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inconsistent black/ dark images in different software/ web

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Jon Iverson
inconsistent black/ dark images in different software/ web
on Dec 27, 2018 at 8:06:31 pm

First of all, I wanted to say that this isn't a specific Photoshop issue as I also notice similar behavior in other image software as well. Anyway, it's quite annoying and I'm looking for a solution. Here goes:

Just before the holidays, I took a series of self portraits to share on FB and others. There might have been some processing involved. For some images, for example, the lighting wasn't right and my hair almost invisible, so I'd use the clone and other tools to "transplant" my hair from not as good images onto the images I wanted to share. I carefully matched the hair to the new image, using curves, white balance, etc. On my calibrated monitor within PS, the image looked good to go. However, after resizing and exporting as JPEG, I found that a quick upload to Facebook seemed to suddenly start showing my edits and my hair looked more like a wig than real. I thought this might just be compression, so saved in TIFF and uploaded, same thing. I also make sure and work only with sRGB throughout the entire workflow. It's as if the blacks in the image are lifted and also some sort of contrast is applied either when viewing in Facebook or even in certain apps outside of PS. I notice this with shadows and darks more than anything else: lights and mids either aren't affected, or so little I can't notice.

Is it possible to make my edits look good in the darks on any screen, not just within PS? I read in archives here and elsewhere that proper color profiles need to be in place on my browser and such, which would eliminate the problem most likely, but for the neighbor down the street who hasn't a clue about profiling, the image I just uploaded is going to look faker than crap.

I've tried re-editing the offending jpegs and TIFFs, but next to impossible since PS shows it the way it should look.

Any ideas on this would be welcome. It drives me crazy. If it were up to me, I'd stay away from black backgrounds and such altogether during shooting, but I have limited space and little resources, so have to stick to what I have. Thanks in advance.


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Kalleheikki Kannisto
Re: inconsistent black/ dark images in different software/ web
on Dec 29, 2018 at 10:21:08 am

Color management is a bit of a rabbit hole, especially for the web, since every monitor, and even many a piece of software is going to show it differently, and you will have no control over that beyond your own system.

What I do to get as close to a controllable situation as possible, is make sure my monitor is calibrated in such a way that I can see the full gradient from black to white without cutting anything off at either end (close to full black or close to full white) and obviously a neutral gray gradient in between. Then, when editing images, I look at them channel by channel to see if something sticks out on individual color channels. The combined RGB image can fool you, but any problematic cut-outs will likely show on individual channels.

I also use the color management system (I have an MSI with the True Color control panel) to switch between different color settings to get an idea of how something will look on differently calibrated monitors. True Color has 6 different settings you can switch between with one click of a button. I would expect other software to exist where you can do the same.

Kalleheikki Kannisto
Senior Graphic Designer


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