Why photos posted online sometimes look nothing like they do on your computer

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emydura

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Every now and then I would post a photo and I would get the odd comment, the colours look a bit unrealistic or oversaturated. I’d look at the photo closely and I would agree with the constructive critique. I’d then go back to my photo in Photoshop and realise the photo that I am looking at barely even resembles the photo posted on Slippertalk. The colours would be completely different, especially the red levels. The online photo also often looks oversaturated. I immediately concluded that these photo hosting sites were manipulating my photos. So I tried a range of them. It didn’t matter which one I used I came up with the same result - colours that were way off. I then thought it must be the Photoshop working space I was using so I converted from Adobe RGB to sRGB as recommended. Still no difference. I tried saving the photos as ‘Save for web’ but that didn’t help. I was completely exasperated as to why my online photos could look so different to the reality.

Then I stumbled on the issue of colour management in browsers, summarised at this link -

http://petapixel.com/2012/06/25/is-your-browser-color-managed/


This link goes into real detail on the topic and offers solutions -

http://www.gballard.net/photoshop/srgb_wide_gamut.html#


That last link explains why I was seeing a difference in colour in my photos when viewed online.

THE NUMBER ONE REASON why Photoshop color looks bad or shifts on the World Wide Web or looks differently in applications like Adobe Fireworks, Dreamweaver, After Effects, Save For Web & Devices, Flash, Safari, Microsoft Internet Explorer IE, Firefox, Chrome, Google, Windows Explorer and Apple's Finder is because:
• Your color is going from a color-managed application (Photoshop) to an unmanaged application.
• Photoshop is no longer CONVERTING the source color to the monitor profile.
• Un-managed applications generally send the source color "straight through" to the monitor unchanged.
• Color-managed Web browsers generally send untagged elements "straight through" to the monitor unchanged, including CSS, HTML, Hex colors.
• Hence, the change you see outside of Photoshop is the difference between your source and monitor ICC profiles.


Ballard recommended this simple way of testing which I carried out.

This is very easy to prove in Photoshop by opening your document (use the embedded profile), and 1) View> Proof Setup: Monitor RGB, or 2) Edit> Assign Profile: your monitor profile — these moves should both duplicate the change you see in un-managed applications.


When I did this the photo changed from how it looked in Photoshop to exactly how it looked when viewed through a web browser. So now I knew the cause.


What’s the Solution?

Ballard says the only web browser that will display your photos exactly as you would see them in Photoshop is Firefox, but only after you have changed the default setting -

Smart color-managed Web browsers, like Safari and Firefox, will read embedded profiles and Convert them to the monitor profile for Photoshop-like "accuracy" — but color-managed browsers can't deliver visual "consistency" because they still pass untagged elements straight through to the monitor unchanged (with the exception of Firefox Value1 "Full Color Management").


You can find how to change to the correct configuration in Firefox at this link (about half way down) –

http://www.gballard.net/firefox/

The change is easy. In summary, all you have to do is go to the address pane in Firefox and type in -

about:config

and hit enter. Then scroll down till you find the "gfx.color_management.mode". Double click this and change the value from 2 to 1.

Result

After I made this change my online photos looked exactly the same as they do in Photoshop. It is critical though that you change the configuration in Firefox. When I viewed the photos in Firefox with the default settings, the photos looked exactly the way they did in Internet explorer. That is, completely wrong.

That is me fixed up. When I view my photos online they now look exactly as I intended them to. However, when you view them through a different browser, you may be seeing something entirely different. As Mitchell Frick beautifully concluded in that first link - "Just be careful out there people, what you see isn’t always what the other guy sees!" . When you look at someone’s photo and think that colour looks wrong, just remember the problem could be the browser you are looking at the photos through rather than the photo itself. If colour accuracy is important to you, I’d recommend using the Firefox browser and change the colour management value to 1.

PS

This may be more of an issue with PC computers. I spoke to Dot and she didn’t seem to be having the colours issues on her MAC. Maybe this doesn't affect everyone, but it sure as hell affected me (both on my home and work computers).
 
