is simple: the included instructions have concise imagery to help even the newest of Lightroom or Photoshop CC users navigate the menu system. With the brief step-by-step guide, you’ll eventually be able to add JPEGmini Pro’s optimization to any and all images you export via your own custom export presets.
After you’ve installed it and added its functionality to your preset, it’s pretty much hands off.
What Is New
While the Lightroom version of JPEGmini Pro has been out for some time, the Photoshop CC version is fresh. While I am primarily a Lightroom user and that’s mostly what I tested JPEGmini Pro with — especially the large exports of files — I did put the Photoshop CC extension through its paces as well.
How It Works
I tested this extensively for the past month with Lightroom 5 on my Mac and have been more than pleased with the results. To begin with I tested some full wedding exports which tend to, despite my best efforts in Lightroom, export at around 10 to 16GB (and sometimes larger) depending on the wedding day.
I selected a random wedding, exported the pictures as I have for years now and was left with 12 GB of files. I then enabled JPEGmini Pro on the same export preset and re-did the whole thing. Impressed is the only way to describe my feelings about the pictures.
For one, at 100% crop the difference between any two of the pictures from the two exports was negligible. I’m sure there are pixel peepers out there who can see it and care but the difference I can see, is not something I care about.
In fact I doubt any regular client is going to notice and given that 90% of these wedding pictures won’t go any further than social media, few of them printed anywhere beyond 8×10 and the 2 or 3 that are printed large, well, that’s just it, they’re large. Large pictures are never viewed up close, so the leeway for image quality is perhaps even greater at larger print sizes.
The thing about compression, as we all know, is that it’s that balance and trade-off, quality for file size.
And wow, JPEGmini Pro may be the best software I’ve seen at walking that fine line between IQ and size. Those 12 GB wedding files were not only still great looking, at 100% crop, but also more than half the overall file size was suddenly gone. From 12 GB to 5 GB, just like that.
This Is Amazing
This for me is perhaps the most amazing part. For clients I do one of two things for image delivery, either online download via something like my own client site (or Dropbox) or I give them a branded USB drive with all their pictures on it.
Any way you slice it, it’s costing me money per MB of data I use or time in having to upload larger files. Either my own hosting solution or Dropbox will have to be capable of sustaining endless uploads of 12-ish GB of files or I’m paying a lot of money for 16 GB USB drives from any of the endless number of companies offering that these days.
And let’s face it, as megapixels on cameras expand in the never-ending search for immaculate image quality, today these weddings may be hovering just under 16GB — or more as is always the case with a random job here or there — but as quickly as I can type these words the average file size of a JPG is increasing.
Furthermore there’s the consideration of mobile Internet data. If you’re working remotely and want to upload a bunch of files over your tethered data plan, what would you prefer to upload: 19MB max resolution files or 5MB versions that look darn near identical. And given how influential website speed is in Google’s ever-changing PageRank algorithm, it’s very beneficial to use the smallest file size you can for your website’s content.
Lastly and just as important, JPEGmini Pro adds no time to your export process. Utilizing all your cores that your computer has it can export, I’ve noticed no difference between a non-JMP export and one with the plugin switched on.
The Photoshop Extension
The benefit of the Photoshop plugin for those among you who have been using the standalone version is that you can now export straight from Photoshop as a JPEGmini-fied version. The gains are exactly the same as I’ve discussed with the Lightroom version but without all the extra steps.
This is huge for anyone who isn’t into Lightroom, but is an avid Photoshop CC user.
Using the Photoshop CC extension for JPEGmini Pro is as easy as clicking that blue button, that’s it. Literally.
At 100%, heck even zoomed in ridiculously further, there’s zero difference between the two files, except for the massive file size difference.
Photoshop CC exported that .jpg at a whopping 21.1MB, nice! Except, no it isn’t.
JPEGmini Pro is more than half the size of the PS export. Even using Save For Web in PS, there was still a large file size difference. And though Adobe’s Save For Web did a good job at crunching the file size, it also crunched the image quality to a point where it looked pretty poor.
JPEGmini or JPEGmini Pro? You Decide
The base version of JPEGmini costs just $19 while the Pro version is $99. That’s a lot of moolah, but the question is what does the $99 get you over the base version:
- JPEGmini Pro can optimize photos up to 60MP, while JPEGmini optimizes up to 28MP
- JPEGmini Pro works 8X faster than JPEGmini
- JPEGmini Pro comes with Lightroom Plugin, JPEGmini does not
- JPEGmini Pro comes with Photoshop Extension, JPEGmini does not
Essentially if you’re going to be A) using photos above 28MP or B) using Lightroom, you’ll probably need to cough up the $99.
And for your information, there is an upgrade from the base JPEGmini to the Pro version for just $79.
With the expectations for file delivery that often come with commercial jobs I would suggest that every working photographer needs JPEGmini Pro if you do not already have a file compression solution that you trust.
I would make back the $99 spent for JPEGmini Pro in no time at all being able to use smaller USB drives for just a few weddings.
For the hobbyists I’d suggest an evaluation of where you’re going with your photography. If you’re slowly beginning to do work for clients and are finding yourself pinging the upper limits of your online delivery method or USB drives, then perhaps it is time to add JPEGmini Pro to your arsenal. If you’re not doing any online storage at all, you can still gain from JPEGmini Pro if you keep JPEG versions of all your exported files. Not everyone does this, so judge your workflow accordingly before dropping the coin.
Covering picture sizes up to 60MP, there is a free trial you can use to ensure the $99 license is worth it. Moreover JPEGmini Pro is multi-platform covering both PC and Mac, just in case you switch down the road.
With nearly zero perceptible trade-off in image quality, the benefits of JPEGmini Pro are both immediate and long-term, unquestionably changing my workflow and saving me a lot of money.