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Color profiles: What's the professional workflow when working with iPhone photos?

Community Beginner ,
Aug 13, 2021 Aug 13, 2021

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Hello professionals,

 

I (not a photo pro) recently ran into problems when working with iPhone photos as source material:
A record artwork I designed appeared washed out on Spotify and such. So I searched & learned that iPhone pictures use and contain a non-standard extended color profile called "Display P3". I had done the design work with Affinity Photo, which simply carried that profile over to the final export and never gave a warning. Very annoying. Spotify only accepts sRGB and converted the file into a hazy blargh. 

So now I bought a Photoshop subscription, hoping to get closer to "industry standard" results. But it's not immediately clear to me at what point you should do the conversion, and if you can (ideally) make it a standard preference? How do you do it in your day-to-day business?

Thanks a lot for your insights !

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Aug 13, 2021 Aug 13, 2021

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If your system is properly color managed, it doesn't matter at which point you convert/ re-assign a profile, which kind of is the point. The respective defaults can be set in the colro management settings, but you may want to avoid making "weird" profiles your default unless you really only work with this stuff all the time. It may be better to create a simple action for the conversion and assign it to a keyboard shortcut. You know, you may forget about your color settings and then wonder forever if someone sends you a different photo outside the iPhone loop.

 

Mylenium

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Community Beginner ,
Aug 13, 2021 Aug 13, 2021

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Thanks for your reply! I'm pretty sure my 'system' will never be properly color managed if I'm honest, cause I only use Photoshop on the side, for my music projects...

 

Let me specify, I see no benefits from iPhone photos having an expanded color range if it breaks compatibility with the destined use cases. So in the future I'd simply want iPhone photos to convert down to standard sRGB range on import. Is that a possibility and how would you do that?

Cheers 🙂

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Community Beginner ,
Aug 13, 2021 Aug 13, 2021

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... sorry, didn't know there's no edit function in this forum 😳

I replied without reading your full answer, apologies. You actually covered that.

Ok so last detail question: Would you rather convert on import or as last step, when your work is finished?
And - out of curiosity - don't other people run into the same trap as I did, all the time? I'd have thought that iPhone photos must become more and more common as source material (photo professionals have their cameras, I know, but still). 

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Aug 13, 2021 Aug 13, 2021

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Depending on the end use of the image, you don't need to convert anything but leave this embedded RGB Working Space (DCI-P3 which is 'a standard' ) as is. 

If uploading to the web, you may want to convert to sRGB which is ONLY necessary for those poor soles not using a color managed browser (otherwise any tag will work). 

This may help:

sRGB urban legend & myths Part 2

In this 17 minute video, I'll discuss some more sRGB misinformation and cover:

When to use sRGB and what to expect on the web and mobile devices

How sRGB doesn't insure a visual match without color management, how to check

The downsides of an all sRGB workflow sRGB's color gamut vs. "professional" output devices

The future of sRGB and wide gamut display technology

Photo print labs that demand sRGB for output

High resolution: http://digitaldog.net/files/sRGBMythsPart2.mp4

Low resolution on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WyvVUL1gWVs

Author “Color Management for Photographers" & "Photoshop CC Color Management" (pluralsight.com)
In this 17 minute video, I'll cover some more sRGB misinformation and cover:When to use sRGB and what to expect on the web and mobile devicesHow sRGB doesn't...

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Aug 13, 2021 Aug 13, 2021

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And Oh you nearly NEVER need to Assign a profile! 

See: http://digitaldog.net/files/PhotoshopColorSettings.mp4

Photoshop CC Color Settings and Assign/Convert to Profile video

Author “Color Management for Photographers" & "Photoshop CC Color Management" (pluralsight.com)

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Community Beginner ,
Aug 13, 2021 Aug 13, 2021

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Oh wow, I already suspected the whole topic is way deeper than I knew 😄 
Thanks for the links, I'll try to to get into it and understand.

