Saturday, September 6, 2008

Digital-Image Color Spaces

Jeffrey Friedl (of regular expressions fame) has a great article about color spaces, color profiles, and color management. I particularly like page 2, which lets you test your Web browser’s support for embedded color profiles.

I found his article while searching for the answer to a color problem on my MacBook Pro. My photos looked OK in Aperture’s Viewer and in Photoshop Elements, but in Aperture’s Full Screen mode and in other color-managed applications such as Preview and Safari, they appeared super-saturated. The solution was to open ColorSync Utility and set my external display as the default display device. Now the photos look correct, and they’re consistent from application to application. Although Apple classifies this as an Aperture issue, it seems to me to be an OS-level problem—and a longstanding one judging by the date on the support page. There are lots of threads in Apple’s discussion groups from other people who’ve encountered it.

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Definitely an issue that affects more than just Aperture. I don't use Aperture and first found the problem after noticing that pictures in LIghtroom, Preview and Safari were all having their colour profiles interpreted differently for images that fitted perfectly well into the sRGB colour space. Preview and Safari were displaying sRGB images very differently from each other on a colour-calibrated CRT. My fix was the same as yours: to make the CRT the default display in the ColorSync Utility. The CRT is not the display that hosts the menubar so I thought be it but moving the menubar to the CRT made no difference.

It turned out that Lightroom had been getting things right, whether it displayed an sRGB imported image or a raw image in ProPhoto, which is (more or less) Lightroom's working space.

PS. It's Friedl. :-)

Bahi: Fixed; thanks.

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