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Yes, another color management issue..


J PhotoArt

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Hi, I'm new to the forum, but not to Photoshop or color management issues. I have searched high, low, in, out, up, down, left to right, and any other dimension of search you can fathom to find an answer. Perhaps you guys can help!
So, while I'm not a master at Photoshop, nor do I TOTALLY understand everything about color management, I do have lots of armchair experience with them. So everyone is familiar with the idea of getting your photo ready in Photoshop (all your pretty colors and textures) then when you export it to another medium it looks pretty bad. Not only do the colors degrade, but the sharpness suffers terribly. Quite frankly, I can be a bit proud of some of my work in Photoshop (while it's in there) but when I export it and I get an extremely significant loss of quality, it's a bit disheartening.

I have a brand new HP tower computer and monitor with windows 10 installed. I use Photoshop CC 2014.

With all that said, I have researched without success, a way to solve this (if there even is one.) The quick answer I usually see is "convert to (or start in sRGB,) and make sure your monitor profile matches" -- I understand that, and trust me, they match. No matter what I do, nothing changes! Let me list below some of the things I have done:

1. Monitor profile set to sRGB IEC61966-2.1 along with my assign color profile set to the same, and convert to profile the same as well. I've also tried every other variation of sRGB.

2. Monitor profile set to Adobe RGB 1998 along with the aforementioned parameters being set equal to Adobe RGB 1998. I've also tried ProPhoto, just to be exhaustive. And believe me, I'm exhausted! lol

3. "Saved As" Jpeg using all possible compression settings switching from optimized to progressive etc.. tried with and without checking the ICC profile option. No change.

4. I can save as a .TIFF file and it still looks as bad as the jpeg. I can save to PNG.. still the same.

5. Tried various browsers, and photo viewers.... still a no-go.

6. Done "Save for Web" with and without "convert to sRGB" depending on which variation I used above. Tried with and without using embedded profile.

I must emphasize that the difference in quality is major (aside from the color shift itself.

Thanks, for your time and patience, J

Did I mention I'm exhausted? lol
 
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MrToM

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...Did I mention I'm exhausted?...
Yes, you did, but you didn't mention what you are doing with the file in question...just 'Export to another medium'.....well, that could be interpreted to mean anything.

Unless we know 'where' this file is degrading then its a bit difficult to say what to do with it.

What are you 'exporting' it for....or to even?

What is this mysterious 'medium'...??

Regards.
MrToM.
 

J PhotoArt

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The medium, or actually mediums are any other than Photoshop.

1. Computer desktop background.
2. Facebook.
3. Printed from fine art website that can print in sRGB or Adobe RGB 1998
4. Photo viewer on PC.

All those at least.
 

Tom Mann

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Let's deal with the color management problems first. Please post a PSD file that is giving you color problems. It should have just one layer. Modest pixel dimensions (eg, roughly 700 px on the long edge) are fine. It should be a realistic image, ie, a photo of a person under normal outdoor day light, not some fantasy scene, logo, or an abstract work. It would help a lot if the image included a caucasian subject (just to check skin tones). We'll deal with sharpness issues later.

That being said, I can tell you one thing immediately. The monitor profile doesn't have to match anything. I don't know where u got that idea, but it's wrong. The monitor profile simply needs to be appropriate for your monitor. For example, it does not have to match your working color space. If you don't have a hardware calibrator, just set the monitor profile for sRGB, leave it there, and never change it till you buy, install and run a hardware calibrator, should you ever take this step. If your monitor has color settings, also set it to sRGB, and don't change this either (... at least for the duration of this discussion).

Tom M

PS - While you are at it, please make a JPG from the previous PSD file, and post that as well.
 

J PhotoArt

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Hi, Tom. Thank you for your reply. As for the monitor profile, I didn't think it did either but I kept getting that advice -- it's good to be able to scratch that one off. I will try and put together a PSD and JPEG of what you are specifying, but I will say ahead of time if happens to matter; all of my work is abstract or colorful fantasy picture art and there are no pictures of your specifications that are giving me problems. But I assuming you are just wanting to start basic so, I will try to put that together. Thank you for helping, J.

And to mention my monitor's color settings are indeed sRGB.
 
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Tom Mann

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Hi JPhotoArt - First, welcome to PSG!

