Back during the good old days before the widespread use of the internet, photocopiers held a dominating lead when it comes to producing duplicates of pictures in a quick manner. The benefits of digital copiers were still the dependable solution for creating quality copies in a short amount of time. One of its problems, though, concerns quality. You see, when these machines make copies of photos, the overall quality that is produced is reduced. The effect is greatly amplified when a photo is copied many times over too. That’s the main reason why photocopiers have taken a backseat to various digital solutions out there right now. One such solution is taking photos from a digital camera and making numerous copies of its photos. The result from this process is called a JPEG file and theoretically, making multiple copies of these files wouldn’t compromise quality. But is it any better than the photocopier or is it actually worse? Let’s find that out.
First off, JPEG is an acronym for Joint Photographic Experts Group and it’s a form of digital photo compression. As I’ve said, these files came from a digital camera but it’s actually a watered-down version of the raw photo. This is done to limit its size and make the final version of the files more manageable to retain inside a computer storage system. As convenient as this format is, it’s not all great if you plan to copy it over and over again.
What Happens When You Copy A JPEG File Over and Over Again?
Just like the outcome when you use a photocopier, doing the same with JPEG files will also result in the same degradation of quality. This is true, especially if you choose to prioritize disk space over the quality of your digital image when you copy and save it in a photo editing software. That’s because your computer uses a different color space format, such as YCbCr, while digital photos use RGB. For starters, RGB has three 8-bit values consisting of Red, Green, and Blue. This color space format has a possible combination of 16.7 million colors and possesses 256 various stages of intensity. Meanwhile, YCbCr uses a wider range of colors. Once a photo is saved by your computer’s software, it converts it to RGB and this is where quality is compromised. The process wherein image quality is slightly lessened is called chroma subsampling.
Now, if you decide to save a specific image over and over again, the process of chroma subsampling will also be done. This is called generation loss and quite frankly, it has the same effect a physical photocopier does to an image. Furthermore, continuous chroma subsampling will effectively lead to color bleeding, or an image gradually getting blurrier with each copy.
Better Formats Than JPEG
You might be asking, how about other digital photo formats? Well, as compared to other formats, the JPEG is already 25 years old as we speak. In comparison, the WebP was released last 2010 and BPG in 2014. Both of these image formats boast better quality and are resistant against color bleeding. That’s because they utilize bigger macroblocks which could store more data and has better compression. Even though they’re new when compared to JPEG, they are also much more susceptible to error. Just imagine, if a single small error is found in WebP and BPG files, it has the ability to spread faster and affect the whole photo. Don’t worry though because you just need to take good care of WebP and BPG images when you handle them in your computer, and you’ll be fine.
How To Solve Generation Loss
And now, here are the two solutions to image generation loss. First, you should use a better image format than JPEG, like TIFF. In this way, the file has more data in it. Even if you copy it many times over, they quality loss will still be smaller against that of a JPEG file. Second, the most obvious and easiest solution is to minimize your copy to at least one. Not two, not three, just one folks. If you maintain just one generation copy, you can be assured there’s not going to be a loss caused by color bleeding. Just do one of these tips and your images can withstand the test of time.