Photo Preview Settings

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Today’s Question: I am using Photoshop and working on images for my soon-to-be-published book. My book cover designer sent me the cover image for the new book and it appears more saturated in Photoshop than the image when opened in Preview [in the operating system]. I just now realized I have View set to “Working CMYK”. Is this correct? What view setting should I be using for general photo editing?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The image preview in Photoshop can be more accurate, assuming there is an embedded profile for the image, and especially if the image has been converted to the CMYK color mode. The Proof Setup option on the View menu will only alter the appearance of the image if you have the “Proof Colors” option turned on.

More Detail: When you view an image within your operating system, the embedded color profile will generally be taken into account. In other words, you can expect an image viewed in the operating system versus in Photoshop to appear about the same (and possibly identical).

With CMYK images (rather than RGB images), things tend to be a bit different, with the image viewed in the operating system generally being a bit less saturated and potentially appearing a bit “muddy”, with lower contrast.

In this case I suspect the image had been converted to CMYK already, since it has been prepared for publication in a printed book. Therefore, I would expect the preview in the operating system to be less accurate, and the preview in Photoshop to be more accurate.

Of course, in this case “accurate” is a somewhat relative term. Keep in mind that an image in print will generally not appear as saturated as an image displayed on a computer display. This is where soft proofing comes into play. If you configure the Proof Setup option in Photoshop to the output profile that will be used for printing, you can then turn on the “Proof Colors” option to get a preview of the printed result on your monitor display.

You can learn more about the overall issues related to color management for photographic images in my “Color Management for Photographers” course in the GreyLearning library here:

https://www.greylearning.com/courses/color