Yup, Color Management is Absent in iOS

After we published our browser color management PSA yesterday, those of you reading this site on your iOS devices probably noticed that your browsers failed “the test”. The reason? Color management is strangely absent from iOS. Software engineer Jeffrey Friedl, who discovered this fact a few months ago, writes,

[…] try viewing this blog post on your iOS browser; the results will, I’m fairly certain, leave you feeling blue.

Obviously I can personally test only a small subset of devices and applications, but I have not found any — not even one — iOS application that displays the second image properly. You can save it to your camera roll and view it with any number of applications, including apps from such leaders as Apple and Adobe, and they all show me as blue because they all assume incorrectly, even though the color profile is right there in the image. Back in 2006, on the History of Color Mis-Management page of my color-space writeup, I called such applications “Color Stupid”, but in this day and age, such applications should probably be called something much worse, like “Color Moronic”, or “Color Leaves-Me-Dumbfounded”.

The blog post is chock full of images that won’t display properly on your “color stupid” iOS device.

So Much For That Glorious iPad Screen: iOS and its Apps are Not Even Color Managed [Jeffrey Friedl’s Blog]

P.S. To learn more about digital image color spaces, check out Friedl’s great 7 page primer.

  • Guest

    And this really matters why? Seem like someone likes to complain on the internet to me.

  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    it’s a big deal if people are viewing your work online and images aren’t displayed correctly for them on their ipads etc

  • Sammo80

     And you are so much better.

  • Camrocker

    Guest- When products are advertised as being perfect accompaniments for professional photographers, particularly in the case of the iPad being sold as a digital portfolio, yes it really matters. 

  • Guy Mason

    I’m sorry but i’m calling bullsh’t on this piece. For starters, the colour profile is a custom one, so not sRGB, not Adobe RGB, not Labs, etc. A custom RGB profile. In addition to that the image lacks proper EXIF identifiers, so much so that various EXIF related applications included nothing about which colour profile was in use. Also browsers will by nature default to the default sRGB colour space when no colour space identifier exists within the EXIF data too, so the browser is just doing what it’s designed to do here. Plus, the author clearly isn’t aware of piRAWhna, FilterStorm Pro, etc that do support alternative colour profiles (even if it’s only just Adobe RGB+sRGB AFAIK). As well as all that the makers of SpyderPro also make an image viewer just for iOS which uses calibrated colour management specific to your device.

  • JD929

    Are these images deliberately designed with very skewed color profiles to prove this point?

  • Disqus101

    I’ve viewed countless JPEG’s and other images on my iOS devices and never once fell victim to this. While the linked article does display funky on my devices, I must be missing the importance of embedded color profiles when viewing images. Surely, though, failure to read a Color Profile can’t result in colors which are that off, can it?

  • Guest

    Yes, he uses custom color profile. His point is quite clear – his alien color profile works on Mac.. iPad, failed.

  • AnalogMachine

    Same for Android! I tried it yesterday when I read the article on PTPX with a couple of Android devices (Smartphones and Tablets, running: Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb and ICS) in different Browsers (Stock, Delphin HD and Chrome)….. no succes!!!

  • Michelle M. Stgeorge

    make an image viewer just for iOS which uses calibrated colour management specific to your device.

  • Jeffrey Friedl

    Your understanding of color profiles, exif data, and browsers is incomplete/incorrect, which is perhaps why you should read the article and the old digital-image color-space primer that Michael also linked to. They should clear up your misunderstandings.

    The only “bullshit” might be if you think the special color profile I used was intended to display the magnitude of the problem in real life. As I wrote in the article, I specifically crafted it to show a ridiculous result when color management is not in effect, simply so you could easily, unambiguously tell when an app is/isn’t color managed. It does its job well.

    Exif data has only one color-space tag, and it can be marked only “sRGB” or “Other”. But even that tag should be ignored if the color profile (whatever profile it may be) is present. There’s nothing special about a non-standard profile. Facebook, for example (the most popular photo-hosting site in the world) uses a specially-crafted non-standard profile on all their billions of images. A color-managed app doesn’t care, or know how popular the color profile is… it just reads its data and applies it to the color data.

    You are correct that I am unaware of “piRAWhna”, “FilterStorm Pro”, and “etc”. As I wrote, I have not personally tested every app on every device. If you know of a color-managed app, by all means leave a comment to that effect on the article… it’d be nice to find at least one color-managed iOS app!

  • Jeffrey Friedl

    Yes, very much so, to clearly illustrate “is color managed” or “not color managed” at a glance.  To see the problem with real-life examples (which are not so dramatic as the ones on this article), see Page 2 of the 7-page primer Michael linked to.

  • bertbopper

    Color profiling is dead. The world is sRGB now. Print fits in sRGB 99%, and with the kill of CCFL backlights for monitors, no-one will be able to see wide gamut ever again except from the last few pro’s on NEC or Eizo screen (the semi-pro’s with iMacs who work in AdobeRGB on their sRGB screens can’t been taken serious on the color proofing department at all). Unless you have a Samsung phone with OLED, then you have crazy over-the-top gamut that matches completely nothing, and color-matching is useless anyway.
    So people, stop putting weird profiles in images, and stick to sRGB until OLED is totally mature and available in every size.

