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Firstly: I know this problem has been around and recurrently emerges since around 2014. Many OSs and program updates happened since then. Some solved the problem (cfr. Lightroom version 5.7 that fixed the issue for some), some broke the toy again.

I want to acknowledge some of those who have been writing and looking for a solution in the past years by sharing the links to those threads and thus the knowledge within them:

Bug? macOS Sierra Preview/Quick Look issues with rendering colors of images when using any icc profile other than the macOS standard

http://lagemaat.blogspot.com/2014/01/serious-color-management-bug-in-mac-os.html

http://lagemaat.blogspot.com/2014/08/further-quantification-of-mavericks.html

https://feedback.photoshop.com/photoshop_family/topics/lightroom_5_icc_profiles_clipped_shadows_under_osx

https://discussions.apple.com/thread/7411978?answerId=29674571022#29674571022

https://forums.adobe.com/thread/1365804?start=80&tstart=0

this guy has a different take on the problem, stating that it could happen the OPPOSITE of what most are experiencing, which is: color managed applications showing wrong colors, not the other way around.

http://www.gballard.net/photoshop/mac_color.html

http://www.gballard.net/psd/colorlooksbad.html


The following is the bug report I submitted today to Apple, slightly edited


It seems that ColorSync (?) misinterprets color profiles.

I had a similar problem in high Sierra with a LUT based ICC profiles made with DisplayCAL. I solved it by creating a simpler profile with the default "colormunki photo" software.

The problem is MUCH worse in Mojave. And it is worrying me (and other professional I believe).

With ANY ICC profile, including the original default profile, there is a notable difference between the image rendering within a) Photoshop, b) Lightroom (both library and develop module) and c) preview/quickview.

In very simple terms: you modify a (raw) picture in Lightroom, then you export it and open it in Photoshop and it looks different (in Photoshop shadows are smoother). Then you open the same image with Preview and darker values look clipped and color looks shifted.

The "custom ICC profile" in my long experience is always "warmer" then the default apple ICC profile. The interesting thing is that the color shift within Preview, when comparing it to Photoshop, is towards blue, almost complementary to the ICC profile change. I don't know how to interpret it, but it seems relevant.

It happens with sRGB and adobeRGB embedded profiles, so I think it's not an "input profile interpretation" but a "monitor CMM" issue.

the most troubling thing is that if you open a raw file in Lightroom/CR and its high resolution jpeg or tiff in Photoshop the images look different. This should not be.

I tried with a 16-bit adobeRGB tiff and with a sRGB jpeg, with the same result: dark areas are more clipped in Lightroom then in photoshop.

Some suggested that enabling soft-proofing in Lightroom to emulate the current monitor profile shows the correct color. I have tried it and it doesn't change a bit.

As a side note: when I experienced the problem years ago, in Mavericks/CameraRaw, disabling GPU for CameraRaw solved the mismatch. So I know it can be a GPU issue in some cases. Not this time. I tried with and with GPU acceleration enabled and disabled. Nothing changes.

It's a most serious bug. It means that I'm modifying the raw file in an arbitrary way because It's being displayed wrong. It makes working unpredictable.

Hours of editing being done in Lightroom, sometimes to export a deliverable (-> not a file to be further edited in PS), to realize that once opened in PS or printed they look different: that the client will print it differently.

It's a humongous issue.

It's so huge that I can hardly believe that every creative who uses an apple product and calibrates their monitor (as it should be) has this problem.

Steps to Reproduce:

Prerequisite:

A.1) calibrate and characterize the monitor you are using: use any probe (colormunki, x-rite, Spyder etc), calibrate to 6500°K + 2.2 gamma + original luminosity, then characterize with the default settings. You can test both V2 and V4 ICC profiles. In my experience the rendering mismatch is persistent.
A.2) if you want to exacerbate the effect, create a LUT-based profile, for example with DisplayCAL + Argyll. The OS will really flip.

