In the advertising and PR realm, that’s a question that gets tossed around quite a bit. Sometimes, the answer is no.
There’s a scene in an episode of Eastbound & Down that’s a little too bold for me to link to here, but it cracks me up every time. In the scene, Kenny Powers is looking at a banner that has his pixelated face on it. He says it looks like the designer used a JPEG file, when he should have used a TIFF. As Kenny knows, different file types and resolutions are suited for certain uses.
Here are some basic guidelines:
Photos for print: Whether you are developing a brochure or sending a photo to a magazine editor to place with an article, you should send a high-res file. Typically, this means a photo that is at least 300 dpi (dots per inch) at 4-by-6 inches. A TIFF file is ideal, but a JPEG can work.
Photos for web: For a website, social media page, or an e-newsletter, a 72 dpi photo is adequate for multiple reasons. First, computer monitors can’t display images at 300 dpi. Second, a low-res photo—or one that has been optimized for the web—has a smaller file size, meaning it can load faster. The files that work best for the web are JPEG, PNG, or GIFs.
Save the original: Remember that you can always lower a photo’s resolution (which deletes some of data/dots per inch), but you can’t increase it (restore deleted data).
When in doubt, ask: If you are unsure if a photo is suitable, ask for specific requirements.
There are many other topics to discuss regarding photos and images—such as the differences between raster and vector; JPEG, TIFF, GIF, and PNG; RGB and CMYK; and dpi and ppi—but those are topics for another day.