How Can I Process My Photos for Consistent Display on Both Mac and PC?
February 20, 2006 6:50 AM   Subscribe

How can I process photos so that they look consistent on the web (to Mac or PC users)?

I have a Mac PowerBook and I've calibrated my monitor to a 2.2 Gamma. I process my digital photos with Photoshop CS2 in consistent conditions and use the Adobe RGB (1998) Workspace. They look great on my monitor when I'm finished. I post them to the Flikr site and they look good there too. However on a PC, they look terrible, often about 2/3 stop brighter and with a cooler color balance.

I do not have a high-end printer yet but intend to do output to an Epson-HP-Canon, ect inkjet AND post them to the web. If I have to use separate settings for print and the web what are they? What can I do to get some kind of consistency between what I see on a Mac and a PC? I'm looking for low-tech solutions. I don't plan to buy a high-end monitor, calibration device, etc, at least not yet. Thanks.
posted by philmas to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Umm, it sounds more like the PC monitor needs proper calibration, as opposed to a Mac vs PC problem. Unfortunately, no matter how much work you do to make sure your pics look great on your Mac, if the PC you use to display them isn't properly calibrated, they just ain't gonna look as nice.
posted by antifuse at 7:12 AM on February 20, 2006

Some differences in the way Windows and Macs process color space are discussed in this Microsoft paper. Long story short, you could develop a ColorSync3 profile that more closely conforms the Mac colorspace to the Windows colorspace than the Adobe RGB 1998 profile does, and be sure it's loaded when editing and viewing photos on your Mac. The same for Unix machines with different colorspace issues, as your photos probably look "funny" on Unix systems, too.

Another place to start is down sampling your photos to not more than 16 bit color, and less as you can, since Web browsers and most Web servers serving common file types can't be counted on to fully support sRGB space, even in these late days. Reducing dithering error helps.
posted by paulsc at 8:41 AM on February 20, 2006

Best answer: 1. You are probably not embedding the profile in the jpeg. If you process in Adobe RGB but then don't embed this profile in the jpeg, the pictures will look exactly as you describe on a Windows PC. This is true even if you calibrate your own monitor to gamma 2.2, since Mac color management will take this into account. If you are using 'Save for web' in PS, make sure 'embed profile' is checked.

2. Some earlier flavors of Windows do not color manage properly. What version of windows are you looking at the pix on?

3. To cure this problem completely, before you save as jpegs, do 'Convert to Profile...' and choose sRGB as the target, then make sure you embed the profile when you save as a JPEG. This will produce a file which displays correctly both on a color managed system and a non-color managed system.
posted by unSane at 9:45 AM on February 20, 2006

Of course, remember that most browsers (even Mac ones) don't color-manage, so embedding the profile won't help most of the time. What you really need is two copies of the file, one in Apple RGB and one in sRGB, and a server-side script that serves the former to Macs and the latter to PCs.

I cheat a little bit -- on my Web site I use an Apple RGB version that gets served directly to Mac users, and PCs get a Java applet that adjusts the gamma on that. Not quite the same but close enough.
posted by kindall at 9:57 AM on February 20, 2006

My answer is that you need to stop worrying so much. The vast number of monitors are not going to correctly adjust for color in the first place. Instead, users likely adjust to what "looks good" instead of what is right.
posted by nathan_teske at 10:57 AM on February 20, 2006

unSane is correct.
You should convert your photos to the sRGB color space once you are done editing/cropping/whatever. Adobe RGB is a much larger color space than sRGB. sRGB is, more or less, a closer match to a generic monitor space. This will help normalize the image quality as much as possible.
Also, using CS2's "Save for Web" option will help you get a good optimization between file quality and file size.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:16 PM on February 20, 2006

Safari honors colorspace information embedded in a JPEG. Many Windows browsers will not.

Adobe RGB is not close to the color-space that will be used on the average machine (it's something closer to sRGB -- but you aren't guaranteed that it will be exactly that).

Don't upload anything to web with Adobe RGB -- it's too wide, and primarily intended for print work. You need to make conversion to sRGB part of your export to Flickr workflow (I speak from personal experience).

That's probably 60+% of the problem -- the rest is an un-calibrated monitor and lack of real color management on the other end. There's nothing you can do about that.
posted by teece at 1:19 PM on February 20, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your feedback. Converting to sRGB output was the simple solution. Better contrast, color balance and density on both Mac and PC! Nothing wrong with that. Thanks again, especially unSane.
posted by philmas at 8:27 PM on February 20, 2006

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