Lightroom Photos Look Different On Iphone

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A few weeks agone I noticed something weird with some of my pictures: every time I opened a JPEG file from Lightroom on my iPhone the colors looked completely incorrect and done out, as if the image was heavily desaturated.

This is something I practice often. When, for example, I want to postal service a picture from my dedicated camera to Instagram, I export information technology as a JPEG file using Lightroom, send information technology to my phone via iMessage or Dropbox, and upload it to Instagram. The trouble is, past the time the pictures make it to my phone, the colors are all messed up.

Take a look at this epitome, for example:

If you’re reading this on a Mac or a Windows PC, that should look fine. Yet, this is what that aforementioned image looks like when viewed on an iOS device:

And for those of you reading this on iOS devices, this is what both images
look like:

Have I got your attending at present? Skilful.

Remember, all three of those images are
the verbal aforementioned file. Since a Mac e’er displays the correct colors, I had to take screenshots on my iPad to be able to evidence yous the difference. And what a difference it is. Here’due south a next comparison, to further drive the signal dwelling house:

OK, then what the hell is going on here?

Welcome to the wonderful world of colour management

The reason this phenomenon occurs is something chosen color management. From Wikipedia:

The main goal of color management is to obtain a good friction match across color devices; for case, the colors of 1 frame of a video should appear the aforementioned on a reckoner LCD monitor, on a plasma TV screen, and as a printed affiche. Color management helps to achieve the aforementioned appearance on all of these devices, provided the devices are capable of delivering the needed color intensities.

Parts of this technology are implemented in the operating system (Bone), helper libraries, the awarding, and devices. A cross-platform view of color management is the employ of an ICC-compatible color management system.

This definitely sounds like a great idea, at to the lowest degree on newspaper, but here’s the problem: iOS is
particular when it comes to colour direction.

From Apple’s ain iOS Developer Library (emphasis mine):

iOS application development uses the targeted color direction model. Your content is matched to the sRGB color space on the authoring platform.
This matching is not performed dynamically on the iOS device.
Instead, it happens during authoring on your Mac OS 10 desktop. (…)

Targeted color direction may also occur when you lot sync content to your mobile device. In fact, iTunes running on the desktop provides color direction to the iOS targeted color space when you sync content from iPhoto to your iOS device.

What this means is that, when you sync your pictures to an iOS device using iTunes, your Mac is doing all the heavy lifting behind the scenes, making sure the images are color-matched to the sRGB colour space before copying them over to your device.

That’s a clever bit of engineering right in that location, only what happens if y’all don’t sync your pictures using a proper authoring tool such as iTunes? What if you simply copy some unmatched JPEG files over to your iPhone by, for case, iMessaging them to yourself or syncing them to a Dropbox binder?

Well, what happens is that iOS’s targeted color management organization cannot detect the proper relationship betwixt the bodily colors in your images and the colors of the sRGB space information technology knows how to work with, and therefore it can’t display authentic colors.

At that place are ii critical factors at play hither:

  1. iOS devices are only able to resolve the sRGB colour space.

  2. The sRGB color space is considerably narrower than Adobe RGB, the color space typically used to calibrate computer displays, including Macs.

The Adobe RGB color infinite vs the sRGB color space. Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

iOS can’t bargain with the Adobe RGB color space, which is why images matched to that colour space wait washed out when viewed on iOS devices. In guild to avoid that, images must be color-matched to the sRGB space instead.

Therefore, if y’all’re working with JPEG files that happen to be matched to the Adobe RGB color space, y’all demand to you make sure your images are converted to the sRGB colour space
copying them over to your iOS device, or you lot’re simply going to end up with washed out colors.

Unsurprisingly, this is exactly what Apple recommends doing (again, from the same iOS Developer Library document):

When your content is imported, catechumen information technology to the working color space sRGB.
Even if your media is in a wider gamut (for example, raw photos), and your monitor tin display wider than the sRGB gamut, your colour managed application will interpret those colors to sRGB, the colour space for the finished production. Past using an sRGB working colour space you can get an accurate prediction of what your media volition look like when displayed on the bodily iOS device.

As you may take guessed by now, well-nigh of my images had been matched to the Adobe RGB color infinite when I exported them to JPEG from my RAW files using Lightroom. This acquired the weird effect yous saw at the beginning of the article. It may sound similar an insignificant detail, but the impact it can have on your images is profound. Here’s some other example:

Luckily, if yous’re experiencing this upshot with your ain images, there’s a simple style to configure Lightroom — or, I’m certain, your photo-editing application of choice — to make sure we always employ the right sRGB profile when exporting our images as JPEGs. Let’s see how nosotros can practice information technology.

Lightroom’due south “Export…” dialog

Nosotros access Lightroom’south consign dialog via the menu item:


Alternatively, you lot can use the keyboard shortcut

On this dialog, nosotros can configure the export settings for this batch of images, including their size, quality, resolution, proper noun, metadata, etc. Crucially, it is here that nosotros tin can select the appropriate colour infinite for our files, too.

In order to do that, we must set the “Export To” drop-down carte du jour on the top left to “Difficult Drive”, and in the “File Settings” area on the correct, we must ready the “Colour Space” drib-down carte du jour to “sRGB”.

In one case we’ve done this, we tin can save our settings as a new preset by clicking on “Add” in the lower left area, selecting a name for our preset and clicking “Create”. This way nosotros’ll be able to simply select our preset next fourth dimension we want to export photos, and everything volition exist properly configured.

And that’s it. As with most obscure settings, information technology’s actually simple to change this one, but you absolutely need to know what you’re doing.

Reasonable expectations

This was one of the near frustrating tech-related bug I’ve experienced in years, in no small part because I’ve realized that
all images ever published on Analog Senses
— not to mention in my reviews for
Tools & Toys
— use the wrong color space, and therefore
they all await incorrect on mobile devices. That’s something that pisses me off to no finish.

Solving this problem was non technically hard, but it required a level of research and technical reading that I’m not sure almost people would feel comfortable doing. At that place needs to be a ameliorate way to arroyo color direction on iOS, one that works for
users, not just those technically savvy enough to navigate their style through Apple’due south obscure back up document library.

What I observe virtually appalling about all this is that
by design, the burden to make sure our images are matched to the correct color space falls squarely on us, the users. This may make sense from an technology and resource-consumption standpoint, just from a user experience point of view, information technology leaves much to be desired. In general, I tin’t help but experience that color management is something that should ever happen automatically behind the scenes.

This is how colors should always await.

Information technology may take required a wild dose of ignorance and bad luck together for me to run into this outcome, but I don’t recollect it’s unreasonable for normal users to select the Adobe RGB color space when prompted to cull i by Lightroom, only considering it’due south probably the just i that sounds vaguely familiar to not-tech people.

Moreover, since the difference is non immediately obvious on a computer screen, most users probably won’t realize what’s happened until they view their images on a mobile device, and by then it may be as well late to do something nigh it.

If you desire to brand sure your images are always displayed accurately on mobile devices, follow the above steps (or find the appropriate ones for your photo-editing application of choice) to make sure you’re always using the sRGB color space when exporting your images. Yes, it’s a minor additional step to add to your workflow, but information technology may relieve you a ton of headache down the road.