Why does the Photo Gallery show all my photos with a colored tinge?


When you view your pictures with the Photo Gallery program which comes with Windows Vista, and which is also available for download from live.com, you might see a colored tinge. Where is the tinge coming from, and how do you get rid of it?

Ironically, what you're actually seeing is the absence of a tinge, but you got so used to seeing the tinge, your eyes established the tinge as the new baseline.

Not all display devices show exactly the same color when you ask them to display a particular RGB. The Windows Color System takes into account the color characteristics of output devices so that these variations can be taken into account when rendering to those devices. (Not that you could have figured this out from reading the official description, which just rambles for two paragraphs of marketing nonsense without actually saying what it does.) The goal is to make the color you see on the screen match the color that comes out on the printer, and have both match the color the person who created the image intended you to see.

If you don't want Windows to perform this color correction, open your Start menu and run the Color Management tool by typing its name into the Search box, or by hunting for it inside your Control Panel. Once you manage to launch it (by whatever means), go to your display device, check Use my settings for this device and then remove the color profile.

That was the tip. Now come da history.

The feature now known as the Windows Color System was introduced in Windows 95 under the name Independent Color Management. This explains why the color profile files have the *.icm extension.

But Independent Color Management was not the original name for the feature. The original name was Device-Independent Color, but the name was changed because the original name resulted in an unfortunate acronym that was lost on nobody. When Device-Independent Color was being written, one of the programmers in the user interface group reviewed the work in progress and sent an update to the rest of the team. She wrote, "I just looked at David's DIC, and (since I know you're all going to ask)... it looks good."

Comments (31)
  1. Ben Voigt [C++ MVP] says:

    May we assume names have been changed to protect the guilty^H^H^H^H^H^H innocent?

    And does this feature unify all the existing color correction gadgets installed by various monitor drivers, printer drivers, productivity tools, etc., or could the corrective adjustment be made twice?

  2. Koro says:

    "Color management" has to be the most annoying thing ever.

    When I put a specific R,G,B color in a picture, I want my monitor to display that exact R,G,B color when I display the picture. The end.

  3. oliver says:

    Within a week I’ve now read three articles about Color Management (the other two being http://www.heise.de/ct/artikel/Staerkere-Farben-835072.html and http://blogs.gnome.org/hughsie/2009/10/23/icc-profiles-and-gnome/). Is there some event going on about this topic? Or is this a collective "sorting summer photos" binge that triggers this?

  4. James Schend says:

    Koro: The exact problem with colors is that monitors use RGB, printers use CMYK (most of the time), televisions use a totally different version (NTSC?) All of these technologies have a completely different color-space, making it impossible to trivially translate colors between them.

    Anyway, if you personally don’t care about any of those devices, then go ahead and turn it off (which Raymond provided instructions for). But don’t act as if the technology is totally useless.

  5. @Koro: that’s what colour management does…

    If you don’t use a correctly calibrated colour profile for your monitor, you have no guarantee that the colour you see is actually the colour you specified. It almost certainly isn’t.

  6. Aaargh! says:

    Ironically, what you’re actually seeing is the absence of a tinge, but you got so used to seeing the tinge, your eyes established the tinge as the new baseline.

    How could you have gotten used to the tinge, if the rest of the OS uses the same color profile ?

  7. John Famiglietti says:

    Koro and James: It’s not just for color space conversions, it’s for matching RGB values on different displays.

    A great way to see this is if you have a dual-monitor system, try dragging a non-color managed window (like a web browser) from one monitor to the other. The content of the window might look very different.

    My main monitor is a little cool (blue) and my secondary is a little warm (reddish).  If you’re a graphic artist or photographer, you want color management to correct for this.

  8. rocko says:

    There’s kind of an equivalent of this in the audio world. People who mix music have to buy relatively expensive monitor speakers which have a flat response – i.e. if you measured the frequencies coming out of the speakers and re-recorded them, they’d be as close as possible to what was originally there. Now consumer systems are very unflat with bass boost and treble boost and all kind of manipulation to make the sound "better". So you mix flat in order to have good for everyone, but not the best for anyone.

  9. someone else says:

    Now the hard part of course is to actually get color profiles for your devices.

    [url="http://thedailywtf.com/Articles/The-Automated-Curse-Generator.aspx"]Speaking of David’s DIC[/url]

  10. Jim T says:

    I’ve heard that we nearly had an "advanced network authorization layer"

  11. someone else says:

    The tricky part is finding the right color profiles for your devices.

    Do you, by any chance, filter comments with BBCode?

    [BBCode has no special meaning to the software that runs this site. The comment was trapped by the spam filter. I released it. I don’t know what made the spam filter think your message was spammy. -Raymond]
  12. Vista’s default color profile just messes up all my photos and makes the Photo Viewer app useless until I turn it off.

    By "messes up" I mean "makes all my photos look like they were taken on an alien planet".

  13. Leonardo Brondani Schenkel says:

    Vista’s default color profile should be sRGB or a profile included with the monitor driver, which for 99% of all displays (not wide-gamut) is very close to sRGB. (Which makes sense since sRGB was created as an approximation of a typical monitor.) There should not be a color cast in the default configuration; this probably indicates that someone played with the monitor OSD. Resetting the OSD to the factory settings, or setting the color temperature to 6500K and the color profile to sRGB (or removing it altogether since it’s the same thing) should solve the problem.