The reason I requested that type of image is that pix like this usually contains a set of colors that are very familiar to all of us and hardly vary.

White puffy clouds are always white (so you can do an approximate check of the white balance of the highlights from them), a typical "snapshot blue" sky usually doesn't vary too much. Same goes for grass and trees, at least for areas of the world where most of the people on PSG are concentrated. Some folks call these colors, "memory colors".

On an initial exchange like this, in order to quickly become familiar with a problem, it's a lot more likely that someone will have a shot like the one I requested than a shot of a MacBeth color checker, LOL, and asking for this type of shot avoids vague wordy exchanges like, "the magentas in my logo are way off" followed by "well, do you think the hue, saturation or brightness is the problem", blah, blah, LOL.

Also, to be honest, for the time being, I really don't give a hoot what you are seeing on your monitor (and hence how you would describe in words what you are seeing). For the moment, I want to examine your file both on my well-calibrated monitor and w.r.t. the numerical data it contains to try to figure out whether the biggest problem we are dealing with is your monitor calibration or your files. If your file looks good to me, then you almost certainly have a problem with your monitor / video system calibration. If I see a problem in your file, we've got to fix that before we get into monitor calibration issues.

Anyway, can't wait to see what you have.

Cheers,

Tom M
 

J PhotoArt

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Here is the PSD, along with the JPEG: 700 pixels wide, one layer, and natural. Sorry there are no skin tones as I don't have any images with people in them. Thank you for your patience.
 

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Tom Mann

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Hi - Both the PSD and the JPG that you obtained from it look identical and perfectly normal on my system. I produced my own JPG from your PSD and it looks identical to your two files. I see nothing at all out of the ordinary in the color settings, sharpness, or any of the metadata contained in the files. When I open them in file viewing programs that I know are color managed (and even some that are not color managed, LOL), they continue to look just fine.

As I said in an earlier message, "...If your file looks good to me, then you almost certainly have a problem with your monitor / video system calibration...", so it's time to switch gears and for me to ask what problem(s) are you experiencing with this particular file?

Cheers,

Tom M
 

J PhotoArt

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While viewing this file, or other files (other than PSD) on my PC there is a small but noticeable dip in color and quality if I leave the photo as is (that being no enhancements) the real issue begins once I add layers filters and colors to my photo and then save to any format other than PSD. At that point, what the PSD file shows is a lot different than the other saved file formats.

When you viewed it there was no change? That is certainly better than what I am getting. Your observation has ruled out the file being a dud, so what is next?
 

Tom Mann

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That's right: I saw *absolutely* no change whether looking at your PSD, the JPG that you generated from it, or a JPG that I generated from it. This was true whether comparing the PSD (viewed in PS) to the others (also viewed in PS), or viewed in other color managed applications. So, yes, I think we can at least rule out that particular file as having anything wrong with it.

Rather than move on to OS-related color management issues, why don't we first try to do the same thing again, but on a different file. This time, why don't you post one of your files (no restrictions on color, size, number of layers, or content this time) that definitely gives you problems. Like before, post the PSD, as well as a JPG generated from it. If you want to upload any intermediate steps in your workflow, that would be fine, too. If the forum uploader software barks at you because the PSD file is too large, just zip it and try posting it (ignoring any warnings the uploader might give you along the way). Usually, one can sneak almost anything by the forum software if you zip it first, LOL.

Cheers,

Tom M

PS - Also, please list the other applications you have been using to view your images, and which give you problems. Please state not only the name of each of the applications, but their version numbers, as well. There have been a lot of improvements to color management in just the past few years, so part of the problem might possibly be that you are using an older version and I want to be sure this isn't the problem
 

Tom Mann

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PS - Also pls take a set of screen shots that show the problem, especially when viewing in other applications. Be sure to use exactly the same technique & software to take all of the screen shots, and annotate each to tell me what I'm looking at. Tnx.

Tom
 

J PhotoArt

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We might not have to do any more because the problem may have stopped; I will describe. So basically what was happening was that I had three main places I wanted my photos to end up: desktop background, Facebook page, and fine art website where they are printed and sold. Originally, when I wanted to use a photo for desktop background, I would "Save as" in the JPEG format and they would be dull and blurry compared to their Photoshop counterpart. When I wanted to use them for Facebook, I did a "Save for web" and they would be be dull and blurry on Facebook. When I wanted them for the fine art website which can handle sRGB and Adobe 1998 profiles, I would go ahead and use Adobe 1998 and they looked sub par on that site.

