Color Profile Mismatch


Today’s Question: When opening a photo from Adobe Bridge to Photoshop I get a message that the document has an embedded color profile that does not match the RGB working space (Monitor RGB – Color LCD Calibrated4). It offers me the option to use the embedded profile, convert to the working space, or discard the profile. Which choice would you choose and how do you change permanently your choice?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In general you will want to convert the profile to your working space when you get a color profile mismatch message in Photoshop. However, if you want to ensure you are maintaining the color appearance of a source image file, especially if the file was received from someone else. However, in this case you also have your working space in Photoshop set to your display profile, which is not a configuration I recommend using.

More Detail: The working space profile in Photoshop can be set in the Color Settings dialog accessible from the Edit menu in Photoshop. The working space profile should generally be set to a profile created for this purpose. When in doubt the Adobe RGB (1998) profile is a good option. If you want maximum potential in terms of color gamut and always work in 16-bit per channel mode, the ProPhoto RGB profile is a good choice. And some photographers will want to use sRGB if they generally have their images printed by common photo printing services.

When you open an image that has an embedded profile different from the working space profile you have established in Color Settings, you will see an alert about this issue as long as you have enabled the “Ask When Opening” checkboxes within the Color Settings dialog.

When there is a profile mismatch, you have three choices. You should choose “Use the embedded profile” if you don’t want to convert the image to the working space profile, such as to evaluate the “native” appearance of the image. You could always convert the image to the working space profile later in your workflow.

In most cases you would want to choose the “Convert” option, so that the color information is converted to your working space. This provides greater consistency in your workflow, and will generally result in minor (if any) change in appearance for the image.

In general you would never want to use the “Discard” option, as doing so means you are not actually managing the colors in your photo.

Note that the topic of profile mismatches in Photoshop is covered in the “Photoshop Profile Alerts” lesson (Lesson 2 of Chapter 4) of my “Color Management for Photographers” course. You can get a 50% discount on this course by using coupon code color50 at checkout, or by using this link to get started with the discount applied automatically: