HEIC Photo Info

The HEIC file format is the current default file format used by Apple for storing photographs on iOS devices, such as iPhones and iPads, as well as on MacOS. They use this as an alternative to compressed file formats such as JPEG.

JPEG (or JPG) images were created by the Joint Photographic Experts Group (that's where the name comes from). This is a digital image format that saves photographs in a compressed storage format. A compressed image format means that they have run algorithms to reduce the file size of the photograph on disk.

There are two types of image compression. Lossless compression produces the best image quality. The reason that it is called lossless is that none of the original data is lost during the comppression process. This is what you get with formats such as PNG. Losssless compression is great for when you want to maximize the amount of detail that is preserved, but it comes with a tradeoff of producing larger file sizes. For larger images such as photographs, this can produce very large file sizes. If the pictures are very important, such as Wedding photographs, maybe the larger file size is worth it

The other form of compression is what is known as lossy compression. Lossy compression actually loses data. This sounds scary, but the data is carefully chosen to minimize how much of the original image is lost. The goal with lossy compression is to make the image file size as small as possible, and to algorithmically try to recreate the data that is thrown away. Much of the time, the viewers of the photograph won't notice unless higher compression ratios are chosen.

How is HEIC and JPG different?

JPG is a lossy compression algorithm, but very common on the web. It is one of the most popular formats for saving digital photographs. Most phones and digital cameras (even profesison DSLR and mirrorless cameras) can save images in JPG format. HEIC (High Efficiency Image Container) photos are also lossy. These files have some unique properties to them, though. The HEIC file contains one or more pictures saved in what is known as HEIF, or High-Efficiency Image Format. This can be used for storing image sequences (such as bursts), or multiple exposure levels, for things such as HDR.

HEIC and HEIF are the default photo format on current iOS and Mac devices.

HEIC vs. JPG Image Quality

Overall, despite both being lossy formats, HEIC files use more modern algorithms and generally have better image quality.

HEIC vs. JPG File Size

In general, HEIC images can be smaller than JPG, despite having higher quality. This is thanks to better compression algorithms.

Operating System Support

JPG is usable almost everywhere. It is an older and widely used photo image format. This means that it will be usable not only on Apple devices, but also on devices running Microsoft Windows, Linux, Android, and other platforms. HEIC images are not nearly as well supported outside of the Apple Ecosystem. In order to use them elsewhere, you may have to convert them. One great and affordable tool for converting HEIC to JPG (or other formats) is the HEIC to Any Converter program, available in the Microsoft Store.

Specific Operating System Support

On Windows, Windows 10 version 1803 and later (for HEIC) and version 1903 and later (AVIF) you can load the HEIF Image Extension to read and write files in the HEIF file format. For HEVC-encoded video content, you need to install the HEVC Video Extensions. Note that the video extensions are generally not free.

For MacOS, High Sierra and later supports HEIC. MacOS Mojave uses HEIF in the Dynamic Desktop feature.

iOS 11 and later add support for HEIC. Beginning in iOS 16, support for AVIF is vailable.

In general, Apple products support playback of .heif for still photographs and .heifs for image sequences.

Android 8 (Oreo) is the beginning of rsupport for HEIF. Android 10 and later support HEIC, and Android 12 adds AVIF support.

On Ubuntu, verison 20.04 and later supports HEIC.

Web Browser Support

As of 2022, no web browsers natively support HEIC directly. For AVIF, it is supported in Safari in iOS 16 and iPadOS 16. On the desktop, it is supported in Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.

Camera Support

While many will be capturing photographs using their mobile phones (predominately iPhones), there is some support for HEIF formats in professional DSLR and mirrorless cameras. Support for HEIF is available in the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III, the Canon R5, and the Canon R6 cameras. Sony has implemented HEIF in the Sony α1 and the Sony α7 IV and Sony α7 V cameras.

Other HEIC Advantages

HEIC uses 16-bits of color per-channel, compared to only 8-bits per-channel for JPG. This allows HEIC images to represent a greater range of colors with more dynamic range. They can also be rotated or cropped without causing an addition lossy conversion.

What about the Higher Education International Conference?

This domain was once previously used by the Higher Education International Conference, but now is being used to describe the HEIC photograph digital image format. The page no longer contains any information from the conference, but I would be happy to host any of the slides that were previously published here.


We would like to thank wedding photographer Christopher Thibeault of Chris James Photography of Rhode Island for providing background information on the HEIC file format for us.