Why do my photos look different in Photoshop?

Excerpt from Adobe Lightroom 2 – The Missing FAQ

Usually a mismatch in colors is due to either incorrect color profile settings or a corrupted monitor profile.

For example, a ProPhoto RGB photo mistakenly rendered as sRGB will display as desaturated and flat.

This is a ProPhoto RGB photo correctly displayed as ProPhoto RGB:mismatch-prophoto-ok
This is a ProPhoto RGB photo incorrectly displayed as if sRGB:


First, check your color settings.
In Photoshop, go to Edit menu > Color Settings to view this dialog.


The RGB Working Space is your choice, but whichever you choose to use, you are best to set the same in Lightroom’s External Editor preferences and Export dialog. We’ll come to that in a moment.  [Which color space to use is a subject for another post!]

Selecting ‘Preserve Embedded Profiles’ and/or checking the ‘Ask When Opening’ for Profile Mismatches in that same dialog will help prevent any profile mismatches.


‘Preserve Embedded Profiles’ tells Photoshop to use the profile embedded in the file regardless of whether it matches your usual working space. ‘Ask When Opening’ for Profile Mismatches shows you a warning dialog when the embedded profile doesn’t match your usual working space, and asks you what to do.


You also need to set your External Editor settings in the Lightroom Preferences dialog. It is simplest to use the same color space as you have chosen in Photoshop.


You’ll also want to check the color space that you’re using in the Export dialog, and again, choose the same color space for photos you are going to open in Photoshop.


As long as your Photoshop and Lightroom color settings match, or you have Photoshop set to use the embedded profile, your photos should match between both programs.

Other mismatches when the color settings match correctly can also be due to a corrupted monitor profile, which you’ll remember from a previous post.


  1. Peter Socha says:

    Thank you!!! Thank you!!! Thank you!!!
    I started using Lightroom some weeks ago after a friend showed it to me. I really liked it but I could not get the colours to match Photoshop. Everything in Lightroom was more saturated and had reddish cast. I searched and searched and could not find an answer until I found your post.
    Now I got everything to match! Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m so happy 😀

  2. Hi Victoria.

    You might want to change the 4th screenshot (LR prefs): You don’t want to use ProPhotoRGB in 8bpc. Ever. 😉



    [Well spotted, thanks Rene! – VB]

  3. Why did you set the color space differently under external editing and file settings.

    [Well spotted! It wasn’t intentional! I’ll add that to the list of things to fix, thanks. – VB]

  4. Hi queen,
    I wanted to thank you for this excelent explanation, I hadn’t been able to set this up but now its working. Thanks

  5. This is what I have been looking for… However I have issues still… Lightroom has the Prophoto setting, Photoshop does not..

    In Photoshop my catagories are:
    – Adobe RGB (1998)
    – Apple RGB
    – Color Match RGB
    – sRGB

    In Lightroom my catagories are:
    – Prophoto RGB
    – Adobe RGB (1998)
    – sRGB

    I chose what they both have in common. Which is Adobe RGB (19998) However when I select that in Lightroom I get a small box to the right that says, The Adobe RGB (1998) color space cannot encompass the full range of colors available within LR>

    I have Photoshop CS2 Lightroom 2….

    I am at my wits end and now i feel that I can not edit any of my images as they are in 2 different colors spaces. Yes, the Photoshop one looks amazing, then when I save it and it goes back to LR, it is way off and unbalanced.


    Thank you,

    [ProPhoto will be in that Photoshop list somewhere – you might just have to scroll down further. – VB]

  6. VB-

    I wish it was that easy and that I had passed it up. But, there isn’t a scroll down those that I listed above was all I had to choose from…

    Thank you,

    [Hmmmmm, in that case, sounds like we’ll need to investigate further. Probably easiest to continue this over at http://www.lightroomforums.net where we can chat more easily, if that’s ok with you Jennifer. – VB]

  7. Stacey Hamilton says:

    Hi, I just had to stop what I’m doing & let you know that you totally saved me today! This has been happening to me ever since my computer crashed 2 weeks ago & I had to reinstall all my programs. Somehow they wound up all screwy with the color & I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why! I’ve been googling & battling this issue for the last two weeks! I finally found this article & well, I bow down to you Queenie 😉

    Thanks so much & I will definitely be bookmarking you site!

    Stacey Hamilton

  8. Jennifer: I wouldn’t worry about AdobeRGB; sure the gamut is smaller than ProPhotoRGB but it’s still noticeably wider than sRGB. As a rule I work in the largest colour-space available and then only convert at the last minute when I’m pushing to web. That used to be AdobeRGB for me, now (with new mac and PS/CS4) it’s ProPhotoRGB so that’s what I’m using.

  9. hi,
    i’ve a bit different issue with color handling. My LR shows a sepia coloured photos (just as if you add a warming filter to all of them) – oh and there is literaly no white color – even BW pics are sepia colored. But if you export them – they all look normal – BW or regular colors. It is tad annoying.
    You have solution for that? I’ve already tried what’s in this thread. No change.