  • bertbopper

    You made the mistake of not converting to sRGB then. In a white-LED backlit world, sRGB is the biggest gamut any user will see again, so the idea of Mickeysoft and HP to introduce one standard for the masses is a perfect match. The dufuss probably made his weird gamut images on an imac that is just as sRGB as all the rest, and does not allow to view wide gamut in a proper way.

  • 9inchnail

     How do you even know you haven’t fallen victim to this? You see a photo and think it looks alright but in fact you haven’t seen the original so you can’t even judge if the colors are off. The difference is not as big as shown here in these manufactured photos but it might be there without you even noticing. Never seen a photo that was too dark or looked kinda weird and you thought the guy who uploaded it messed it up somehow? Might have been your device messing things up.

  • 9inchnail

     Why would you stick to sRGB? If you take a photo in AdobeRGB and convert it to sRGB, you lose information. As simple as that. Just because your screen can’t display the whole gamut doesn’t justify killing all the data. What if you do buy an OLED in a couple of years? Prices will drop. But it’s too late because you converted all your photos to sRGB. Good job.

    I always use AdobeRGB or ProPhoto for editing. For publishing on the web you should use sRGB, sure, but keep your originals in wider colors spaces or keep the RAW files.

  • Rollo

    mac is crap !!

  • Richard

    I’m viewing this post on an iPad (3rd gen) and it looks just fine. Fine on my iPhone as well. The image on the phone is washed out, the image on the computer is saturated, both on iPhone and iPad. I’ve been looking at photography on my iPad and iPhone for a while now and while I’m not as super critical as the OP or some in this comment thread, the colors look fine to me, not washed out, not overblown.

    This is true of random stuff I see on the web as well as my own work, stored in various photo apps as well as on the web. I’m quite content with whatever is going on, works fine for me.

    Many in this thread love to trash Apple products and will no doubt jump on this post and continue with same. I wonder if those people have ever actually used an iPad or an iPhone or a Mac for that matter?

  • SwedishKiwi

    I had the same experience. Didn’t work on any Android device. And not on the Internet Explorer on my workplace’s Windows computers.

    Worked on Safari, Firefox, and Chrome on my Mac at home.

  • Mansgame

    I’m a big Apple hater but I’m still not sure why this matters.  Who would post picture with the wrong colors to start with only to have a correct color space file?  Why make life hard?

  • Eric Knape

    Thanks for responding. It’s refreshing to see the author of an article posted online actually engaging in conversation with those who submit comments and/or questions.

  • Bigdavid

    Actually….if all the iPads and iPhones look the same, you can be more assured they will look like you want them to look on their devices…

    Problem with displaying pictures on the internet is you have no idea what adjustments users have made. With no adjustments, no worries. 

  • Marguerite B. Smith

     which uses calibrated colour management specific to your device.

  • 9inchnail

     Dude, this is not about the photo in this post. The shot with the phone and the laptop in the background is propably using sRGB and will look alright on pretty much any machine. Follow the link:

    Scroll down. If the second picture looks blue to you, your device is not color managed.

  • PaulJay

    How can someone hate something they’ve never used before.
    I really hate Audi cars…but i’ve never driven in one for a year.

  • John

    The need to convert the same image to multiple color spaces based on the targeted device is what’s making life hard. This is what color management was designed to solve.

  • Jostein Roalkvam

    Works fine with IE here, as well as Firefox, on my W7 box. Try updating your software…

  • Guy Mason

    The two key points I was calling BS on here was: a. The use of an obscure colour profile that is unlikely to impact photographers, b. The absence of any ICC Profile/EXIF data specifying the colour space within the image itself. There were merely two errors in my reply, when I was specifying colour space within EXIF the second time I actually meant to say ICC profile and when I stated EXIF data itself containing information like Adobe RGB, this *is* supported in EXIF data *but* it is a _custom_ EXIF value supported by Nikon/etc cameras that do include this value within the EXIF data itself. 

    As someone who has taken an active interest in colour management and colour profiles within iOS I had already done my research in tracking down applications that do support it, thus you can verify for yourself that both piRAWhna and FilterStorm Pro for example do have limited ICC profile support. As well you could also verify that the SpyderGallery app for iOS allows a user to perform a custom calibration using the SpyderPro 3 or later with their iPad to have a colour managed space to view their photos from. Are their limits to the ICC profile support? Absolutely, primarily being limited to Adobe RGB and sRGB. ProPhoto too would’ve been desirable as well (But unsure if there are licensing requirements around that that may have prevented this from easily being included). 

    Thing is when it comes to photo management / processing (and as this is a photography related site it seems relevant) the images coming from either the camera or typically an image processor will tend to be in one of the above colour spaces, so as such I see there being little impact when using some of the tools listed above and thus it representing far more of an edge case scenario for photographers using the iPad in this respect unless they use ProPhoto in which case if they are aware they need to work with an iPad they’d be better off using AdobeRGB where possible which has a similar colour gamut to ProPhoto. Ultimately lack of knowledge as to the tools available should not be a valid excuse as to why they can’t do what they want, only lack of such options would be relevant.

    In saying all that, i’d welcome iOS to support natively colour profiles, for Mobile Safari to support ICC profiles, etc too.

  • Hayden

    Just tried with google chrome for ios that was released today, same issues.

  • Enterprise Mobile Hub

    It’s not fine.