Color me Confused
January 9, 2008 10:45 AM   Subscribe

Help me figure out my color profile woes, please!

I know questions like this have been asked before, but I'm trying to get some specific help on this one. My goal is to get what I see in Photoshop to be what the JPEG looks like, and by extension, what SmugMug prints.

- Laptop display profiled with Spyder Pro calibration package
- Photoshop CS3 using the Spyder-calibrated profile as the default working space

Photo workflow:
1. Nikon D70 NEF files into Nikon Capture, with Nikon Color Mode II (Adobe RGB) applied
2. Perform RAW edits in Capture, save as TIFF with Nikon Adobe RGB ICC Profile embedded
3. Open TIFF in Photoshop, "convert to working profile" default (Spyder calib profile)
4. Perform all edits (curves, sharpness, etc).
5. Convert to sRGB color space, save as JPEG

The output is vastly different than the Photoshop display: The colors are shifted and muted. I know this is a common issue, but I don't know what part of my workflow I need to change.

So I guess the way it's going now is Adobe RGB > Spyder Calibrated profile > sRGB. But I've also tried setting my default Photoshop workspace to sRGB, to cut out the second conversion, with no improvement.

The only thing that appears to work is using "Assign profile" and assigning sRGB to the TIFF when I'm done editing it in the default (Spyder) workspace. That makes the Photoshop display image look all green and oversaturated, but when I save as JPEG w/sRGB embedded, it looks perfect. But what happens when I send that to SmugMug for printing?

What's most frustrating is that this never used to happen: I had the same setup and workflow on another PC and everything matched up great. But now I've got something goobered up I guess...

posted by sprocket87 to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
In step 3 you should not be converting your image to your monitor profile. The working space for photos should be either ProPhoto or AdobeRGB (so you can just leave it as is).

When you say "The output is vastly different than the Photoshop display" I presume you're referring to printed output. If so, what printer, what settings, what OS, etc.

My email is in my profile, if you have more questions.
posted by doctor_negative at 11:15 AM on January 9, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the response.

Re: your advice not to convert the image to the monitor profile - here's what I just tried:

1. Saved the NEF as a TIFF with the Adobe RGB profile embedded
2. Opened the TIFF in Photoshop (working space = Spyder monitor profile). Told Photoshop to use the embedded (Adobe RGB) color space upon opening.
3. Edited, converted to sRGB.

The output still looks off.

Re: the output difference - I was referring to the appearance of the JPEG using other applications (IrfanView, etc). I know that these are not color-managed apps like Photoshop but I thought that since Photoshop converted the image to sRGB it would display identically in the other programs?

I don't do my own printing but rather send it to a service such as SmugMug, who uses sRGB profiles. I need to figure out how to get what I see in Photoshop from SmugMug's sRGB prints.

I also need the JPEGs to be relatively accurate because these will be proofed online and the JPEG versions are nowhere near as attractive as they appear in Photoshop. The difference is signficant. The colors are extremely muted and inaccurate; it makes a really stellar photo look very unappealing.
posted by sprocket87 at 11:30 AM on January 9, 2008

Mac or Windows? And could you send me a (reduced) sample file?
posted by doctor_negative at 1:22 PM on January 9, 2008

Also, your working space should not (ever) be your monitor profile. For photography, ProPhoto is the biggest one included in PS and generally your best bet.
posted by doctor_negative at 1:26 PM on January 9, 2008

Response by poster: Windows. And I tried using Adobe RGB (and sRGB FWIW) as my default working color space with the same results.

I'll try to get you a sample when I can, thanks!
posted by sprocket87 at 1:43 PM on January 9, 2008

This is going to sound like sacrilege, but trust me: this advice comes from years as a pro photog and many many hours of experimenting with color profiles.

Shoot and edit in sRGB from the beginning.

After much experimentation, I finally gave up the goat and started shooting in sRGB from the start and got consistent, WYSIWYG color. The differences in color gamut size between the different color spaces are small enough that they are vastly outweighed by edits to contrast, vibrance, saturation, etc. in Photoshop and Lightroom (or Aperture, if that's your thing), especially if you're shooting RAW.

Shooting in ProPhoto and Adobe RGB and then converting to sRGB consistently led to slight perceptual color shifts. Not the major ones associated with mismatched color profiles (although I admit that those can be frustrating and hard to diagnose) but rather slight differences in how Photoshop, IE and Firefox, and my print lab saw photos that had been converted.

If you work primarily with web proofing and viewing, and printing with labs that accept only sRGB profiled pics, save yourself hours of frustration and disappointing results and just stick to sRGB from the start. Here are some of the results.

Good luck!
posted by mamessner at 8:00 AM on January 25, 2008

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