Poor Color When Sharing Photos


Today’s Question: I have experienced that a photo I see on my computer does not transfer the same (in terms of color) when I send it to a friend. I will export the photo to my desktop and then send as an attachment. I view the attachment and it doesn’t have the same rich color. I’m not sure if they are getting what I thought I was sending. Is this typical? What happens when I send to a print company?

Tim’s Quick Answer: This problem suggests a breakdown of a color-managed workflow. You need to make sure the display is calibrated and that you are using software the supports color management.

More Detail: If an image looks good in one software application (such as Lightroom Classic) but then doesn’t look good when viewed with other software, that suggests that either you did not include a profile in the exported image or that you are using software that doesn’t support color management.

First, you’ll want to make sure that a color profile is embedded in the image. That profile contains information on how the color values in the image should be interpreted. I realize this may seem unnecessary, as it would be reasonable to assume that a color would be defined universally. However, a color profile is indeed required because the same color appearance can be defined in different ways depending on the color space being used.

In Lightroom Classic you can select a profile from the Color Space popup in the File Settings section of the Export dialog. For on-screen display I recommend using sRGB for the color space.

Second, you need to make sure the software being used supports color management, meaning the software will actually use the embedded profile to interpret the colors in the image correctly. Most web browsers support color management, but in some cases that support may be disabled by default. It is worth confirming that the software being used to view the image actually supports color management.

In addition, you’ll want to ensure that the monitor display is properly calibrated so that colors and tonal values will be presented as accurately as possible. I recommend the Calibrite ColorChecker Display package for this purpose, and you can learn more about the ColorChecker Display here:


Note that in the context of sending a photo to a printer, the same basic concepts would still apply. The key difference in that context is that I recommend checking with the printer to find out the specific profile they recommend embedding in the image for optimal results.