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You may have had the experience of working with a photograph on your computer, either in Elements or another digital imaging program, and the colors look great. But then when you print the photo or when you upload it to a website, the colors in a photo don't look exactly the same as they did when you were working on it on your computer. The reason is that colors are really just numerical values, which have to be interpreted to become colors that you and I can see. Every digital device that you use, be it your camera, your monitor and computer, your printer or your scanner has a unique way of translating color values into visible colors.
So often you don't get a match between the colors that you see on your computer screen when you're working on an image, and colors that you see when you output the image. Elements tries to make it as easy as possible to achieve consistency of color, and it does so by allowing you to add tiny pieces of information about color to every photograph that you work on in Elements. Those pieces of information are called Color Profiles, and they describe the way that you want colors to be interpreted by other devices in your digital workflow, like your printer.
The first stop in handling color management in Elements is the Color Settings dialog box in the Full Edit workspace in the Editor. I'm going to open that by going to the Edit menu and going down to Color Settings. When you get some time, I suggest that you read through this narrative to understand the different choices that Elements is offering you. But here is my short answer, the first choice here No Color Management is not the one that I recommend. If you choose No Color Management then you're allowing Elements to display colors in a file using the idiosyncratic way that your particular monitor displays color, and that isn't necessarily the way that colors are going to be displayed anywhere else, on someone else's monitor, or in a print.
When you choose No Color Management, there are no color profiles attached to your photos. And so the next device down the line say your printer won't know how you expect the colors in the photo to be interpreted. The next choice, the default Always Optimize Colors for Computer Screens is a good one if most of the photos that you work on, you share with other people online. Either on a website or blog or Facebook or if you're making presentations that you are going to show on a computer screen. This choice keeps the colors in the image within a range of colors known as the sRGB color space as it says here, which is optimal for images that are going be shown on screen or are being shared as e -mail attachments, or that you're going to put on a website.
However if you're someone who usually prints your photos on an inkjet printer then the best choice for you is the next one Always Optimize for Printing. This will display your photos based on the colors in the Adobe RGB color space, as it says here. The Adobe RGB color space offers the broadest range of colors among these choices so it works quite well for printed images. The last choice Allow Me to Choose might sound good, but actually it's going to give you a headache, because every time you open a file that doesn't contain a color profile, Elements will ask you what you want to do, and that means you have to make color management decisions over and over.
So I suggest that you don't go with Allow Me to Choose, but rather use either Optimize Color for Computer Screens if you normally make images to be viewed online or on the computer, or Always Optimize for Printing if you normally are creating images that you print. I'm going to click OK to close the dialog box, and I'll just mention that there are two other pieces to color management in Elements. Those come into play when you save an image, and when you print an image and I'll cover those parts of color management later in the course in lessons on printing and saving.
One last thing if you really want your color settings to do their job, you've to calibrate your monitor. This means that you need to set it to standard settings and generate a profile for your monitor that describes how your particular monitor interprets color. The way to do that is to purchase and use a hardware calibrator, which you can buy from a number of different third-party manufacturers. I urge you to do that but even if you don't calibrate your monitor, please at least choose the correct color settings for your favorite kind of output.
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