StrobistAdventures 8:48pm, 7 April 2012
Right so I am going to say this straight out: I don't get colors.

Color profiles, RGB, sRGB, CMYK, printing, color calibration..none of it! Tried reading a bunch of stuff, hit some website on color theory and zonked out. It's like instant sleep inducing cough syrup. So I stopped. Until today....because I made this picture with really nice colors and I was admiring them in Photoshop and then I downsized and opened in Irfanview (and ACDSEE) and man...the colors are all different!

If I can't even get apps on my own PC to show one picture with consistent colors, how can I hope to put up pictures on the web that people will see the way I am seeing them (in Photoshop) and how will I EVER get the damned thing to print right? (Something to do with color profiles and taking them to the printer I am told. Mumble, mumble, mutter mutter....)

*goes off grumbling into sunset*
Robert Wolterman 6 years ago
If you only shoot black and white, you don't have these problems. :)
shoens 6 years ago
Simplify your life, but maybe black & white is too much simplification.

Unless you are preparing files in CMYK for printing on an offset press, don't bother with CMYK. If you are preparing files for an offset press, supply them RGB files anyway and let them worry about it.

In RGB, despite whatever advantages of the alternatives, prepare your files in sRGB. Whenever files leave your control (e.g., when posting on a web site, mailing to someone, sending out to be printed), make sure they are in sRGB and tagged as sRGB.

Choose and use sRGB because that's what most people and applications assume. If someone's too lazy to look at the color profile tag on the file, they will assume sRGB. Indulge that assumption.

As to hoping that people will see pictures the way you see them on the web, give up. Everyone's display is different. Most are not calibrated. Everyone views pictures under different ambient lighting. Some people are color-blind. Preview the files in your own browser and hope for the best.

There are reasons for other color spaces and profiles, but working that way brings complications that you don't need.
ChrisVPhoto 6 years ago
sRGB is your friend. That being said, color barely matters; my workstation is different from your monitor is different from my laptop is different from this print under tungsten is different from that print under fluorescent....
jsr00001 6 years ago
It's all about color management from camera to printer.

When you shoot, your color images are stored as a sRGB or Adobe 98 RGB profile. It's not important to the discussion what the profile details are other than they are a subset of all possible colors.

You then transfer your photos to your computer and adjust them in photoshop. The phrase "calibrated monitor" has been thrown into the mix. Without going into detail, you stand a better chance of a good print with a calibrated monitor because you are workng your photo manipulation with a standardized display. Note: most monitors follow the sRGB profile.

Think of is as 'passing the baton'

1) You shoot your color photos in the sRGB Mode (default).

2) You manipulate the photos on a system that has a calibrated monitor. This links the photos shot in the sRGB mode to the monitor calibrated to the sRGB mode.

3 Printer profiles are a way of telling your printer to print the 'correct colors'. Steps 1 & 2 above have got you from camera to a adjusted image linked to the sRBG color profile. You now need to go from the sRGB color profile to the printer. This is done by converting the corrected image from sRGB to the printer profile given for your printer. (Reference in Photoshop CS5 'convert to profile' in the edit menu). This is the photo you print.

This is a lot of work to get a print, but you will be much closer to a good print.
Alfredk PRO Posted 6 years ago. Edited by Alfredk (member) 6 years ago
I agree with Chris, color is important but it is perceptional, everyone sees it a little different.
If you use color management, it will allow you to create and display a file that should be looking the same on every system with the same specifications.
Work in sRGB and you have a good chance that someone will see it like you did :))
Color management is one of the easiest things to do and at the same time it is one of the most complex issues of photography!
Moon C Photoworks 6 years ago
, I hear you brother! Subscribe to Kelby Training, and look at the following tutorials by Matt Kloskowski:

1). Mastering Color in Photoshop CS4 (The Nuts and Bolts)

2). Mastering Color in Photoshop CS4: Creative Color

Don't worry about the photoshop version. The stuff is good for CS3, CS4, CS5 & CS6. Good luck!
shoens 6 years ago
One other simplification: outsource your printing. There are lots of places to order prints from over the internet. Let them worry about their printer profiles, calibration, and all that. Let them worry about clogs and jams and keeping inks and paper in stock.
vfk 6 years ago
You mentioned you downsized the image... are you working with JPG's? What is your compression value?

Each time you save a JPG, the image is compressed and you lose colors.
Mr. Speedlight 6 years ago
...because I made this picture with really nice colors and I was admiring them in Photoshop and then I downsized and opened in Irfanview (and ACDSEE) and man...the colors are all different!


There is a fly in the ointment you need to understand. It's not a complex concept. Some programs like Photoshop will change the way the colors appear based on various settings. Get it all right in Photoshop. Get it so what you see in Photoshop is right on. Export to JPG in sRGB and look at the image in FireFox, in IE, In a Freeware like Irfanview 32 and it's still right. NOW Damn it. Open another photo processing program like Corel Paint Shop Pro and it loads something or blows away something PS loaded and your color everywhere is shot. Programs like PS and CPSP can fight each other.

You have to deal with the variables (1) one at a time. I know that if I view proof colors in an older version of Photoshop with my DHH Default sRGB proof setup the colors in photoshop will be the exact same color I see in Firefox, Irfanview 32 or any other viewer that doesn't upset my WinXP/Photoshop setup. This is on my computer. God help me if I start another program like CPSP. I have to use System Restore to get my system calibration back.

