Photoshop: Why are untagged files marked as uncalibrated in EXIF?

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With Photoshop CS5 and Elements 9, when an image is saved without embedding an ICC profile, the EXIF field for color space in the output file is set to 65535/Uncalibrated for all output files even if the working color space is sRGB. This can be misleading for future use of the file because the working color space appears to not be sRGB. When the working color space is sRGB the option of having EXIF fields but not an embedded profile can be useful, particularly since the EXIF field can be easily displayed through the operating system. However, the misleading handling of the EXIF color space field makes that not an option with Photoshop. This appears to me to be a bug. If working color space is sRGB shouldn’t the EXIF field for color space should be set to 1/sRGB whether or not a profile is embedded?

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Jim Kennedy
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Jim Kennedy

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Posted 7 years ago

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Chris Cox

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That is correct - if you save without a profile, the document has no profile, and the working space doesn't change the file. In that case the working space only affects the appearance of the file. If you want the document to use sRGB, then assign that profile, and that profile will be written into the file.
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Jim Kennedy

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Thanks for responding.

Lets look at a more specific case. Suppose I scan a photograph and make an image with Adobe RGB as the working color space. I want to use this image for printing. I also want to make a copy with sRGB as the color space for use on the internet so I open the image in Photoshop, convert it to sRGB, and then save a copy. As I understand it, the copy can be used on the internet whether or not it has an embedded profile and most internet browsers will not use an embedded profile. It seems to me that I should be able to save the copy without the sRGB profile embedded and that the EXIF field for color space should indicate that the image was converted to sRGB. At present the EXIF value is set to indicate that the copy converted to sRGB is not sRGB. Am I missing something?
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Chris Cox

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No, you chose to save it uncalibrated, so it is marked uncalibrated.
The working space or what you converted it to doesn't change the fact that it is uncalibrated because you chose to save it that way.
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Jim Kennedy

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I'm writing a book that is going to cover and comment on this point and I want to make sure I understand Adobe's position. Am I correct that it is Adobe's position that the EXIF color space field should only be set to sRGB when an sRGB profile is embedded and should be set to Uncalibrated in all other circumstances?

That strikes me as inconsistent with the EXIF standard specifications (which say nothing about embedded profiles and is often applied without embedded profiles) and with the direction of the meta data working group.

Please verify that this is Adobe's positon. Thanks.
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Chris Cox

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The EXIF sRGB colorspace should only be set when the colorspace of the file is sRGB. By saving the file without a profile, you are declaring that the file is untagged, uncalibrated, and should be saved as uncalibrated and the EXIF colorspace should thus be uncalibrated. How to handle profiles other than sRGB and Adobe RGB is undefined by EXIF, but if you have something that the user has declared to be untagged/undefined - then the metadata really should say that it is undefined.
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Jim Kennedy

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Lets make this a request for a new feature rather than a bug report. For input files, Photoshop has a file handling preference checkbox that can be set to use or to ignore the “EXIF Profile Tag.” Like most digital cameras, when my digital SLR is set to use the sRGB color space, an output file has the EXIF color space field set to sRGB and has no embedded profile. If the Photoshop preference is set to use the EXIF profile tag, the file is interpreted as sRGB based on the EXIF value. If the preference is set to ignore the EXIF profile tag, the file is interpreted as untagged.

As indicated by the way the EXIF field is widely used with cameras and the way the term “EXIF profile tag” is used in Photoshop, the EXIF color space field is a way of identifying or tagging the color space profile as sRGB. Some people and imaging products prefer to not embed a profile when the EXIF profile tag indicates sRGB because it is an unnecessary redundancy that increases file size. Photoshop recognizes this perspective and has the EXIF profile tag option to handle it for input files.

I am requesting that a corresponding option for output files also be developed. This option would be useful in some situations and would allow the EXIF color space field to be set to sRGB without embedding a profile in an output file. That is currently not possible with Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. This option would broaden the usefulness of Photoshop and be more consistent and intuitive with the way many imaging products operate. Like the input option, anyone who prefers to not use EXIF as a form of color space tagging could set the option accordingly.
Can this be submitted as feature request from this thread that started as a bug report or should I submit it as a separate feature request?
Thanks.
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Chris Cox

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You can submit it as a request....