Lossy Compression: What Is It And How To Use It

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Lossy compression is a method used to reduce data file sizes without compromising the integrity of the original data.

It enables you to take large files that contain a lot of data and reduce their size by removing some of the data but not impacting the overall quality. This can be especially beneficial when dealing with large video or image files.

The remainder of this article will explain the principles of lossy compression and how to apply and use it effectively:

What is lossy compression

Definition of Lossy Compression

Lossy compression is a type of data compression technique that uses methods to reduce the size of a file or data stream without losing significant amounts of its information content. This type of compression produces files that are smaller than their original versions while ensuring that the quality, clarity, and integrity of the data are preserved. It works by selectively deleting portions of the media data (such as audio or graphics) which remain imperceptible to the human senses. Lossy compression has been around for many years and its use has become increasingly popular due to advancements in technology.

This type of compression is advantageous in situations where bandwidth or storage space is limited, making it especially useful in:

  • Streaming applications such as video-on-demand (VoD),
  • Satellite broadcasting,
  • Medical imaging,
  • Digital audio formats.

This technique is also used extensively within audio and image editor applications to maintain quality with lower file sizes when saving an edited project file. Lossy compression can be applied to other types of data such as text files as long as no significant original content is lost during the process.

In contrast to lossy compresion, there is lossless compression which attempts to minimize the distortion between input and output data streams without reducing perceptual clarity by utilizing redundant information from within the source material itself instead of deleting any information from it.

Benefits of Lossy Compression

Lossy compression is an effective way of reducing file size while still maintaining overall image quality. Unlike more traditional lossless data compression techniques, which select and discard redundancies in the data to reduce size and increase transmission speed, lossy compression works by selectively discarding unimportant and redundant information in a file. This type of compression uses algorithms to analyze the data within a digital file and eliminate unnecessary portions without greatly affecting the overall quality or ending result.

When used correctly, lossy compression can provide many benefits, such as:

  • Reduced storage requirements: By removing irrelevant details from a digital file, the resulting image size can be significantly smaller than its original counterpart, providing greater storage savings for webmasters.
  • Improved transmission speeds: Lossy compression algorithms use less data by eliminating unnecessary information from an image that is not visible to the human eye. This means that files transmitted across networks can be substantially faster than their original versions without sacrificing quality.
  • Enhanced viewing experience: With a significant reduction in file size comes improved viewing experiences while browsing online or viewing images on mobile devices. Lossy compressed images take up less memory on device hard drives which helps with image rendering performance when loading photos or browsing webpages.

Types of Lossy Compression

Lossy compression is a data compression technique which reduces the size of a file by discarding parts of its data that are deemed unnecessary. It helps to optimize the file size and can help to save storage space. This type of compression technique can be used in various applications such as image, audio, and video files.

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In this article, we’ll discuss the four types of lossy compression, their advantages, and disadvantages:


JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) is a standard for lossy compression of digital images. JPEG supports 8-bit, grayscale images and 24-bit color images. JPG works the best on photos, especially those with lots of detail.

When a JPG is created, the image is split into small blocks called ‘macroblocks‘. A mathematical formula reduces the amount of available colors or tones in each block and takes away imperfections that are an eyesore to us, but not to computers. It records all changes made in these blocks so as it goes back over them and records their original states in order to reduce their size. When a photo is saved as a JPG, it will appear slightly different depending on how much compression has been used to reduce its size. The image quality reduces when higher amounts of compression are applied and artifacts may start appearing – along with noise and pixelation. On saving an image as a JPG you can pick how much clarity needs to be sacrificed for what degree of file size reduction – typically called “quality“. This setting affects the amount of lossy compression used on your file.


MPEG (Moving Picture Experts Group) is a type of lossy compression that is used primarily for audio and video files. It was designed as a standard for compressing multimedia files and has become increasingly popular over the years. The main idea behind MPEG compression is to reduce the size of a file without compromising the quality – this is done by discarding certain elements of the file that are not perceptually important to the viewer.

MPEG compression works by analyzing a video, breaking it down into chunks, and making decisions about which parts can be safely discarded, while still maintaining an acceptable level of quality. MPEG focuses on motion components in a video file; objects that do not move in a scene are much easier to compress than objects that move around or have rapid changes in color or light intensity. Using advanced algorithms, MPEG can create efficient versions of each frame within the file and then use those frames to represent larger portions of the scene.

The amount of quality lost due to MPEG compression depends on both the chosen algorithm and settings used. The tradeoff here is between size and quality; higher settings will yield better results but at a greater cost in terms of space; conversely, lower settings will produce smaller files with more notable quality losses, particularly when it comes to large videos such as feature-length films or high-resolution videos suitable for HDTVs.


MP3, or Moving Pictures Expert Group Audio Layer 3, is a compressed audio format which uses a range of specific algorithms to reduce the original size of audio files. It is considered one of the most popular formats due to its efficiency in compressing digital audio songs into smaller sizes than other lossy formats. MP3 uses a “lossy” form of compression which eliminates some of the original recording’s data and makes it easier for devices such as portable music players to store and stream large amounts of digital music.