So what's this drivel all about? You have to take it (1) one variable at a time. If you change several variables at once you're screwed. You'll have no idea what's happening.

I'll let someone else explain the rest as I'd likely confuse the hell out of you.


Dave Hartman

Postscript: to help a friend with an uncalibrated MAC book I set up her camera to shoot NEF + JPG fine (RAW + JPG). I set her default color in her camera to sRGB. When I do post processing for her I start in Adobe RGB 1998 and then export in sRGB for her web use. When she does simple post processing she does it entirely in sRGB.

sRGB is your friend. --ChrisVPhoto

That's what I figured for my friend.

One very important variable to take out of the system is your viewing environment. If at all possible do your post processing under low light with a fluorescent lamp (only one tube) that gives the same color as your monitor. The wall behind your computer monitor should be neutral in color. Not only does the color falling on a print change the way you see the print but the color in your post processing environment will change the way you see your computer display.

Control your post processing light environment.
Matthew Halstead Posted 6 years ago. Edited by Matthew Halstead (member) 6 years ago
I only had a quick look through the other comments so apologies if I missed this, but one of the key steps is to make sure your own monitor is calibrated, otherwise regardless of the steps outlined above, you're never going too have a consistent starting point.

Right, this is my simple colour management workflow:

1) buy a colour calibrator for your monitor (I use a Spyder 2 which is cheap and works fine) and calibrate your monitor!

2) I shoot in RAW format. When exporting my images from Adobe Camera Raw I export them in Prophoto colour profile.

(Prophoto is the colour profile with the widest colour gamut i.e. it is capable of displaying more colours than SRGB, AdobeSRGB etc. This is a bit of a red herring as most monitors can not yet display all the colours Prophoto can produce, but in the future they will, so why shoot yourself in the foot now?)

3) I then edit my Prophoto image in photoshop and make it look pwetty. I then save the finished file as a PSD so that I always have a version of the image with as much data as possible, which includes colour info.

4) This is where most people hit the problems. Most software can only ready sRGB colour profiles and most of them do it badly. So, before uploading my prophoto image to the web, in Photoshop I go to: Edit > Convert to Profile and then in the 'Destination' window I select sRGB.

As sRGB contains less colours than Prophoto, I may see a slight loss of colour quality in my image, so I correct in photoshop accordingly.

5) Finally, i upload my new sRGB jpeg to the web, and the colours look exactly the same as they do in photoshop. However, if i were to open the same image in Windows Photo Viewer it looks crap, as for some reason Windows is naff at reading colour profiles.

On a final note, some internet browsers are now able to recognise the difference between some colour profiles and will display the colours correctly, however it's a bit hit and miss and i think in Firefox and IE9 this option by default is switched off. From my experiences Safari displays the colour of my images the most accurately.

Ultimately, everybody's monitors / eyes are wired slightly different, so they will never see your images online as you do. However, if you follow the above steps at least you will achieve consistent images when you view the images which is important right?
aperture-priority Posted 6 years ago. Edited by aperture-priority (member) 6 years ago
You need to brush up on your colour theory and understanding of digital colour.

The colour space doesn't determine the number of colours; the bit depth is the determinant of the number of colours. As to whether the maximum number of colours are perceivable for a given colour space; then the capabilities of the output device are important and the number of colours that are distinguishable are important. So in the case of a wide gamut colour space like ProPhoto the result when viewed on a monitor is in fact less distinguishable colours than a smaller gamut space like sRGB.

Wide gamut colour spaces can be a good choice for other reasons but IMHO they are not a good choice just for more colours and definitely a bad choice if 24-bit depth colour is used (JPEG for example).

The latest versions of FireFox are colour space aware and have been for some time. IE is still broken in that respect.

My opinion on colour management is that it sets a global standardized reference for colour and we should use it and calibrate our input and output devices to that standard if possible. As for the colours of a digital image in the wild; well all bets are off as you have no way of controlling the accuracy of the output device. The best you can do is at least embed the means to view the image as you originally intended. That invariably means working in sRGB or as you say converting to sRGB colour space and embedding the colour space tag in every image.
Matthew Halstead 6 years ago
@Aperture-Priority I think we're splitting hairs here, the OP is obviously struggling to understand colour theory so I'm deliberately not trying to complicate things!

@Ahmad - the workflow i outlined above or something similar should sort you out :)
StrobistAdventures 6 years ago
Thanks Matthew and everone else. This makes a lot more sense than most of the color theory I have seen online,. Shall definitely look up Kelby Training.
Mr. Speedlight 6 years ago

I'm surprised little has been said about calibrations devices like the Spyder 2 and little has been said about how common monitors can't display the Adobe RGB gamut. Those that can display about 98% of Adobe RGB are quite costly. I'm sure this will be covered by Kelby Training.

To get an over view of color gamut I'll suggest... for "Color Gamut" limited to Tutorials & Techniques.


Postscript: There is a set of tutorials at Cambridge In Colour. You might want to view them in order...



Gary Lanigan Posted 6 years ago. Edited by Gary Lanigan (member) 6 years ago
+1 on

There is a ton of information there, nicely laid out and presented.
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