Why are the colors less vibrant in my uploaded photos?

posted August 17th, 2012
I've noticed my photos are losing something in the transition from my computer to this project. On my computer, they are vibrant, but on my 365 page, they are muddy. I'm processing them with Lightroom 4 and Elements 8. Is there anything that I can do on my end to get some consistency?

Thanks.
posted August 17th, 2012
Upload an image straight from the camera without processing, to see if it still exhibits the problem (you can delete it afterwards). If it doesn't, the problem is in your processing workflow somewhere.

What colour space is the camera set to? (Under menu, second tab, 'colour space', it's either sRGB or Adobe RGB).
posted August 17th, 2012
Thanks. My camera is set to sRGB. I tested an image and my SOOC photo looked pretty similar (to my eyes at least) to my uploaded photo. I guess I'll have to figure out what I'm doing wrong in my processing. I just started using Lightroom, so I'm guessing my problem lies somewhere in my inexpertise with that program. I really appreciate your help.
posted August 17th, 2012
@msrubberbiscuit Can you explain your workflow in a bit more detail? Presumably you do basic adjustments in Lightroom before sending to Photoshop for further work? Do you save the image you upload here from Lightroom or from Photoshop?
posted August 17th, 2012
@msrubberbiscuit Also, can you try uploading a 'bad' (processed) image from your computer to this website:

http://regex.info/exif.cgi

You'll need to upload it as a file, you can't use the image already on this site as the important information has been removed. Click 'choose file' to select the file, then 'view image from file', and let us know what it says next to 'color encoding'.
posted August 17th, 2012
OK, it said... WARNING: Embedded color profile: “(unrecognized embedded color profile 'ProPhoto RGB')”
Some popular web browsers ignore embedded color profiles, meaning users of those browsers see the wrong colors for this image.

Images for the web are most widly viewable when in the sRGB color space and with an embedded color profile. See my Introduction to Digital-Image Color Spaces for more information.

To answer your other questions about my workflow:

I have been making my exposure adjustments in Lightroom, then moving the photos into Elements, using "Edit a Copy with Lightroom Adjustments", so that I can save the file as a jpeg. When I move them into Elements, I can't work on the files right away. If I try to do anything to the photo, I get a message saying "Could not perform the requested action because Photoshop Elements provides only limited support for files with 16 bit color depth. Do you want to convert the image to 8 bit?" To which I click, "Convert depth", and then I'm able to make any additional tweaks and save it as a jpeg.

I have Scott Kelby's Lightroom 4 book, but I'm still making my way through it. I love the way my photos look using Lightroom, but there is a learning curve that I'm still working on.
posted August 17th, 2012
@msrubberbiscuit Excellent, I now think I understand what the problem is.

Your photos are being saved with an enhanced colour profile in them, which a lot of web browsers do not support. Even for web browsers that do support them, this site strips out the information telling them that you're using a non-standard colour profile, so they will still display incorrectly on this site.

In Elements, there should be an option under the Image menu called 'Convert Colour Profile'. This should allow you to convert the profile to sRGB. Try doing this on a bad image, re-saving it, and uploading it here again, and see if that fixes the problem. If not, try sending it to that other website and see what it now says about the profile.

If that does work, I think the problem lies with Lightroom embedding an unnecessary profile -- we can look into disabling that once we've confirmed the above.
posted August 17th, 2012
Thank you!!! That fixed it. You are a rock star. Really, you have no idea how happy I am.
posted August 17th, 2012
@msrubberbiscuit That's great! Glad we could get it sorted.

If you want to fix this permanently, you should be able to alter the settings in Lightroom. I don't have Lightroom, but it looks like you should be able to go to the Edit menu, choose Preferences, and go to the External Editing tab.

Under that tab, it should have an 'Edit in Photoshop Elements' section. Change the colour space to sRGB (it will be at ProPhoto at the moment), and while you're there, change the Bit Depth to 8 bits (which will get rid of that warning you mentioned every time you send a photo to Elements).

Once you've done that, you won't have to remember to do the Convert Colour Profile step in Elements, you should just be able to continue doing what you've always done, and your images will look the same on the web as they do on your computer. If you want to confirm that, send a photo from Lightroom to Photoshop, save it as normal, and upload it to that diagnostic site -- it should tell you that it's now in sRGB.

As a final note, I should point out that there is technically a reason why Lightroom does this -- theoretically there are colours that your camera can capture, and/or that Lightroom can create as part of editing, that the sRGB colour space cannot represent (redder reds, for example). By saving in sRGB, you are potentially losing a small amount of colour information that a high-end printing company could use to print a slightly more accurate photo.

However, the additional complexity of using these colour profiles is so high that in my opinion, it really isn't worth the huge level of hassle. In my experience, I've never been able to tell the difference, even when using printing companies that support these profiles. Additionally, you need to make sure that every single step of your workflow is correctly configured, otherwise the result is exactly what you saw -- colours that are significantly different to what you wanted. Additionally, you need to absolutely understand what you're doing when processing at every step, when saving, and when sending to print -- 99% of photographers do not (including at least 50% of those who think they do!)

