Further ICC Profile Updates for Firefox 3.5

As discussed in the recent post Firefox 3.5 – ICC Profile Support, the latest Firefox supports ICC Color Profiles. However, there appeared to be problems in the implementation of this support — especially for the Windows platform.

Problems with Firefox 3.5

While the implementation of ICC Profile support released in Firefox 3.5 went a long way toward standardizing the way users see online images which utilize ICC Profiles, there were two major problems.

First, as mentioned by an astute commenter on my last post on this topic, the Firefox team decided to only implement Version 2 of the ICC Profile standard. While this is a huge step forward, version 4 of the ICC Standard has been around since 2005 (from what I could find). Therefore, there are many instances where support for Version 2 is simply insufficient.

To see an example of this, see the International Color Consortium (ICC) official page to test browsers for Version 4 compatibility here.

The second problem with Firefox 3.5 was that on many Windows machines, images containing a Version 2 profile were displayed incorrectly. In fact, they appeared much too dark.

One Problem Solved

Just released today was the latest update to Firefox 3.5, version 3.5.2. This update fixes the second problem discussed above. (See release notesBug 497363.) In theory, with this release, the images which displayed very dark under the old version now display correctly.

While I really didn’t know how much of a difference it would make, after installing the update on my Windows machine, the images on my last Firefox post appear much better.

Now, if only they could fix the support for Version 4 of the ICC Color Profiles…

Firefox 3.5 – ICC Profile Support

After many discussions, much frustration and a good bit of community involvement, Firefox 3.5 now supports embedded ICC Color Profiles by default.  This is a huge step forward for photographers (or really, anyone who wants to view online images how the author wanted them to be viewed).  While I won’t say that this latest update will solve all the color profile woes of online browsing, it is definitely something photographers and other photo publishers should be aware of.

So What is an ICC Profile?

Books have been written about color management.  In fact, numerous websites have been created, articles written and arguments waged about how color profiles and color management should affect the everyday user.  Suffice it to say that it’s no small or simple matter.  I fully expect many to disagree with what I’m about to say.  But please stay with me to the end, and feel free to comment if you have an opinion.

With that disclaimer out of the way, I feel it’s somewhat appropriate to step back and give a bit of an overview to color management so it is clear just where ICC profiles fit into this whole topic.

An ICC Color Profile is a description of the color space used to encode the color data of an image.  Sounds cryptic?  To understand this concept, we have to step back and understand a bit more about digital images.

What is a Digital Image?

I know what you’re going to say.  This is a trick question — a digital image is an image that resides on a computer, or some form of digital device.  And in that statement, you’re 100% correct.  But it’s important to understand just how that image is stored.  In it’s purest form, an image is made up of a series of numeric values each representing a portion of the image.  This numeric data is translated into real-world colors by the image viewing application.  Simple?  Sort of.  The issue is, there are different color spaces, or translations between the numeric data and the real-world color.  What this means is that if the application creating the image is using one translation, and the application viewing the image is using a different translation, the image will likely look very wrong!  Here’s an example:

Train_Seat_sRGB_Profile Train_Seat_Adobe_RGB_No_Profile

The above image on the left looks relatively correct.  The one on the right?  Not so much.  What went wrong?  Your image viewing software (a web browser in this case) didn’t know what translation was used when the image was saved, and therefore, translated the color data of the image incorrectly.

So, how does someone ensure that this doesn’t happen to them?  How can an application know how to decode the data?  Simple.  By embedding a ICC Color Profile in the image which describes the color space used to create the image.

But wait!  It’s not so simple…

Sadly, it’s actually much more complicated.  In an ideal world, image creation software and image viewing software (in all forms) would understand and respect the embedded ICC Color Profile.  Unfortunately, this isn’t even close to being true.  In fact, most software that isn’t written for graphic designers or professional photographers simply ignores these profiles.  Shocked?  I was too when I started becoming more involved with digital photography and started realizing just how hard this color management thing was!

The annoying thing about color management is that each computing platform and each software application plays a role.  What this means is that Internet Explorer running on Windows may have completely different color profile handling capabilities than Firefox running under Windows.  Bring in Mac or Linux systems and the issue gets even more confusing and uncertain.

To start with, is your browser color profile aware?

Train_Seat_sRGB_Profile Train_Seat_Adobe_RGB_Profile Train_Seat_Adobe_RGB_No_Profile

If the center image is the same as the image on the left, great!  Your browser respects and understands ICC color profiles.  If the center image looks more like the image on the right, you are using a browser which does not support ICC color profiles.  If you’re running the newest Firefox version 3.5, the center image should look like the good image.  Now try that with another browser?  What are the results?

I’ve only scratched the surface of ICC Color profiles, but stay tuned.  I’m planning on writing more on this topic over the next week or so!

Lightroom 2.4 Update

Adobe recently announced updates to Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw.  This version, Lightroom 2.4, aims to add additional camera support as well as fix a few bugs that had been found in Lightroom 2.3.

It is important to note that for those who are installing the Lightroom update, the latest version of Camera Raw is included so there is no need to install both.  For those running Photoshop, I believe the Camera Raw update may need to be installed separately.

What do these updates mean to users?  Personally, the Lightroom update means little for most users.  The bug fixes seemed focused around language support and updates to the crop module (which I have never experienced problems with).  However, for those users using newer camera such as the Canon EOS 500D (Digital Rebel T1i) or the Nikon D5000, the Camera Raw updates to support these cameras are welcome!  (As well a those users using Hasselblad digital backs which I expect is a very small number of my readers).  To view the official release notes, please go here.

Lightroom Links

Camera Raw Links

Lightroom Release Candidate 2.1

Adobe Labs has released a “Release Candidate” for Adobe Lightroom 2.1.  While this isn’t an official update, it’s no longer a beta release either.  In other words, it may not be perfect, but it should be relatively safe for the masses.

No new features are introduced, but there is a list of bug fixes and new camera support including the Nikon D700 and Nikon D90.  Great news for all those early D700 users as this would cause a major snag in a Lightroom work flow.

To get this update, go to the Adobe Labs page for Lightroom 2.1 and download it.  It won’t occur automatically due to its Release Candidate status.  Once it’s finalized, I’d assume that it will pop up as an update from within Lightroom.

As soon as I have a chance, I’ll be checking this out.

The Evolution of an Image

I’m not sure why, but I was feeling somewhat moody with regards to image processing today. This is an image which wasn’t really that spectacular when I took it. I was literally standing on my front lawn when I snapped it. Today, I found the urge to edit it.

NIKON D50 @ 62mm — ¹/160 sec, ƒ/7.1, ISO 200 | zoom in

Of course, the power lines had to go.  It also had to be straightened.  The shot was taken just before a storm.  The wind was starting to pick up and there were some very threatening clouds approaching.  So I decided to try to re-create the mood that existed at that moment.  Granted, I didn’t really capture it in the original, but thanks to the digital era, I was able to take some creative license.  The next few steps really just sort of happened and with a little selective burning and dodging, I ended up with a moody shot which I believe captures the feeling that day.  Click on the image to see a larger version as I don’t think the small version does it justice.

NIKON D50 @ 62mm — ¹/160 sec, ƒ/7.1, ISO 200 | zoom in

Let me know what you think.  I submitted it to a couple stock agencies so we’ll see if they think it’s sellable.  All comments are welcome!