How to get rid of color banding on the blue water areas?

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n03

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Hello!

How do people deal with color banding issues on the blue water areas? I understand it's a common problem on shots with skies, and for us, divers, shots with blue water. The two solutions I saw so far involve layers in Photoshop (which I don't have), and the other is to add grain in Lightroom, which I do use for processing. I've found that grain doesn't work that well and makes the whole image look crappier. Adding luminance, on the other hand, helped matters a bit, but still not great.

I'm also trying to make small-size photos that I can post on the web, and the color banding problem seems the more pronounced the smaller I try to make the photo. Is there any specific solution for small-size photos?

Lastly, I took all my photos in superfine-large-JPEG (Canon G16), but wondering if shooting in RAW would have alleviated the issue? I normally do macro, did one trip in RAW, thought it's a big hassel with little gain and went back to JPEG. Is it worth turning back to RAW, at least for wide-angle?

Thank you for the inputs!
 

JohnnyC

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Shoot RAW. Use the range masking in Lightroom. You can do it by luminance value or color value.
 

tursiops

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ShootRawTshirt.jpg
 

Chris Ross

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Process your images in 16 bit, the banding is caused by posterisation when you stretch the image (any thing such as levels and curves which increases contrast) and occurs because there are a limited number of colours available in 8 bit. You can safely convert back to 8 bit when you save.

One thing you can try on existing images is a reverse s curve selectively on the water to reduce contrast, though it may not look all that great depending on the image.

Here's a description of posterisation: Image Posterization Look up tutorials on dealing with posterisation in google and try them out, some are easier to follows than others.
 

Hoag

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As others have mentioned, if you shoot RAW, the vast majority of your colour banding issues should go away. Typically, JPEGs are 8 bit colour while the RAW for that camera has a 12 bit colour depth. The difference between the 8 bit and the 12 bit will be what will reduce the banding that you see.

You are right in that shooting RAW is more work. I don't think that anybody would argue to the contrary, but with a little work in a photo editing software, the results from a RAW image will be far superior to a JPEG. That extra little bit of work will be rewarded.
 

Rred

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Banding happens when you do not have enough pixels (spots, dots, cells, pixels, the terminology varies with the industry you are coming from) to render the tonal range of the image. For instance, in the old 300-dpi laser printers, sometimes they printed a "cell" consisting of 64 pixels. Think of a checkboard, that's the "cell". Some people would call that a pixel (more confusing when you need to put 3 pixels together to make one spot of color!) but technically, each of the square on the checkboard is a "pixel". If the squares are all black, you get a black "cell". If half of them are black, you get a 50% gray cell. So your cell can only have 64 gray tones, from white to black.

If you are trying to print an image that has a wider tonal range, you will get banding as the process has to make the crude change from one level to another.

In terms of what is causing this and how to fix it...shooting in RAW mode, which can be 12-14 bit compared to the 8-bit that JPEG always is, can be enough to solve that. Then post-processing the images in software to get them printed, or converted to JPEG, in a better way. There are some good YouTube videos on this, Tony Northrup is one of the many posters who goes into that and other technical issues in a very good way.

But yes, it is also possible to do everything right, and if the final image device (screen or old printer) doesn't have enough resolution, you'll still get banding.
 

Hoag

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One thing that @Rred alluded to, but did not come right out and say is that another possibility could be that your monitor is not capable of displaying the subtle differences in colour that your camera is able to capture. This could be another reason that you are seeing banding. It is possible that the image itself might be fine, but your monitor my be the limiting factor.
 
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n03

n03

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Wow, thank you all for the very insightful responses! Lot's to work on :) Mostly to shoot RAW.

Unfortunately, I'm still in Lightroom 5, so don't have the range-masking capability :mad:
 
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