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polyantha

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Well you finally got the solution. Thats a good thing. I sometimes thought that your pics look unrealistic, but didn't want to mention that.
And always remember: if you spend too much time with color-correction, your eyes are going to adept to the changes and you might go too high in %-age of saturation, contrast etc. It is important too that you keep the light temperature at 6500k, because everything else looks unrealistic. If you want to get good red for example, you should take the color channel "reds" to adjust saturation or tone only for those. This will not affect the greens which would look odd in that case.
 

emydura

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Well you finally got the solution. Thats a good thing. I sometimes thought that your pics look unrealistic, but didn't want to mention that.
And always remember: if you spend too much time with color-correction, your eyes are going to adept to the changes and you might go too high in %-age of saturation, contrast etc. It is important too that you keep the light temperature at 6500k, because everything else looks unrealistic. If you want to get good red for example, you should take the color channel "reds" to adjust saturation or tone only for those. This will not affect the greens which would look odd in that case.

Of course it is important to get the colours right at the source but that is a different issue. Getting your colours accurate won't guarantee that others online will see them accurately. In that first link you can see that some browsers were displaying the car colour as yellow while other browsers were displaying it purple. One person said "on my work computer the car is purple but at home on my MAC it is yellow". If you can see differences to that extent imagine the subtle differences in colour people must see.

The IE browser seems to be particularly bad. As the first link says IE greatly saturates the colours especially the reds. When I have looked at reddish flowers on IE I have posted they almost look cartoonish. They don't look that bad on my computer.
 
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C

Clark

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David, my favorite article by you was the one on the Lee filter kit some time ago. That article cost me around a thousand (US).
This is a close second, and thank the maker its not going to cost anything.

I use three monitors. Like others, I have smartphone, laptop, and desktop PC.
The desktop is dedicated photography. So, how ever the image looks on THAT monitor, it is done.
I love how the prints come out of vendor and my own printer. I don't adjust that done image for internet.
When the image is posted, smartphone is saturated, but laptop is all washed out.
I don't think I am going to worry much about what individual monitors are showing all over the world.

After reading the critique that goes on with some of the photography forums, it seems to some folks there is no perfect photograph.

Great article to bring attention to a common problem.
Cheers!
 

emydura

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David, my favorite article by you was the one on the Lee filter kit some time ago. That article cost me around a thousand (US).
This is a close second, and thank the maker its not going to cost anything.

I use three monitors. Like others, I have smartphone, laptop, and desktop PC.
The desktop is dedicated photography. So, how ever the image looks on THAT monitor, it is done.
I love how the prints come out of vendor and my own printer. I don't adjust that done image for internet.
When the image is posted, smartphone is saturated, but laptop is all washed out.
I don't think I am going to worry much about what individual monitors are showing all over the world.

After reading the critique that goes on with some of the photography forums, it seems to some folks there is no perfect photograph.

Great article to bring attention to a common problem.
Cheers!

Thanks Clark. I didn't even touch on the effects of different monitors, devices, platforms etc. Heck I'm seeing differences in the same photos on the same monitor through different browsers. Different monitors make it even more difficult.

So what filters did you get? Some grad filters?
 

eggshells

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Monitors can vary lots because of different settings. On top of that different brands. if you have an iPad 2 vs iPad air. Those colours varies as well. Its kind of hopeless really as everyone will have different hardwares to look at the photo.

As a side note IPS Panels are fantastic to display colours.
 
C

Clark

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Yes. I will list tomorrow. I will bump that thread if I find it.
My hands hurt now. sorry.
 

ehanes7612

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Monitors can vary lots because of different settings. On top of that different brands. if you have an iPad 2 vs iPad air. Those colours varies as well. Its kind of hopeless really as everyone will have different hardwares to look at the photo.

As a side note IPS Panels are fantastic to display colours.

yep, I love my retina display macbook ..perfect color rendition
 
C

Clark

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David, I have not used it yet.
My wife and I have been fighting, and this got put on back burner for a few.

No worries mate, I will comment when I know about it.
Thanks David.
 
C

Clark

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Thanks Jean.
At my home, it is all about the cold shoulder treatment.
Which is prelude to ice age.

We'll get through it, as soon as we stop acting like children.
Thanks.
 
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