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Modern Photo Format HEIC: How to Create, Edit, Open, and Convert it

April 18

18 min. to read

If you take many photos for personal archives or SMM projects, saving storage space is more relevant than ever. Because high-quality images have big sizes. One day, it may happen that the memory on your phone will be complete.

It can be at an unexpected moment, for example, when you will want to shoot a beautiful rainbow, or you need to take subject photos of a new cosmetic product for Instagram. Apple company, noticing this problem, has developed a new file type. This is a HEIC. It saves space in your gadget, allowing you to take many quality contents. What is the HEIC photo format? How does it differ from other photo formats? How to convert HEIC to JPEG? In the article, we will answer these and many other questions.

High-Efficiency Image Format: Main Features

You're getting used to the fact that the photos made on your camera are saved on the device in JPG format. But starting with iOS 11 and newer operating systems, you notice that images are captioned as HEIC instead of the usual abbreviation. Why is the format called? Let's find out further. 

What is the HEIC format?

HEIC stands for High-Efficiency Image File. It’s a new container format developed by the Apple company for modern models of the iPhone and iPad. It saves photos in higher quality than the popular format JPEG but simultaneously takes up very little space in the memory card on the device. This is due to modern compression technology. 

What does a HEIC file contain? It’s usually one image or sequence of iPhone photos you took with the device's camera. HEIC also includes metadata that describes every image. In particular, you can see information about the size of the image, location, resolution, editing, etc. Files of this format are saved as .heic or.HEIF. It all depends on the number of pictures inside. Image container HEIC functions as JPEG. You can edit, move, and convert HEIC extensions in other formats. 

The Compressing of a Photo: How it Happens?

The process of photo compression seems complicated at first glance. But in practice, everything is effortless. The container uses High-Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) to save space on the memory card. This is a special codec that was developed initially for video compression. 

To reduce video file size, HEVC compresses every frame with discrete cosine and sine transforms (DCT and DST) with block sizes raining from 4×4 pixels to 32×32 pixels. It makes the image more accurate with an emphasis on details. During this process, inter-frame compression also occurs. Thanks to this, the codec compresses video more than the photo. However, it’s very effective in compressing images. 

How Much Space Can You Save due to HEIC?

The HEIC format allows you to save high-quality photos with twice less storage space. For example, to keep a good image in JPG format, you need 8 megabytes. HEIC requires only 4 megabytes. 

In this case, you can transfer photos faster than when using the JPEG format. And this will help you well when you require the captured photo content to process in Photoshop or other editors on your computer. 

HEIC and JPEG Formats: What is the Difference?

At first glare, the HEIC file format differs from JPEG because it takes up less space in the memory gadget. There are more differences here:

  • Compression features. Suppose you work with JPEG files and want to compress them while editing and re-storage. It may lead to the loss of some background data. And as a result, the picture quality will deteriorate. It doesn’t happen while compressing HEIC photos because, in this case, this format breaks images into essential files.
  • Picture quality. Despite smaller file sizes, the image quality remains at a high level. It even exceeds the rate of JPEG. It’s influenced by transparency and border dynamic range capabilities. 
  • Storage space. If you transfer a .HEIC file to your computer, it will take up little space, and, accordingly, the load on the hard drive will not be so high. JPEG files, on the contrary, take up a lot of space and if the drive is full of photos, the computer will slow down a bit. 
  • Transparency. JPEG files don’t support transparency. So, they don’t have suitable work related to creating design projects. The file extension HEIC, like PNG, gives more opportunities in this regard. Having transparency, such images merge seamlessly with the existing background of a webpage. Thus, web designers can quickly create logos, graphics, and other designer objects. 
  • Editing possibilities. With each new editing and downloading, the JPEG file loses its quality. If you perform the same actions with the HEIC picture, will preserve high quality. At the same time, information about editing is also stored. It means you can easily undo the changes you applied to the image. 

You’ve discovered what is a .HEIC file and seen that the new format is better than the JPEG one. Below, we will consider the main advantages and disadvantages of this container. 


  • Takes up double lesser the storage space. And one file can contain several images.
  • Despite the small size, the images are high-quality, even better than JPEG. The support of 16-bit color is a pleasant bonus. It will help you to edit your file more flexibly.
  • Except for the images themselves, the HEIC file extension contains valuable data about your photo, beginning with weight and width in pixels and ending with shooting time. Also, you see your edited images that you can take various actions with, for example, undo editing or make new changes. 
  • The container includes an alpha channel that allows for saving photos with transparency. 
  • Easily convert to JPEG, PNG, and other popular formats.


  • Only some browsers support HEIC on the Internet. 
  • Not quite compatible with other devices or applications. You may encounter that when you download the file to your computer, it will not open. In this case, you need to convert this container to another format supported by your computer. 

How did this Container Format Appear?

HEIC extension was first mentioned in 2013. The Moving Pictures Expert Group finalized the main standard of this format in 2015, a popular company that developed MP3 and MPEG. Understanding consumers’ need to save space in phone memory, Apple decided to adopt this option. And in 2017, it realized iOS 11, where HEIC was instead the valid JPEG format. Since then, it has been the primary one for storing multimedia files in modern iPhones and iPods. 

What is This Format for? 

