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I seem to misunderstand color management based on comments in my previous question. Or I incorrectly asked me question so people give me wrong answers.

Therefore I want to clarify my understanding of color management.

Input data:

  • I have calibrated monitor with custom ICM profile.
  • I shoot in RAW with sRGB profile set on camera.
  • I have camera color profile made with ColorChecker and DNG Profile Editor.

Question:

After I open my photo (with sRGB profile embedded) in Photoshop do I see true colors when

  • "Proof Colors" mode is enabled and set to "Monitor RGB" ?
  • "Proof Colors" mode is off ?
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4  
What do you mean by true colors? –  Steven Cunningham Jul 6 '12 at 20:13
    
Colors that look on my monitor as close as possible to colors of photographed object in real life. –  ruslan Jul 6 '12 at 23:48
    
Under what lighting conditions? –  Rowland Shaw Jul 7 '12 at 15:16

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

If you want a display-agnostic image file (with a calibrated monitor) leave soft proofing off. Soft proofing deliberately introduces the errors and quirks of the output device so that the image can be altered if necessary to look its best on that device. What you usually want is for the image file to be the best it can be in the standard colour space you're using; calibration has already taken care (as far as it can) of the deviations between your monitor and the Platonic ideal -- the last thing you want (usually) is to create an image that only looks good on your monitor.

(That's also the reason why working with a calibrated monitor is important if you can manage it. Almost every monitor out there "in the wild" is uncalibrated, and they're all "off" in different ways. If your monitor is off in one direction, and the image is viewed on a monitor that is off in a completely different way, the adjustments you made to make the picture look beautiful on your monitor may be enough to make it look horrible on another.)

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There is no such thing as "true" colors. Color is a fluid concept, and ultimately it means what you want it to mean. An image might need to be warm or cool, you might need to use a different camera profile, you might want to work in a wide gamut at times and at others you might want to work in a narrower gamut. Its all relative.

When it comes to ensuring that the colors you see on-screen are accurate according to the embedded color profile in an image...you simply need three things:

  1. Make sure you embed the right IMAGE profile in the image.
    • This might be sRGB, AdobeRGB, or even ProPhotoRGB (in the case of RAW)
  2. Make sure you have generated a proper MONITOR profile.
    • This requires a hardware color calibration device and software to create an ICM profile for your screen.
  3. Make sure you select the most appropriate CAMERA profile when processing.
    • This will usually occur in ACR, Lightroom, Aperture, or a tool like RawThearapy or DarkTable.
    • There are many camera profiles, such a an ACR native one, profiles that match your cameras picture styles, or possibly a set of custom curves.
    • For baseline accuracy, use a "Standard" or "Neutral" camera profile.

Do these things, and you will see accurate color reproduction of your camera's photos on your screen. It should be noted that RAW images will usually use the ProPhotoRGB color space by default in ACR. You'll have to manually change that if you wish to use an alternative source space.

You are effectively trying too hard to "see true color". You don't need to soft proof just to see accurate color on your computer screen. Fundamentally, all you really need to do to see accurate color on-screen is simply calibrate your screen. The beauty of ICM is that it takes care of the rest, so long as you use color-managed software like Photoshop+ACR, Lightroom, or on Mac Aperture. By trying to "force" a rendering path by using a monitor profile or an image profile with the Photoshop soft-proofing tool, you will ultimately see VERY inaccurate color. Your effectively misusing the soft-proofing tool. You should only use the soft-proofing tool with profiles for output devices...namely printers. That will allow you to see on-screen a relatively close approximation of what an image might look like when printed.

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