If you shoot photography in RAW format, then you are probably used to working with 16-bit images. In terms of digital imaging, the pixel contains several bits, which are units of color information that each have a choice to either be a 0 or a 1. The combination of all of these pixels creates a unique pattern of 0's and 1's, ending up as the image we are able to see. Because of the complexity of information presented in a 16-bit or 24-bit image, software applications cannot fully render an image at that level in all situations. When preparing an image for everyday use, you will need to convert the image to 8 bits.
Scan your image at 16 bits or higher. If converting a photo, the image must have been taken using the RAW format to be in true 16-bit color depth. Import or open the image you wish to convert in Photoshop by clicking "File" then "Import" or "File" then "Open."
Perform any edits, filters or other modifications to your photo or image while it is still in 16-bit, 24-bit or 32-bit mode. The higher depth allows most filters and effects to be applied to the image more evenly, resulting in a higher-quality result once the image is converted. When working with gradients or photos with a high dynamic range, editing the image at a higher color depth will also reduce the risk of banding or other undesirable effects.
Convert the image by clicking on "Image" then "Mode" and selecting "8 Bits/Channel." Verify the conversion did not cause any adverse affects to the look of your image and make any corrections where required. Save the image in an 8-bit format such as a JPG or PNG file. Note that directly saving the higher-bit image as a JPG file will automatically convert the saved file to 8 bits as well.
Tips & Warnings
- Scan, photograph or create images in 16-bit mode or higher whenever possible and only convert to 8-bit before saving a copy intended for the web or a specific application.
- Always save or backup copies of the higher-bit image.
- 16-bit and higher images can be very large in file size and cause your system to perform slower when editing.
- Avoid reducing the bits and then increasing them again in an attempt to restore quality. Use the undo function instead. Increasing the bits of an 8-bit image will not increase the quality.
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