Maintain consistent colour online
Ensure you images look their best in online galleries by taking control of colour
Reproducing colours equally in all of your images online can be a challenge, as there are many factors which can alter their appearance. The overriding issue is that of computer screens; it is impossible to predict how each of your viewers will see your images, as every screen has a different colour bias. Secondly, the internet does not display a full range of colours, so most native colour spaces won’t display properly on photo-sharing platforms. Furthermore, every platform can vary in how it translates the digital information in your image files to an on-screen image. With all of these obstacles it can be a frustrating experience when trying to make your online portfolio look its best, especially when you have spent time carefully shooting and editing your work. Here are some simple steps to put into action, to immediately minimise online photo-sharing stress and give your photos the display quality they deserve.
Calibrate your monitor
Consistent colour starts with a calibrated monitor. Buy a colour calibration device for between £50-100 and use this to easily standardise your screen’s colour reproduction, removing any subtle colour shifts that may be unsightly on a viewer’s monitor.
Use an sRGB colour space
Convert all images bound for the web to sRGB. In Photoshop go Edit > Convert to Profile and choose sRGB IEC61966-2.1. This smaller colour space will display more accurately in web browsers, making it easier to approximate online colour whilst editing.
Use a camera colour profile
The image you see on the back of your camera is actually a jpg preview of your RAW image. If shooting RAW, apply a camera colour preset in Camera Raw or Lightroom, to help maintain colour from shoot to showcase
Edit in a neutral setting
An often overlooked mistake in the colour correction workflow is to make adjustments in a room with lighting that lacks colour balance. Editing in a room with lots of warm lighting can cause your eyes to over-correct the colours in your image, leading you to introduce an opposite colour cast. Similarly a room that is too dark or too light will cause mis-processing of exposure and colour. A room with no direct sunlight and neutral grey walls is ideal.
Test images on each platform
An advisable step before posting images online is to test-view each photo-sharing site for colour reproduction. Facebook, Flickr, Instagram and 500px can all introduce slightly different colour shifts, that are not easy to predict and which can vary depending on image content. Highly colourful photos suffer the most, as colour shifts are likely to be more noticeable. Simply change the privacy settings of these images so only you can see them and use them as a reference for future posts.
Test images on matte and glossy screens
Textured and glossy surfaces reflect light differently and therefore the glossiness of screens influences how our eyes perceive the colour they display. Test-viewing images on both types of computer monitor can at least remove one variable from the challenge of non-standard monitor calibration.
Overcompensate with colour in PS
A skill to be mastered when running online image portfolios is the treatment of colour in post-processing. Once you have followed the previous steps and are able to better predict what kind of colour shifts you are likely to see when sharing photos on each social site, you must learn to compensate for these when editing. An often necessary technique is the over-editing of colour and tone, to offset the lack of colour and misrepresentation of hues online.
Photographers new to online sharing must adapt to a web-based editing mindset. Processing for online viewing greatly differs from editing for print. Remember your photos will always be seen back-lit on-screen and assess your colour accordingly.