  14. jared says:

    Finally, I new that after reading this blog long enough, a solution to an annoyance would pop up!

  15. In an ideal world, when a program that was not explicitly color-space aware requested an RGB triple shown, that triple would be interpreted as sRGB and the display driver (which in the common case is actually a video card driver, so perhaps GDI iself?) would transform it into whatever signal makes the monitor display that sRGB color.

    However, back in Windows 95 time, the CPU costs of doing this (particularly when blitting bitmaps to the screen) would probably have been prohibitive for casual use.

    And I assume there are sound compatibility reasons why it couldn’t have been made the default behavior since then.

    On a different note: The monitor’s EDID data block has space for gamma and XYZ coordinates for each RGB component, but is this enough for accurate color management?

    (someone else: BBCode url tags do not take quotes)

  16. someone else says:

    “I don’t know what made the spam filter think your message was spammy.”

    Probably the BBCode.

  17. 640k says:

    When will windows (gdi and other apis) support >24-bit truecolor? This is a limiting factor in the api now when monitors support 48-bit color.

  18. John Kerr says:

    Wow, so they caught the DIC, yet let all those PIDLs and SHITEMIDs through?

  19. aaron says:

    Perhaps the user asking the question was using the Win7 snippet tool.  If you use the Win7 snippet tool and save to PNG, Windows Live Photo Gallery displays an image with a "tinge" to it.  If you snippet that, you get even greater tinge.  After 4 iterations, the smoke-blue of Aero glass is now whisky-yellow.  

    I have two monitors: one had a color profile associated with it, the other did not.  If I place the window stradled across both, WLPG only "tinges" the portion on the right display, the one with the ICM profile.  I guess snippet is to blame for capturing the pixels after ICM has been applied instead of before.  

  20. David's Dic says:

    I once saw an industrial design program that had an "analyze vibration" feature. The code was part of a plugin that was distributed via the unfortunately named analvib.dll file.

  21. Mike says:

    Vista’s default color profile just messes up

    all my photos and makes the Photo Viewer app > useless until I turn it off.

    Let me guess – you have a Samsung Monitor? There is definitely something screwy with the color profile that gets applied for Samsung monitors, as everything has a pronounced sepia tinge in the photo viewer.

    Who needs to fix this? Microsoft or Samsung?

  22. Mike says:

    If you have a Samsung display you may be using the Samsung – Natural Color Pro 1.0 ICM.  Using this causes the Sepia color on Windows 7.

    To get rid of the Sepia tone, go into Color Management (Open Control Panel, search for Color Management).

    Add the "sRGB Color Space Profile.icm", set it as the default.  Repeat if you have multiple monitors for each monitor.

  23. Mike says:

    Oh, and reboot after you are finished.

  24. Gaspar says:

    @Aaargh!

    > Ironically, what you’re actually seeing is the absence of a tinge, but you got so used to seeing the tinge, your eyes established the tinge as the new baseline.

    How could you have gotten used to the tinge, if the rest of the OS uses the same color profile ?

    Most pictures have an embedded color profile.  So the answer to your question is, they don’t have the same profile.

    If you have any decent photo editing software you can switch out color profiles.  You can really see the changes most of the time.  Try switching out a color profile from a digital camera with one for a cheap inkjet printer…

  25. Gaspar says:

    @Mike

    Or if you need/want color accuracy, use any color calibration hardware/software to create a color profile for your actual setup.

    Generic profiles are ok but it will always be off.  On top of that the color space for hardware does drift over time so what is correct today will be wrong tomorrow…

  26. Anonymous Coward says:

    I have been using ICM since I first got my computer. Back then Windows either didn’t automatically apply the correct profile, or the profile for my monitor didn’t exist. Either way, I used an external tool that made me look at some test screens and tweak settings.

    After that, suddenly everything looked much better. In particular, FFFFFFh actually displayed as white and 808080h no longer sank back into black. Especially photographs suddenly looked much more ‘real’.

    Of course, when I somewhat recently got a new monitor it looked all wrong again and I had to go through the process once more.

  27. Gabe says:

    640k: Go to http://code.msdn.microsoft.com/Release/ProjectReleases.aspx?ProjectName=PDC08WhitePapers&ReleaseId=1797 and click on High Color in Windows 7 for an overview of new "high color" modes. I remember when "high color" used to mean 16 bits per pixel; now it means 16 bits per channel.

  28. powershell says:

    "Independent Color Management" Strange bcoz I thought Microsoft websites call it "IMAGE Color Management". Btw, when will the rest of the Windows components such as IE catch up with ICC V4 color profiles?

  29. ERock says:

    Heh, I remember when Hi-color referred to 16-bit color as opposed to True-color referring to 24-bit color.

  30. Aaargh! says:

    > Most pictures have an embedded color profile.  So the answer to your question is, they don’t have the same profile.

    Sure, the displays profile and the embedded profile together will be used to accurately display the pciture But if you view that picture, why would it matter which program you use, since every app in the OS will use the same 2 profiles.

    [Because most apps don’t bother calling TranslateBitmapBits before displaying bitmaps. -Raymond]
  31. BC says:

    [Because most apps don’t bother calling TranslateBitmapBits before displaying bitmaps. -Raymond]

    Now, THAT is a really useful piece of information!!!  Not to exclude the explanation of ICM as being valuable!!!  This blog is the BEST!!!

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