PS or PSE11 - 8 bit colour

Started Sep 29, 2013 | Discussions thread
Glen Barrington
Glen Barrington Forum Pro • Posts: 19,799
Re: PS or PSE11 - 8 bit colour

ppage wrote:

The issue with working in 8 bit color is not lack of colors to display, but how they can be distorted if you do major shifts in the color with the software. If you compress the range for example and then expand it, irreversible changes are made that produce visible artifacts. The main one is posterization.

Exactly! For example, if you have a nice smooth sky that goes from a light colour at the horizon to a dark colour near the zenith and you apply an aggressive curves correction to the image, you are more likely to see banding in the sky with an 8 bit image than with a 16 bit image.

That may well be theoretically true, but I wonder just how statistically true it is?  How common are such occurrences?  I've never seen any posterization or banding in my 8 bit work.  And considering most of the display options available to us (printing, the internet, etc.) are also 8 bit, we simply don't see much unintentional posterization.  We do see 'some' banding but it is also pretty rare.

Don't get me wrong, I use a 16 bit workflow as much as I can, but I worry that we are mis-directing beginners energies by stressing it too much.  I think there are far more important things beginners need to deal with.  I fear we are getting people bogged down in the minutia of digital photography and not dealing enough with issues of focus, framing, and the most important, developing that critical photographer's 'eye' that allows the capture in the first place.

The truth is, 8 bit is probably good enough for most of us most of the time.  There are LOTS of superb 8 bit photos floating around.  Maybe we should tell beginners to worry about posterization and banding when they encounter it.

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