MP3 can compress any type of digital mix ranging from mono, duplicate mono, stereo, dual channel and joint stereo. The MP3 standard supports 8-320Kbps bit-rate (kilobits per second) compresses voice data into 8kbps which is suitable for streaming purposes. It offers progressively higher levels of sound quality up to 320Kbps with higher sound fidelity and higher bitrate giving even more lifelike sound quality at an increased file size resulting in slower download times. When using this compression method, it would be typical for users to achieve an average 75% file size reduction with no loss in listening enjoyment or clarity due to its coding system that efficiently transfers larger amounts of data while maintaining appropriate sound quality.

How To Use Lossy Compression

Lossy compression is a type of data compression that reduces a file by removing some of its data. This will result in a smaller file size and consequently, faster download speeds. Lossy compression is a great tool to use when you need to quickly compress large files.

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • How to use lossy compression
  • What the benefits are
  • How to optimize the files you compress

Step-by-Step Guide

Using lossy compression typically requires the following steps:

  1. Select the type of file or data you wish to compress – Depending on the desired resulting file size and quality level, the type of compressed format may vary. Common formats include JPEG, MPEG, and MP3.
  2. Choose a compression tool – Different compression tools use different algorithms to create various levels of file compression. Some popular tools are WinZip, zipX, 7-Zip and WinRAR for Windows users; Stuffit X for Mac users; and IZarc for multi-platform users.
  3. Adjust compression settings – To create a more tailored result, make adjustments such as changing the level of compression, image resolution or other embedded settings within a compressed format before compressing the data. Also look into settings that optimize images for web viewing if applicable.
  4. Compress file or data – Start the compressions process by clicking start or “OK” in your application when finished with your settings adjustments. Depending on the size of files being compressed, it could take several minutes to complete this process depending on speed of processor and software application used.
  5. Uncompress file or data – The extract process will allow you access to your newly shrunken files once completed so that you can get started using them immediately however best suited for your project at hand. Eccess desired files from compressed folders types typically varying from .zip .rar .7z .tar .iso etc.. Unzip extraction is simply extracting specific compressed components via applications such as WinZip , 7Zip , IZarc etc.. allowing personal control over what components you would like accessible at any given time while keeping others tucked away in safe tight protected folders based on your preferences!

Best Practices

When using lossy compression, it’s important to use the right format for the right application. For example, if you need to share a presentation file with other people, then you should use a Lossy image format since presentations are usually displayed at a lower resolution and small size.

There are several ways to maximize the effectiveness of lossy compression. Here are some of the best practices:

  • Choose an appropriate compression format according to your use case (jpeg for images, mp3 for audio, etc.).
  • Set an appropriate quality level depending on how much data you want to discard.
  • Adjust the parameters according to your needs; analyze the trade-off between file size and quality.
  • Be aware that applying lossy compression multiple times can induce visible artifacts in your media files and degrade their quality more significantly than a single pass of compression usually would.
  • Make sure that metadata associated with compressed files is properly preserved so that all important information remains available when distributing or displaying elements of file contents.


In conclusion, lossy compression is a great way to reduce file sizes and reduce loading time on websites while still keeping a high level of quality. It allows you to reduce the file size of an image or audio file without having a major impact on the quality of the file. It is important to remember, however, that lossy compression will still affect the quality of the file and must be used with care.

Summary of Lossy Compression

Lossy compression is a type of data compression that reduces file size by removing some of the information contained in the original file. This process typically results in files that are smaller than the original files and have been compressed using algorithms such as JPEG, MP3 and H.264 to name a few. Lossy compression techniques tend to trade off some quality for size but optimized algorithms can produce files with very little perceivable difference from the uncompressed original.

When applying lossy compression, it’s important to consider how much quality will be acceptable for a given file size reduction goal. Some lossy compressions can reduce file sizes dramatically while offering relatively minimal quality losses while others may produce extremely small files but with unacceptable distortions or artifacts. In general, if greater size reductions are desired, then larger quality losses can be expected and vice versa.

Overall, lossy compression provides an effective way to reduce file sizes without sacrificing too much performance compared to uncompressed formats in many situations; however, these problems must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis before making a decision on whether or not its an appropriate solution for a given problem set.

Advantages of Using Lossy Compression

Lossy compression provides many advantages to digital media files. The most obvious advantage is that lossy compression offers a greater degree of file size reduction than traditional lossless compression algorithms. This helps keep storage and bandwidth usage requirements to a minimum when transferring large media files over the internet, or for compressing them for local storage.

In addition to offering better file size reduction than traditional lossless techniques, the use of lossy compression also makes it possible to reduce file sizes even further while still maintaining an acceptable level of quality (depending on the type of media being compressed). Additionally, using lossy algorithms allows users to locally adjust image and audio quality as needed without having to re-encode the entire file – this makes saving project files much easier and faster since only portions of a media file need to be modified.

Finally, using lossy algorithms can also provide extra security in some cases; since lower bitrate audio is generally less distinct and more difficult to interpret identically compared with higher bitrate versions, it can provide an additional layer of security should large data sets need protection from unauthorized listening or viewing. Lossy compression’s wide range of benefits make it popular among digital media users who want smaller files with minimal effort.

Hi, I'm Kim, a mom and a stop-motion enthusiast with a background in media creation and web development. I've got a huge passion for drawing and animation, and now I'm diving headfirst into the stop-motion world. With my blog, I'm sharing my learnings with you guys.