Steps:

  1. open any raw image in Lightroom or camera raw.
  2. export the image (can be jpg or tif with sRGB or adobeRGB embedded profile).
  3. open this image in photoshop (set color to general pre-press) and preview / quickview.
  4. put them side by side and compare dark areas with detail (like hair or any dark pattern)
  5. without closing the programs, open "system preferences->monitor->color" and use a different monitor profile, if possible a custom profile you created for your specific monitor using a probe (see A.1)
  6. close system preferences
  7. compare the images again

Expected Results:

Images should be identical

Actual Results:

Each program displays dark areas differently. blacks are clipped. may also present a color cast.

Issue tested on latest OS (Mojave 10.14.4 (18E226) freshly installed) and original Adobe software (Lightroom CC 8.2 build 1204643; CR 11.2) on a new 2018 MacBook Pro.

It also happened with High Sierra on the same 2018 mbp and with an older mid 2012 non-retina MacBook Pro (Nvidia GPU).

I hope someone suggests a solution, or that the cause is finally identified and solved, once and for all.

Thank you. Peace. Guido

  • Firstly, I wouldn't trust either Lightroom or CameraRAW to be able to correctly interpret the RAW in the first place. Have you tried starting from a tiff, already set up in ViewNX-i or your camera's equivalent; export that as tiff, then run the same tests? Secondly, are you converting profiles at import? Photoshop is perfectly capable of carrying AdobeRGB, sRGB or even something like Nikon's own interpretation of AdobeRGB right through the workflow; changing profile only at final export to web/press/etc. Neither i1 Profiler nor DisplayCAL give rise to the same issue for me. – Tetsujin Mar 30 at 13:28
  • There is an amazing amount of detail here, but one thing has me confused in the 7 step process. In step 5 you change the profiles, shouldn’t the expected result be that the images change? This seems like works as intended. If you change a profile - the images should be re-rendered. The values in the file don’t change, but the output should change. – bmike Mar 30 at 13:44
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What I did (and I don‘t know whether all steps are nessecary) was:

  1. delete the display profile I had already created
  2. reboot the Mac
  3. in system preferences changed the resolution of my MacBook Pro 2018‘s display to the value where the icons looked a bit bigger (since the 2016 MBP Apple as a standard uses a value for the resolution that is bigger than the displays native amount of pixels)
  4. log out of the user account
  5. log back in
  6. used DisplayCal with their recommended settings for MacOS an created a new ICC profile
  7. after the process was finished I set the created profile as systems standard
  8. rebooted the Mac
  9. changed the display resolution back to standard value

Since then I had no more color shifts when opening PS.

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Our solution at work is to bring our displays as close to perfect as we can and then never change calibrations. We don't expect quicklook or preview to be adequate for color work although I haven't witnessed them being off substantially across any of the versions of macOS we have in production for color work (10.12 and up).

As close to perfect means for us:

  • 5 or so models of displays only. Eizo and NEC predominate (Apple's displays have surpassed these vendors in many cases, but we're a bit old school for what color work we do that's billable / commercial.)
  • Don't expect color matching for 30 minutes until things have warmed up.
  • Calibrate each day (after the warm up period) and have spare hardware ready when we can only reach calibration target by lowering luminosity. You'll know how much each display drifts and can back of as you feel meets your needs. New hardware and stable environments - once a week might be sufficient for the 3 to 18 month sweet spot for new gear that's not yet starting to age.
  • control ambient lighting - the rooms where we need color are dim and matte.
    • This is the key item to control in my experience - proper lighting makes up for all sorts of sins / omissions / lack of perfection with your gear if your eyes are ready for peak performance. Also key is operator experience. Knowing when you're on and when you're off makes up for all this gear. Some operators can nail color on an iPad Pro and a dark coat / blanket anywhere in the world. They will know when they have it and when they don't and need all of the above to be sure.
  • have calibrated color booths and representative sample chips readily close to validate what we're seeing digitally lines up with the calibrators and software
  • pay to calibrate and test your instruments you use to measure color so your kit can get closer than the margin of error you expect

Now - not everyone needs to nail color and the above isn't what I did when I worked in the medical imaging business, but since you did so much work on your bug report and research, I wanted to outline publicly one option for solving this once and for all without needing Apple to do anything. Controlling the things you can control lets us do color work, and you might be able to change your setup to achieve your goals as well without needing to do all of the above.

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