Compare Two Images and Enter the Galleries

Following images have been made to simulate skin tones as seen on a typical and wide gamut monitors. Image on the right is always over-saturated being a convenient reference point. Both galleries contain the same images, one is wrapped in the Adobe Flash format, the other one is pure html version. Choose the Gallery based of evaluating the following statements:

  1. If the left image looks better than the middle one (which will look a little pale), use the Flash. You most probably have a standard monitor.
  2. If the middle image looks more natural than the left one and the left image seems slightly over-saturated, go to html version. You are most probably viewing images on a wide gamut monitor. If your browser supports color management, this is the safe way to go.
  3. If you cannot tell the difference and don't want to be bothered by details, use the Flash gallery.

If you wish to read details, read the next paragraph.


Why Bother?

I inserted this page with a little experimentation in mind. The underlying reason being - minimizing chances that presented photo galleries will look either over-saturated or too dull on your screen. Surely, it is about color management.

Here is why. Majority of photographers edit their images in either Adobe98 RGB or ProPhoto RGB color spaces. We use Adobe Photoshop (or similar product) and save our final images for the general web viewing. Photoshop has its own menu item (under File) called "Save for Web & Devices". What happens is that images get converted to sRGB color space. As a consequence, colors get "squeezed" into this relatively small gamut, an event hardly detectable on regular LCD displays. However, if one works with one of the so called "wide" gamut monitors, such conversion is often noticeable. To the user's frustration, colors just become less saturated. This scenario is often vividly demonstrated to a user with two monitors (one regular and one "wide" gamut panel). Most photographers are instinctively headed for a slight correction in saturation, step that is considered a part of the processing workflow.

Now, things get more complicated if our final format for image presentation is Adobe Flash. While Flash has sufficient language to describe color management, it is the interplay of Adobe Flash Player, browser, and computer color management that makes viewer's visual experience so unpredictable. Pure html galleries remove the "Flash" color management component and we only need to make sure that our browser supports color management process. That is why I made the html version of my galleries.

Choice of the browser for correctly viewing web images is also critical part of our viewing experience. All depends if the browser is capable of managing colors through the image-embedded icc profile. Currently (fall 2011), only two most common browsers have color management capabilities. Mozilla Firefox and Safari. If our browser cannot manage colors (Chrome, IE8) or images do not have any icc profile attached to them, color interpretation is driven by the computer operating system. In most cases computer will assume sRGB color space and in most cases, on standard monitors, images will be seen properly. On a wide gamut monitor, color will appear over-saturated.

I have describes how to enable Firefox color management in one my blogs.