Well, I was contacted by a customer who purchased a pint on the the site and they gave me great feedback, and after a few exchanges and a kind gesture (after I expressed my concerns) they took a photo of the physical print as a side-by-side comparison to the one on their computer monitor. When I looked at the computer monitor, it looked drab and dull, while the physical print must indeed had been printed with the Adobe 1998 profile because it looked CORRECT -- the site must display as sRGB and print either sRGB or Adobe 1998 depending on your profile tag that you send with it.

Now as for my desktop background, if use the Adobe 1998 profile and do "Save for web" the picture automatically looks much closer in terms of sharpness and color. I don't really understand why that it's that way and the typical "Save as" JPEG format is not, but it is... Now on to Facebook: nothing has changed there, I still do "Save for web" and convert to sRGB if needed, and they are still drab in comparison. Perhaps there is nothing that can be done on that point because they display in sRGB only? Feel free to let me know what you think about that, and if you still are interested in the aforementioned files, I can still send them to you.


Oh one more thing, and I'm not sure if it's related, but I've been unable to find this mentioned anywhere else: While the photo is displayed in Photoshop, I have noticed that at different levels of zoom that the color will shift and the clarity will increase or decrease at different zoom levels. It's not what you expect from just typical zooming. Example: the image is perfectly sharp at exactly 25% zoom, and the color changes and it blurs at 22.73% zoom. If you zoom in past 25% it immediately blurs and color shift until you hit 33.28% and then it looks amazing again. Not sure what that's all about, but there are various points in the image zoom that are either blurry and great that don't seem to be based on a typical zoom pattern of sharpness based simply on zooming in to far or back out too far.

Thanks for your time and patience. It's appreciated.
 
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Tom Mann

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Hi JPhoto - I'm not at my main computer, so this is going to have to be a short message ...

a) Your observation that PS displays files the best at 25%, 33%, 50%, and 100% is absolutely correct. This is a well known limitation of PS. The original reason for this was done ostensibly was to provide better performance in the days of slower computers. I'm not so sure this reasoning is valid with modern computers unless you are viewing images with extremely large pixel dimensions, eg, greater than 10 or 20 thousand pixels on one edge.

b) Using Facebook as any sort of standard for color or sharpness is an exercise in futility, especially as it concerns profile and cover photos. This is another well-known and hated behavior of FB. Because the volume of images they have to deal with is almost unimaginably large, the compress the you-know-what out of almost every image that comes their way. The effect is less on images in your photo album, and less if you have turned the "high quality" option on, but it's still royally frustrating to photographers and graphic artists who care about their images. However, we are in the minority as the vast bulk of images that they deal with are blurry snapshots from people who won't even notice what happened to their image. BTW, one interesting aspect of FB compression is that they compress the red channel more than the blue and green channels, presumably because a little blurring of people's skin (which is mostly in the red channel) from their compression will be noticed the least, and might even appreciated, LOL. There are a lot of complaints on the web about FB and this whole issue, should you care to delve into it

c) With respect to the problems you described in the other areas of application (eg, screen saver, printing), something still strikes me as being very wrong. For one thing, color space conversions (eg, AdobeRGB to sRGB) simply can't touch the sharpness of the image. The algorithms just don't work that way. Saving an image in PS as a JPG certainly can introduce artifacts (which often are perceived of as a reduction in sharpness) and slightly mute colors, but as I recall, in one of your first posts in this thread, you said that you experimented with different compression / quality factors. At quality settings of 11, and 12, the changes introduced by a JPG conversion are so minimal, they essentially can't be seen by anybody's eyes and are only visible if you subtract the two vesions of the image and then do a tremendous stretch of the tonal values, and even then the differences are minute.

So, the bottom line is that I'm still happy to continue to look into this to both help you and out of personal curiosity. If you would like to post the last set of images that I requested (...don't forget the screen shots), I will be more than happy to take a look at them.

Best regards,

Tom M
 

Tom Mann

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PS - One more question, when you say, "...a reduction in sharpness...", is there any chance you might be seeing a reduction in contrast, which often can be mistaken for a reduction in (the technical definition of) sharpness?
 