If you want to read more, there are some opposing viewpoints by professionals here:

For sRGB:
http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/adobe-rgb.htm

Against sRGB:
http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/sRGB-AdobeRGB1998.htm

However, something that is absolute is that for anything involving the web, sRGB is *essential*. Anything else just doesn't work correctly. (In some cases, it will look absolutely fine to you, while half of the people viewing it will wonder what's wrong with your camera!). Also, the majority of print booths you find at drugstores, Costco, etc. will also give poor results with anything other than sRGB.

If you're not absolutely sure you know what you're doing (i.e. for 99% of photographers) by far, far the safest approach is to stick to sRGB, and if in doubt, use the diagnostic website to confirm that your saved images are correct.
posted August 17th, 2012
It is the site itself and not your pictures. @msrubberbiscuit
posted August 17th, 2012
Thank you, that was informative. Luckily, I haven't done anything work intensive with Lightroom yet, (like edit my vacation photo's), so I don't have a lot of damage to undo. I think I'll have a few photo's I'll need to convert to sRGB, but I've mostly just been playing with the program while I get used to it.
posted August 17th, 2012
I have the same problem. I just account for it when I am processing.
posted August 17th, 2012
@abirkill I've had this same problem for a long time and I've just tried one of my photos in the diagnostic site. It says.. WARNING: Embedded color profile: “It is the Adobe RGB color profile.”
I process my photos in CS5 so how would I change the colour profile in that? I've been wondering why my photos aren't nearly as vibrant as others I see on here, and yet on my computer they look fine.
posted August 17th, 2012
@kiwichick Yup, exactly the same problem. In Photoshop CS5 the option you want is under the Edit menu, Convert to Profile. The source space should say Adobe RGB, and in the destination space you want to choose 'sRGB IEC61966-2.1' -- it's probably the default. Then re-save your image and check it again on the diagnostic site. (Note that you absolutely *don't* want to do 'Assign Profile' -- that just makes things worse).

If you want to fix it permanently, and assuming you only use CS5 (i.e. you don't use Lightroom or similar to pre-process images) then the two most likely ways are:

1. If you shoot in JPEG, then change the camera colour space setting from Adobe RGB to sRGB (on most Canon DSLRs it's under menu, second tab, colour space).

2. If you shoot in RAW, then change the colour space in your RAW processing software -- in Adobe Camera Raw, there is a underlined line of text at the bottom you can click on when processing an image (and it will remember the setting for next time).

Any questions, or if you get stuck, let me know!

To be clear for everyone, once you are working in sRGB, your images will look identical colour-wise on here to how they do before you upload them (and everyone else will see them the same, too). If you are seeing colour differences, particularly that your images appear dull and desaturated when uploaded here, then you are not working in sRGB.

If this is not intentional this is a bad thing, and will also be likely to affect you when you come to print images, as only high-end printing labs will correctly interpret your photographs.

Note that depending on your browser and the site you upload to, your photos may look correct on other sites -- for example, if you use Firefox and upload to Flickr, your photos will always look correct to you -- but when I (or anyone else) looks at them using Google Chrome or most versions of IE, they will look dull and flat. Using sRGB is the *only* way to ensure a consistent experience when uploading images to the web.
posted August 17th, 2012
@abirkill DAMN... you're good! lol
posted August 17th, 2012
@abirkill thankyou, I have been having issues for ages,
posted August 17th, 2012
I'm no expert like our friend Alexis, but wouldn't it save you all a lot of hassle if you switched your camera to shoot in sRGB?
posted August 17th, 2012
@abirkill That is awesome. I do shoot in RAW but I have changed the CS5 software and tried a test image and it is now great. Thank you so much!
posted August 24th, 2013
@abirkill hi Alexis... just rereading this as i took a course on lightroom recently where colourspace was discussed and feeling like i'm almost able to get it now... can i ask a couple questions?

i am pretty sure the instructor suggested using SRGB for web and prophotoRGB for printing - which i was going to do next time i bothered to get something printed... but then it occurred to me - that would only work if i was handing over the file straight from LR - not saving to JPEG first... correct? but if i made a book in LR to send to blurb - would it make any sort of difference there?

2. does this issue affect black and white images at all? i am assuming even less than colour - but just curious...

many many many tx for your continued patience and sharing of your wisdom :)
posted December 10th, 2015
@abirkill I know this thread is years old now but I have been having similar problems as the ones mentioned above with Photoshop CC, I am a very new user and really quite confused by all this. I have been desperately trawling the internet trying to find an explanation for why my photos look great in light room and photoshop but as soon as I look at them outside of photoshop, (e.g. I'm currently trying to upload them to photo box as i need to order some odd sized prints) they have this greenish look. I have followed you instructions above and changed my settings in lightroom, but i cant find how to change my settings in PS. Just to give you an idea of what I am doing, I have photographed the pictures with my Nikon DSLR, I have uploaded to my computer and LR, i have then edited the pictures in PS, then saved them as Jpeg's ready to upload them to Photo Box so I can order the prints but every time I upload them to photo box they look greeny. I have tried using different photo printing sites but the pictures look the same on all of them. Please Help as I really need to get these pictures ordered as i need them delivered before christmas (they are christmas presents). Thanks in advance.
posted December 10th, 2015
@abirkill I have just uploaded a picture to here so that you would be able to see the problem I am having and the picture is fine this has just confused me even more, why would the photo upload fine on one site but not on another? If you would be able to shed some light on what is going on i would be very grateful.
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