Sunday, April 03, 2011

Picasa web albums and color management

[See the updates at end. My initial impression was based on dated material.]

I finally consolidated my images with Google's Picasa web albums: Migrating images from SmugMug to Google's Picasa image store - Lessons in data lock and business models.

It was a painful process.

After i was done I reviewed my newer images. They don't look nearly as good as they should. In particular they looked better on SmugMug.

Turns out Picasa web albums don't support color management (ICC, colorsync, etc). (See also - all these discussions get "closed to new replies" pretty quickly.)

Please cover your ears while I scream.

Ok, you can uncover now.

I used to use sRGB profiles, so the lack of color management was less apparent -- even with Mac/PC gamma issues (newer Macs quietly converted to PC Gamma). Now I use Adobe RGB color profiles, and I get to see how badly Picasa's color management sucks.

Sometimes you just can't win. I've started a newer thread on the online help forum, but I doubt there's any good news. I wonder if I'm going to have do my own image sharing and give up on the online services.

Update: A google support tech tells us that Picasa Web Albums will use the colorsync profiles of images uploaded with Picasa 3.8. I've a question pending on whether this is also true for Google's

Update 4/5/11: More from Google ...

Uploading via the Picasa Web Uploader should also preserve your color profile, and I tested this with Firefox 4 and Safari 5 on Snow Leopard and it's looking good on my end. Photos 1600 pixels or smaller are still color managed, but their thumbnails currently aren't (to help decrease load times)

Update 4/9/11:

your color profile is also preserved on photos 1600 pixels or smaller, but the thumbnails for these smaller photos (when you're on your album page, not a photo page) don't preserve your color profile. This only affects thumbnail previews, not the actual photos themselves.

If I understand this correctly, Picasa now preserves color profiles. Thumbnails for images smaller than 1600 pixels displayed on an album page are not color managed (how would the browser manage conflicting directions from hundreds of images?). A photo page should always use the preserved color profile.

See also:

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