The case I was talking about is album covers for Spotify - these are their requirements:
https://artists.spotify.com/help/article/cover-art-requirements

And like I said, it didn't work out when I handed in my artwork with the profile embedded 😕

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Aug 13, 2021 Aug 13, 2021

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My favorite thing isn't the color profiles per se; it's the default exaggerated colors on the displays of most phones that drives me nuts. Totally screws the hues up. I shut that garbage off ASAP. Yeah, it may "look" pretty, but it's nowhere near accurate. I've seen images where someone thinks it's purple when it's actually blue. (They see purple because of what the device shows them and then get puzzled when you tell them the real color.)

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Aug 13, 2021 Aug 13, 2021

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I don't see exaggerated colors on the displays on my iOS devices. But that's all subjective. It's a JPEG processed from raw using a proprietary method which is to be expected from a phone or expensive DSLR when a user sets (or allows a default) rendering. 

Nothing the phone or any other camera produces is 'accurate color' because accurate color is scene referred and it is very ugly: 

http://www.color.org/ICC_white_paper_20_Digital_photography_color_management_basics.pdf

Everything else is a subjective rendering; automatic or better, by the image creator. 

Blues shifting magenta happens even today with proprietary color management thanks to warts in Lab color space and profiles that don't handle this well. Not all ICC profiles for output where this happens the most, are created equally. 

Author “Color Management for Photographers" & "Photoshop CC Color Management" (pluralsight.com)

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Aug 13, 2021 Aug 13, 2021

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A lot of Android phones have such a setting, which does nothing to the image itself (e.g., no color profile) but rather applies it across the board when one uses one's phone:

Screenshot_20210813-183551.png

It's a "set and forget" thing...and in this case, it's usually terrible as, by default, the colors get so saturated they can burn a hole in your retinas. lol

 

The "natural" setting is about as close as I could get to what I see. (Images like this one, taken by the camera on the phone, look just like what they look like on my desktop:)

Screenshot_20210813-180819.png

And therein lies the rub: For those that don't even know such a setting exists (and believe me, they're out there), they think their image looks great on their phone, but those viewing it on a properly-calibrated desktop monitor view otherwise. I get into it from time to time on Twitter and have to whip out Photoshop's Color Sampler Tool to prove it.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Aug 13, 2021 Aug 13, 2021

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In terms of color management, Android is a sad joke (they recently supported the concept, apparently as they state: Android 8.0 (API level 26) or higher ). 

Apple; well we know the history. 

Author “Color Management for Photographers" & "Photoshop CC Color Management" (pluralsight.com)

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Aug 13, 2021 Aug 13, 2021

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<nevermind, already covered>

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Aug 13, 2021 Aug 13, 2021

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I was going to tg you if you not already in the thread Dag.  

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Aug 14, 2021 Aug 14, 2021

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Trevor, I'm staying out of this because it's a moving target. iPhones may have a rudimentary form of color management, so that they are basically able to represent sRGB and DCI-P3 in the same way. But that doesn't mean "accurate" color and you should never mistake it for that.

 

Until full color management is universally implemented in all platforms and environments, the internet still operates on the least common denominator. And that's still sRGB.

 

Anyway, I don't have an iPhone and don't plan to get one 😉

 

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Aug 14, 2021 Aug 14, 2021

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Not sure how the internet still operates on the least common denominator: sRGB.

The browser is color managed or it is not. IF the display is sort of, kind of close to sRGB, without Color Management then that lower denominator kind of works. If the display is wide gamut or not sort of like sRGB: failure. The Internet doesn't know or care about the document color spaces or the display. The browser kind of does.

If every phone or tablet was wide gamut, like DCI-P3 or Adobe RGB (1998) and had no CM, sRGB, an unknown attribute, would not be the lowest common denominator. And that's the direction of displays. Fortunately, color managed browsers are too. With Color Managed OSs; Android very late to the party.

