How to Fix Banding in Digital Images

Remove Banding Artifacts with Photoshop

Mirrorless cameras converted for infrared capture can be prone to banding artifacts.

When I got my infrared-converted Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera, a colleague told me to watch out for banding in my images. I have never seen banding in images from my normal Nikon Z cameras, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

It turns out that in rare instances, I can detect slight banding patterns, especially if I’ve made strong local contrast adjustments, like the Structure slider in Silver Efex Pro 2.

Removing banding from digital images with Photoshop

What is the source of banding?

Mirrorless cameras (regardless of brand) use the image sensor as the autofocus sensor. While older cameras only used contrast-detection systems based on the sensor pixels themselves, newer cameras incorporate an array of phase-detection sensors on the sensor. In infrared images, it’s possible to see faint artifacts of the array appear as banding in your image.

When is banding an issue?

Most of the time, banding artifacts are hardly noticeable in your images. As I mentioned, I’ve never seen them in any of my visible-light Nikon Z captures. It’s only with infrared images that I’ve enhanced significantly where banding starts to appear.

Keep in mind that you really need to look closely at your photos to see any evidence of banding . I usually only see it when I zoom in to 200% or more. Images with lots of detail will hide the banding artifacts, too. Banding mostly shows up in areas of low detail, like clear skies.

How to remove banding artifacts easily with Adobe Photoshop

Removing banding artifacts can be really challenging, and I don’t worry about it in most images unless the bands are blatantly obvious. I experimented with a variety of noise removal techniques to remove banding from my images, with varying degrees of success. Later, while doing some reading up on noise removal and skin smoothing, I discovered a technique for Adobe Photoshop that does a remarkable job at removing banding artifacts from digital images: Surface Blur.

Surface Blur Filter
Use the Surface Blur filter in Photoshop to remove banding artifacts
  • Open your image in Adobe Photoshop
  • I recommend working on a duplicate layer
  • Select Filter–> Blur–> Surface Blur
  • Set the radius to 8-15 pixels
  • Set the threshold to 3-8 levels (the higher the threshold, the stronger the blur will be, so be sure to preview the effect
  • If you need to recover detail, use a layer mask to paint out the blur and reveal the original image

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