You may not be seeing the colour you think you are – colour correction
As a professional photographer there are two things that are of great importance to me – light and colour. Light defines an image – with no light you just have black, and though it does sound obvious, light is the most important consideration for a photographer.
Colour is something my eye is also highly attuned to – I notice when colours are off and not rendering as I saw them, and sadly the state of colour reproduction in modern web browsers leaves me unimpressed.
To ensure that the photographs I deliver to my clients have the correct colours, my work flow is colour managed from camera to web or to print. The monitors I use are high quality monitors capable of accurate colour rendition and I regularly calibrate them using a colorimeter and the excellent open source software DisplayCAL, which I have found to be much more accurate than the colorimeter manufacturer’s own software, though it takes much longer to do a calibration.
Both Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, the two programs that I use for photo editing, have been set up to manage colours so that the final images I export use the web standard sRGB colour space for use on the internet, or the CMYK colour space for printing photographs.
The problem is the browser
Your web browser may be showing you the wrong colours right now. In the image above I’ve lined up four common web browsers on Windows (Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer and Microsoft Edge) to compare their colour rendering of a photograph on my website that I took on the pier at Worthing, West Sussex in 2008. *Spoiler: Firefox, at the left, is the only browser to correctly render the colours in my photograph.
Firefox is my browser of choice for its extensibility, but also because it’s the only browser that shows the colours in my photographs accurately. I had to ensure that the colour management settings in Firefox were enabled and set up to render the sRGB colour space, as it didn’t correctly render by default, but now photographs appears on my website in Firefox as they do in Adobe Lightroom.
Chrome is currently the most popular web browser in the world. It has had a form of colour management since 2012, but in the test on my computer it was also by far the worst at rendering colours correctly (other photographers have also commented on Chrome’s inconsistent colour reproduction). Look at the wooden planks at the bottom of the photograph: Firefox renders them correctly (an ever so slightly red tint to a greyish brown plank), but in Chrome they turn green. This green wash also affects the blue in the windows and the white stripes on the chair. Chrome fails this test spectacularly.
Internet Explorer is slowly being phased out and replaced by Microsoft Edge starting in Windows 10 but is still a well-used browser. So how did it do for colour reproduction? It has saturated the photograph slightly, which you can see in the red stripes, the slightly more red tint on the planks and a touch more blue in the sky and in the white strips. Not too bad, but also not accurate.
I’m not too surprised that Edge, made by Microsoft as is Internet Explorer, has basically the same rendering as Internet Explorer. There’s a touch more saturation to the blues than in Explorer but overall, though again not as horrible as Chrome, it still doesn’t render the colours accurately.
If you’re interested in seeing colours on your computer screen the way that the photographer or designer intended them to be, you’ll need to calibrate your monitor, use Mozilla Firefox and ensure that it’s set up to render colours correctly. I won’t go into how to do that here, as there are plenty of guides on the internet to show you how.