Author “Color Management for Photographers" & "Photoshop CC Color Management" (pluralsight.com)

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Aug 14, 2021 Aug 14, 2021

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Yes, I'm fully aware of all that. The point is that a lot of websites strip the profile even if it's there to begin with. And most people don't include the profile in the first place, which isn't exactly helped by Save For Web and Export both stripping the profile at default settings.

 

So bottom line: most material on the web is untagged.

 

This works today because all major web browsers assign sRGB in these cases. So yes, effectively we do see full color management on everything today, and that allows us to use wide gamut displays. But it has to be sRGB material, or it won't work.

 

If you pop DCI-P3 material into this mix, there's suddenly a lot of conditions that have to be met. And they normally aren't. Then you must have an embedded profile, and the website cannot strip the profile.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Aug 14, 2021 Aug 14, 2021

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I know you are aware of this but others may not be so saying the web somehow caters to sRGB is confusing because it really doesn't. Site that strip profiles and ignore EXIF that can describe the color space are bad. That's the problem. And the lack of color management anywhere. Untagged data is bad and everything including (coming full circle here) Photoshop have to make an assumption when they run into untagged RGB mystery meat. Wrong assumptions are bad too. We both know the solution, unfortunately some don't and that's the first attribute to fix. 

As to sRGB like displays, be interesting to know the numbers considering all iPhones and iPads out there have had wide gamut displays (and color management ) for a long time and there are a lot of them. 

 

Author “Color Management for Photographers" & "Photoshop CC Color Management" (pluralsight.com)

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Aug 13, 2021 Aug 13, 2021

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It was not necessary to buy a Photoshop subscription to solve this. You can take care of this in Affinity Photo as well as in Photoshop. In either software you can convert to sRGB from whatever the current color space is. And both let you do it either at any time, or on export.

 

To convert at any time:

  • In Affinity Photo, choose Document > Convert Format / ICC Profile. 
  • In Photoshop, choose Edit > Convert to Profile. 

 

To convert at export only:

  • In Affinity Photo, in the Export options, click More so you can set the ICC Profile menu. Or, if you are using the Export persona instead, set the ICC profile in the Export Options panel.
  • In Photoshop, select the Convert to sRGB option, available in both Save for Web (Legacy) and Export As. If Convert to RGB is not available in the export method you choose (such as File > Save a Copy), use Edit > Convert to Profile before exporting.

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Community Beginner ,
Aug 13, 2021 Aug 13, 2021

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Yes, I understand that this is easily possible in Affinity Photo as well... 

But the whole experience was a bit annoying. After I converted the ICC profile to sRGB and unchecked "include ICC profile", the Finder file info box would still show the profile used. As a result the record label didn't trust my Jpeg (because they wanted the field empty, as they know it from their own Photoshop exports) and re-encoded it instead. And suggested I should leave artwork to a professional next time 😕 


Later I discovered the option to set a standard color profile and enable a warning whenever a file you open doesn't match that standard. Why is that warning not checked by default? Who wants to export a "Display P3" type file when it's not going to look right in the end?

So I was kinda annoyed and suspected it's all a bit "safer" in Photoshop. And was on the fence anyway between buying Affinity - which I liked, by and large - and PS, which seems to be way ahead in smart "new school" tools. 

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Aug 13, 2021 Aug 13, 2021

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@L.Rhode wrote:


But the whole experience was a bit annoying. After I converted the ICC profile to sRGB and unchecked "include ICC profile", the Finder file info box would still show the profile used.


 

You always, always want to embed (tag) include any ICC profile with the image data. Otherwise you've created RGB mystery meat. You want the profile included. 

Author “Color Management for Photographers" & "Photoshop CC Color Management" (pluralsight.com)

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Community Beginner ,
Aug 13, 2021 Aug 13, 2021

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That makes sense. I just didn't want to argue with them any longer (and didn't like that they re-ecoded my Jpeg). And tbh, I wasn't sure if that ICC profile mention in the info box was merely a tag of an already applied/commited profile or an indicator of an embedded profile.

As you can tell, I'm lacking basic understanding of color profiles still 🙂 I'll educate myself. Thanks for the input!

