Images are distorted in Photoshop.
August 6, 2006 4:14 PM   Subscribe

Photoshop is distorting the color and contrast in all of my images. Examples linked within. Help!

I am an amateur with Photoshop, but I have been using it consistently for several months without any problem.

Today I uploaded some RAW images from my digital camera and they look all wrong. I thought it might be a RAW conversion problem, but when I opened some old images, they all look distorted too. Every image I open in Photoshop looks screwed up now. The colors are completely off, as is the contrast. But images look fine when I open them in another program (including the images I uploaded today).

Here are two examples. In each example, the image on the left is the Photoshop view; the image on the right is the same photo viewed in ZoomBrowser.

Example 1

Example 2

Any ideas about what is causing this? I have never had this problem with Photoshop before.
posted by brain_drain to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Windows version? Check Control Panel -> Adobe Gamma (in Windows) and go through the adjustments. Possibly these settings got changed somehow.
posted by neckro23 at 4:18 PM on August 6, 2006

Response by poster: I'm using Photoshop CS2 with Windows XP. Sorry, should have included that info up front.
posted by brain_drain at 4:21 PM on August 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

When you open them in the Camera Raw plugin, are you setting the white balance?

The width distortion is stranger to me than the color issue. I wonder if it's a non-square pixel issue. Photoshop CS2 can simulate non-square (rectangular) pixels when it displays images. This feature helps video professionals, who have to work with non-square pixels (because most video cameras produce them).

Check which option is selected under Edit > Pixel Aspect Ratio > ... If I open up a normal image and choose D1/DV Pal Widescreen, I get a similar distortion to that which appears on your images. But I have no idea how this could be happening automatically.
posted by grumblebee at 4:34 PM on August 6, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions so far.

Unfortunately, the Gamma adjustments did not help.

To clarify, there is only color/contrast distortion in the images, no width distortion. My examples may be a bit confusing because I used screenshots and Paint to construct them, and I just ended up crudely snipping the parts of the photos that best illustrated the problem. Any size/width inconsistency is attributable to my clumsiness, not Photoshop!
posted by brain_drain at 4:40 PM on August 6, 2006

Best answer: Your color profile settings are probably set wrong in Photoshop.

EDIT -> Color Settings -> RGB: sRGB IEC61966-2.1
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:46 PM on August 6, 2006

Best answer: To amplify a bit of what Civil_Disobedient is saying, Photoshop has its own colorspace/gamma handling code. Windows was colorspace/gamma ignorant until recently, and now it basically defaults to the sRGB standard. That may be working out fine with your camera's RAW images and your default settings on XP and your monitor's colorspace. You're lucky. Photoshop, being a tool for professionals, is trying to be much smarter than that and inadvertently screwing up your photos because, basically, you've not configured it correctly.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:06 PM on August 6, 2006

Second the fact that it's almost certainly a color profile issue.
posted by disillusioned at 5:07 PM on August 6, 2006

Awesome. I've been having similar problems with Adobe always asking what profile to use when opening an image, and this solved it.
posted by Tuwa at 5:19 PM on August 6, 2006

You'll also have to make sure your monitor profile in Windows is set to sRGB (unless you are 100% sure the vendor profile is perfect). Then you can work in any colorspace in Photoshop and it should render fine. If your images are a specific color space but lack the associated color profile, you can use Photoshop's Assign Profile.
posted by aye at 5:49 PM on August 6, 2006

Best answer: If your only seeing this in Camera Raw, don't worry about your color settings as color management settings are not applied to images until after they leave the Raw converter. Are you seeing weird things in non-raw images you open Photoshop? Then look at the PS color settings.

My suggestion is that Camera Raw's automatic settings are set to something weird. Open an image in Camera Raw. In the flyout menu next to the settings popup, unselect Use Auto Adjustments. If this fixes the problems, throw away your Camera Raw prefs and the next time you launch it will be reset to the defaults.

If you're still having problems, email me, it's in my profile.
posted by doctor_negative at 6:11 PM on August 6, 2006

sRGB? Nooooo!

Use Adobe 1998, which has a much larger colorspace.

I set Photoshop to warn me when the colorspace on a file is different from the working space. Sometimes the warnings get annoying, but I always know what's getting assigned what.
posted by O9scar at 6:13 PM on August 6, 2006

Use Adobe 1998, which has a much larger colorspace.

This is completely irrelevant if your primary source was using sRGB, which most digital cameras will be using. In fact, switching color spaces after the fact can result in screwed up colors in any output image you save because just about any program besides Photoshop is going to assume sRGB and screw up your gamut.

I played around in Adobe 1998 with my camera for a while, but got tired of having to convert to sRGB every single time I wanted to upload the image to the web. It's a pain in the ass, and all you get is a little more green. Big fat hairy deal. Of course, I usually just shoot in JPG, so if you're a RAW fanatic, you might already be sick to your stomach reading this.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:34 PM on August 6, 2006

Response by poster: The problem is now fixed! I wish I understood exactly how it got fixed, but I'm just happy everything is working properly again.

I had already checked the color management settings, and they were set as usual to sRGB. I tried switching to Adobe 1998 and got the same bad results. Then I tried switching to the Monitor Color profile. The problem was resolved for non-RAW files, but remained for RAW files. I assume this is because Camera RAW uses its own color management settings, or something along those lines. Then I had to restart my computer due to an unrelated problem (it's not my PC day). Everything started working again after I restarted, except I had to switch back to sRGB to prevent the constant color profile message from popping up every time I opened a file. I'm not sure what, if anything, the restart accomplished, since I had restarted before a couple of times to see if that would fix the problem.

Anyways, this is just for posterity's sake. I really appreciate all the prompt and well-informed advice. AskMe is truly excellent.
posted by brain_drain at 6:46 PM on August 6, 2006

If you're shooting raw, then you should in fact be using the ProPhoto RGB colorspace, because that's Adobe Camera Raw's native colorspace, and using 16-bit channels too.

Not that it will matter much in most circumstances, but that is the absolute least lossy workflow.

(Be sure to convert to sRGB before posting photos on the Web or getting them printed, though.)
posted by kindall at 8:51 PM on August 6, 2006

ProPhoto RGB colorspace, because that's Adobe Camera Raw's native colorspace, and using 16-bit channels too.

Not to be a complete color nerd, but this isn't true. ACR has no "native" color space. Your chosen color profile is applied/attached when you save the file out to whichever format you choose. ProPhoto is, currently, the largest one generally available and a good one for photography, although it's so much bigger than either your monitor or your printer it could make things difficult when you print (what you see isn't what you get).
posted by doctor_negative at 10:39 AM on August 8, 2006

"(ProPhoto RGB is Camera Raw's native colour space"

"the native color space for Adobe Camera Raw is ProPhoto RGB"

Bruce Fraser's book "Real World Camera Raw" says that color adjustments made in ACR occur in a linear-gamma version of ProPhoto RGB.

Close enough for me.
posted by kindall at 2:25 PM on August 8, 2006

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