J PhotoArt

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Here are the screenshots in the meantime till I post the actual files. The color is not spot on, but way better than it was. I don't know if the images will show the sharpness difference (whether it's a contrast issue or not, as you had mentioned and could be right, I'm not sure) but on my end there is a noticeable difference. I will look at these images after I post them and see if the screenshot attachments show the discrepancy that I see here at home.

Could it indeed be the contrast making one look more dull? Could the actual or supposed dullness be making the color look off when it really is the same?


Edit: I just checked and these attachment images ARE VERY close to how they look normally.
 

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Tom Mann

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Hi again, J-Photo:

Thanks for posting the screen grabs. They were quite informative. We are getting a lot closer to finding out what the true culprit is, but we are not quite there yet.

For some reason, the magnification of the PSD image when viewed in PS (and screen grabbed from there) is less than the magnification of the JPG image when viewed in some program, but probably not Photoshop. This difference in magnification can be unambiguously seen by looking at the following animated GIF. I simply overlaid both of your screen shots, put a tiny red dot on the same position in both (a small rock at the base of the (viewer's) right mini-waterfall), and then moved the two layers so that the red dots were in perfect registry. Then, as one flips back and forth between the two screen shots, while the red dots remain perfectly in alignment, everything else moves radially in and out.

compare_screen_shots-ps02a_cropped_698px_square-8bpc-for_GIF.gif

This difference in magnification also caused each of the original pixels to get smeared out into the surrounding pixels, thus reducing the contrast and mixing the colors with the surrounding pixels. To demonstrate this, I made another animated GIF, this time, zooming way in so that individual pixels are clearly visible. In the PSD screenshot, each individual pixel is distinct from its neighbors, whereas in the JPG screenshot, they are mixed together causing loss of both luminosity and color contrasts, exactly as you had observed.

Individual_pixels-1200pct-compare_PSD_and_JPG_screenshots.gif

So, the question of the day is obviously, "What in the world is causing this?", and might whatever caused this have also caused the loss of sharpness that you observed before today's investigation.

The most obvious possible reason is that you viewed the JPG in some program that didn't preserve magnification ratios (ie, 1 pixel in PS is displayed as 1 pixel in this software). Maybe it's capable of doing so, but you didn't tell it to do so. For example, maybe the default magnification is to "fill screen" or "fit image width to screen width", or "fit image height to screen height", but not the 1:1 ratio (aka, "100%") that we absolutely need to do any sort of proper comparison. For example, in IrfanView image viewing software, one can set the defaults to any of these possibilities. If you did indeed view the JPG in anything other than Photoshop, please open the JPG in PS and see if the magnification is the same as the original and there is no loss of sharpness.

The second possibility is that you intentionally changed the image's pixel dimensions in PS either before or during the process of generating the JPG.. When one does a simple "Save as" one doesn't have any option in its dialog box to resize the image. However, the "Save for Web" dialog box does have such an option. Maybe it was accidentally set to some value other than the correct 100% needed to preserve sharpness.

Thoughts?

Tom M
 

Tom Mann

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PS - For some reason my 2nd animated GIF doesn't automatically start running (in Firefox), unless I click on it and or open it in another tab. I don't know what's up, but just click on it and it should be fine.
 

J PhotoArt

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Hi, Tom Mann - excellent work! I see exactly what you are saying and that makes good sense. Here is some additional info that addresses what you mentioned here: " If you did indeed view the JPG in anything other than Photoshop, please open the JPG in PS and see if the magnification is the same as the original and there is no loss of sharpness." -- The results of that is that the magnification is the same on both file formats and sharpness appears to be identical.

The next thing you mentioned: "
The second possibility is that you intentionally changed the image's pixel dimensions in PS either before or during the process of generating the JPG.. When one does a simple "Save as" one doesn't have any option in its dialog box to resize the image. However, the "Save for Web" dialog box does have such an option. Maybe it was accidentally set to some value other than the correct 100% needed to preserve sharpness." -- Relating to the JPEG screenshot above; while it was still a PSD in Photoshop, I did a "Save as" and just before I saved it I did indeed shrink the image just slightly so that it did not exceed the max MB size limit for upload on my site.
The viewer that displayed the photo is known as Windows Photo Viewer.


 
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