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Some images seem to be automatically modified by preview when you open them - in particular, the color saturation changes.

For example, I see an image with a certain shade of red in Finder's cover flow, but when I open it in preview, that red is now slightly desaturated. If I save the image, cover flow now shows the desaturated red - so Preview.app is certainly doing something.

Why is it doing this and how do I make it stop?

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This seems to have something to do with the color profile. You can change the used profile to display an image in preview by using View -> Soft Proof with Profile.

Finder uses your displays calibration-profile by default

reference: http://photo.net/digital-darkroom-forum/00TmxN

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