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Community Beginner ,
Aug 13, 2021 Aug 13, 2021

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... this wording is really confusing to me, for example - from Spotify's requirements:

"(...) Encoded with an sRGB color space, 24bits per pixel, with color profiles applied directly

Don’t upscale images. We also don’t support embedded color profiles (...)"

https://artists.spotify.com/help/article/cover-art-requirements

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Aug 13, 2021 Aug 13, 2021

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It is confusing because it is written incorrectly IMHO. 

24 bits is the encoding. sRGB is the color space (I guess you could say, color profile applied but silly language). 

Don't upscale makes sense as is (don't interpolate up). 

We don't support embedded profiles means: We don't want them, we know the data is in sRGB and will handle it as such, we don't care how the image appears on-screen. That data overhead (the mere 4K per profile); we don't want you to use that extra space cause, we don't care. 

Author “Color Management for Photographers" & "Photoshop CC Color Management" (pluralsight.com)

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Aug 13, 2021 Aug 13, 2021

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The reason the settings don’t appear to make sense is basically Spotify’s fault. All of the concerns you raise are perfectly valid and were commonly encountered…15 to 20 years ago. The only reason you are running into them today is that Spotify is using a workflow from that era, based on how the submission requirements were described. Their system is set up to only work with one color space (sRGB), and, their system is apparently not set up to recognize ICC profiles and automatically convert to sRGB, so everybody has to convert their images to it before submitting.

 

15-20 years ago, things were still like that in the printing/photo industry, so people generally wanted things set up the way you do now: Wanting a warning, so that a manual conversion could be done. But things are much easier now, it’s taken care of in several ways. First, most current graphics applications understand color management and profiles, so if you feed in a Display P3 image, they’ll see that, and correct for it so it doesn’t look washed out. That means you don’t need a warning or a manual conversion. And that is why the default in both Affinity Photo and Photoshop is to have the warning off: Many current workflows do not need those extra manual steps.

 

Today, many pro workflows let you throw in images wth all kinds of color spaces, and they’ll read the image profiles to auto-convert them to the right output color space, so no warning needed. If Spotify was set up to recognize non-sRGB profiles and auto-convert them to sRGB, they wouldn’t be causing these old-style problems or needing the old warnings.

 

The other big problem with having the warning on is that you have to click through the warning for any image not matching the working space, which can get old real quick if you open hundreds of images a day. So people who work that way often turn on the option to auto-convert to their working space so they don’t have to see the warnings, but the images get converted properly anyway.

 


@L.Rhode wrote:

Who wants to export a "Display P3" type file when it's not going to look right in the end?


 

From the explanation above, it should be clear that a Display P3 image would look right in the end…in any properly color-managed application. So it is not true that it is not going to look right in the end. Unless you are dealing with a system that requires pre-conversion because they do not handle color profiles, like Spotify. (Or an old web browser.)

 

You still make a good point that people should be made aware of what color space an image is in. In Photoshop, what I like to do instead of the warning is to set the status bar at the bottom to show the Document Profile (see below). You can also display the document profile in the Info panel, if you tend to leave that open. I am not sure if Affinity Photo has a similar display option; I haven’t found it yet.

 

Photoshop status bar Document Profile.gif

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Community Beginner ,
Aug 14, 2021 Aug 14, 2021

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Ah, that is very interesting! Displaying the document profile in the status bar is a very good idea.

Thanks a lot for the insights. I can imagine it feels like a problem from decades ago. The thing is just... if Spotify refuses to update their process, that's kind of a big deal. Effectively it means that all of the music industry needs to convert to sRGB just to be sure, because Spotify is the de-facto standard they all work towards.

 

On a sidenote: Typically you don't send a release (music, metadata, artwork) to individual stores and services, but to a digital distributor who then distributes it to all of them. But my artwork didn't just appear washed out on Spotify (who explicitly accept sRGB only), but on other platforms too (Soundcloud, who do successfully process other color profiles when uploaded manually). Strange. 

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