Many wonders why are iPhone photos HEIC and this format is needed. Having high-quality and space-saving capabilities can open eyes to many things in personal and professional life. For example, you are a professional photographer who shoots many photos of aroma candles or natural cosmetics for Instagram. So, you require a lot of space for high-quality content on one device. HEIC allows realizing it. And if you like moving animations, you can change the stored sequence of images from HEIC to GIF with a converter.

Work with HEIC Files 

We have considered HEIC's meaning, known its pros and cons, and looked into history. Now we’re going to move to the practice part because there are several points regarding the use of this format that you need to know. 

How to Create, Open and Edit HEIC File

When we were learning what is HEIC we noticed it allows performing many actions with the photo. Creating, editing, and the opening file is the most significant among them. If you use Apple gadgets, the .heic file creates by default after shooting. 

How to open a photo in this format? If you want to view pictures on the laptop screen to edit them, learn about different ways to open a file on Mac and Windows. 

Opening and Editing HEIC on Windows 

Previously, most new format files could not open even on Windows. Therefore, it caused great difficulties when working with photos. To enjoy viewing images on a computer screen and process them in graphic editors, you had first to convert them to JPEG format. 

But over time, Microsoft found an even better way out of this situation, developing HEIF Image Extensions for version 18.09 of Windows 10 or later. There are many options for this free utility. To use one of them, you need to download it from Microsoft Store and install it. After it, you can view the file .heic in the default Photos App. 

If you want to process your images for a job or personal goals, you need to restart Photoshop, import HEIC files, and edit photos as you always do. Also, after working with the file, you can Select As and convert it to your preferred format. 

Opening and Editing HEIC on Mac

HEIC files are easily opened in macOS and iOS because they are files by default. Just click on the file to view photos and select Open with Preview. And if you want to edit the image in Photoshop, you need to open the file, go to Edit and Preference, and select Camera Raw. Then click on the File Handling Tab in the JPEG and TIFF Handling box, choose Automatically open JPEG and HEIC with settings, or Automatically open all supported JPEG and HEIC from the drop-down menu. After it, you can edit your file as you do it constantly. 

How to Convert HEIC to JPEG and PNG?

As you have already seen, viewing photos after downloading them to your computer is only sometimes possible. It occurs in cases when you need to convert HEIC into JPEG or PNG format. How to do it? There are several ways available for Mac and Windows.

Converting on Mac 

You can set your iPhone or iPad to automatically save HEIC as JPG when transferring photos to your Mac. But what to do if you need to change the format of images already on your computer? There are a few programs that will help you convert HEIC to JPEG or PNG format:

  • Preview. It’s a simple way of changing the format of photos. First, open the HEIC file you want to convert in Preview. Then click File and select Export. You will see Format in the menu. Click on it and then choose JPG. After that, click Save. 
  • Photos app. Select the desired image for conversion in this app. Click on it, then select Export and Export the photo. You will see a drop-down menu with formats to choose from. Select JPG or PNG. After it, click Export, select a location to store the photo, and click Export. 

Converting on Windows

HEIF Image Extension is perfect, but only Windows 10 version. You need to use a particular app to convert .heic in the older operating system. There are several such instruments:

  • CopyTrans HEIC. It’s the easiest way to convert files, which don’t require many actions. First, download and install this program. Next, select the photo you want to convert in the field. Right-click on it and select Convert to JPEG with CopyTrans from the drop-down menu. As a result, you will get a copy of this file in JPEG format in the same folder. 
  • HEIC to JPG. With this program, you can convert up to 50 photos at once, saving you time. To get started, download and install it on your computer. Go to this program and select the necessary images in a particular field. After that, click Convert, and your pictures will be saved in a new format. 

How to Get Photos in JPEG format, not HEIC

You don’t want to work with HEIC format on your gadget? Is it difficult for you? So, you can set your iPhone so that it takes and saves photos in JPEG format. To do this, you must take a few steps:

  1. Go to settings; 
  2. Tap Camera;
  3. Click on Formats; 
  4. Tap Most Compatible.

Kip in mind that all your available photos on the iPhone remain the same, but the format of the future images will be JPEG. HEIC is an optional file format, so you can switch back to it when you want. 

What are Good Alternatives to This Format 

Now you know what is a HEIC photo, But besides that, iPhones can shoot and save content in other formats. JPEG is the most common and compatible with applications. However, it takes up a lot of space. There is also RAW, which requires 5-10 times more space than JPEG. WebP is more efficient than HEIC because it compresses photos without loss. It’s available on most web browsers. 


You have learned in more detail what is HEIC file. In practice, working with it may seem troublesome. But all the disadvantages are covered by two significant advantages. This is a huge saving of space in your device’s memory and high-quality images. And problems with the complexity of using this format can be easily and quickly solved thanks to programs that convert to a more familiar format, JPEG. 

Modern Photo Format HEIC: How to Create, Edit, Open, and Convert it | Skylum How-to(2)

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Written by

Svitlana Shramenko

Freelance photographer

Svitlana Shramenko is a freelance photographer and a professional copywriter with seven years of experience. She loves to travel and has been to many countries. The beauty of nature is what inspires Svitlana, and she loves to capture that beauty through her lens. She enjoys sharing her knowledge, so she creates easy-to-understand and expert articles for the blog that not only provide knowledge but also inspiration. She knows firsthand what art is and how to tell the story in a way that makes it interesting for the reader.

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Modern Photo Format HEIC: How to Create, Edit, Open, and Convert it | Skylum How-to(14)