Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Color Me Confused

I've had to give myself a crash course in color management for digital photography. Since I got the fancy new camera, I decided to take advantage of shooting in RAW format. I won't bore you with the technical details of why the RAW format is better. You can google it if you are curious. Anyway, the RAW images are "processed", the digital version of developing film, and then the results are saved into other formats. Things were going pretty well at first. Got some good images, prettied them up in the camera software, then finished them in Photoshop Elements. Everything looked great at the time. However, all of this was done on the desktop Mac, and Macs have had built-in color management for a long time. So imagine my horror when I looked at my Flickr photostream on a PC - and the images that looked so wonderful on the Mac were garishly oversaturated on the Windows browsers. And looked like they were taken with a magenta filter. Crap!

After several days of painful research and experimentation, I finally have a workflow that keeps the images looking roughly the same on all platforms. I now know way more than I wanted to know about ICC profiles, monitor calibration, color spaces, gamut, embedded color profiles, LCD monitor characteristics, gamma, color temperature, and so on. I also learned that all of my discoveries on this matter are just the tip of the iceberg. It would take years to get good at this. A lot of years. So hopefully I know just enough. No more pink and orange cats. Unless they were born that way.

The Moxy photo below is one of the photos I had to correct. Mac users will see no difference, but PC users should now see a photo with far more realistic colors.


LL said...

Damn... and here I thought you were going to say that you were giving up posting cat pictures as a result...

btw - I can't see any difference in the picture, but then again I use Firefox.

fermicat said...

LL - No such chance. They're my favorite subjects.

Later versions of Firefox include color management, so that may explain why you didn't see a difference. Internet Exploder has zero color awareness.

Dave said...

Some browns, whites and tans. A bit of faded orange in the background. As viewed on a Mac with Firefox.

Definitely a cat though.

tiff said...

You're just all about the learning, aren't you?

fermicat said...

Dave - it never looked bad on either of our two Macs, but on my PC at home and at work the background was a nearly fluorescent, ultra-saturated neon orange and Moxy's eyes looked like I painted them green.

Tiff - Hey! Nice to see ya. Yeah, once I saw the problem I wouldn't stop until I figured it out. Once an engineer, always an engineer. It bothered me until I got the problem solved.