    [Hey Rad. Your monitor profile’s corrupted. Have a read of this: http://www.lightroomqueen.com/lrqebook3-search/30pages/lr3sample-14-funnycolor.pdf – VB]

  10. Well, this did not solve my problem. I have been researching this for a year, and still can’t figure it out.Everything is prophot RGB, but when I import into photoshop, I lose some of the richness of the photo. Everything is set exactly as shown here…
    For quite a while, lightroom has been my primary editor because of this. I just can’t have gorgeous photos come out or photoshop… Even if I change nothing in the image, bringing it through photoshop reduces the quality..
    I am working with RAW images on a 64 bit operating system. This computer is near new, but I had this exact same issue with my other computer.

    [Jordy, drop by http://www.lightroomforums.net and we’ll see if we can figure out what’s going wrong for you. – VB]

  11. Hi.

    I have made sure all of my settings in color space are the same in both Photoshop CS4 and Lightroom 3 yet my photos still come out slightly desaturated and a lose a little of their blacks and I am not sure as to why. I have done everything to research this and that includes going on lightroomforums.net so PLEASE do not refer me there. Can you please help me? I am honestly not sure what to do anymore and it is halting ALL of my work.

    Thank you!!

    • Hey James.

      I can’t find your thread at Lightroom Forums? I only direct people there because it’s easier to troubleshoot in a two way conversation than it is in blog comments. You’re welcome to drop me an email if you prefer.

      Couple of questions for you, as a start:
      1. How do you calibrate your monitor? ICC4 profiles can cause some differences in the blacks.
      2. Do you see the same problem if you export to JPEG and then open the file into PS? I see a difference in the vignette there, makes me thinks there’s an ACR mismatch.
      3. If you save the photo in PS, and then view it in LR, does it match the original LR version or the PS version? I’m trying to find out whether it’s a PS/LR display problem or something in the file itself.

  12. Hi Victoria,

    First off, I know this is an old thread but I am having some big problems when going from Lightroom to Photoshop and back to Lightroom. I have changed the color spaces as you have said to do and it doesn’t seem to be working. Below are two photo examples of the same photo in Lightroom 3 and Photoshop CS4. Any assistance would be great. Lightroomforums.net hasn’t helped me either.

    Thank you!

  13. Hey Victoria,

    I received your response via email and I wasn’t sure if I could email you back on the notifications email. As far as calibration goes, I haven’t calibrated my monitor because I don’t want to do it by eye and I am working on a macbook pro. And when I export as a JPEG with a ProPhoto RGB and bring into PS it looks correct but when I bring it to PS and back to LR it looks like PS example picture I had previously posted.

    So I suppose that I could export it as a JPEG and do my corrections in PS from there but I think I’d rather be able to edit it as a RAW file and be able to bring it back to LR without any problems.

    Thanks again!

    • Hi James, I’m trying out a new blog comment management, so I think you can reply by email, but I’m not 100% sure.

      Anyway, just clarify that for me? You export as JPEG as ProPhoto RGB – at what point does it start to look wrong? When you open it in PS, or when you import back into LR after saving in PS?

      We just need to figure out where it’s going wrong, because that will point to the solution. Don’t worry, we’ll figure it out.

  14. Hey Victoria, I sent you a reply via email but I am not sure if you got it.

  15. katad0t1s says:

    Hey Victoria,
    thanks for the post. However, I think I ‘ll some extra help here.

    Photos in photoshop look a bit flat and desaturated as others have stated. This happens in the following occasions:

    1) Choose “Edit in” from Lr Menu
    2) Export an image from Lr in Desktop and open it with Ps

    Keep in mind the following:
    a) When I export an image it looks ok in Windows Explorer. Only Ps desaturates.
    b) When I re-import an image in Lr, the colours are fine again! So it goes like this: Lr (ok colours) –> Edit in Ps (desaturated) –> Close and Save in Ps and back to Lr (colours are fine again).

    I am guessing that I am doing something wrong in PS (CS5). I have to admit that my system is not colour managed in any way (I do not own a colormeter). Could this be the cause?? Any workarounds???

    • Hmmmm. Try this test. Find an sRGB JPEG file and open it directly into each program (i.e. not export or edit in PS) – do they match or not? If they don’t, it does sound like a monitor profile problem. A screenshot of Color Settings (under the Edit menu, from memory) would probably help and double check you’ve got ‘proof color’ disabled under the View menu too.

      • katad0t1s says:

        Ok, I opened the the same image in Lr, Ps and Windows Explorer.
        In Ps settings I have rgb –> ProPhoto so when I opened the image the Working space dialog appeared with 3 choices (preserve working space, change working space, don’t color manage). I tried all three of them and I also tried changing from prophoto to srgb.

        The result was that nothing changed. In PS my colors are washed out and flat. I can see it especially in blacks which are lighter. Below a pic with my color settings.

  16. I would like to say thank you! Last night I was losing my mind with the differences I was seeing from one program to the next. I had completed a monitor calibration with one video card, swapped it out and never redid it. Once I redid my monitor profile all of the programs are seeing things the same! I was completely lost as to where to start. I had a new tower, new versions of software, new monitor and new video card. Your site saved me a TON of time tonight!!

  17. Facebook User says:

    I’m hoping you can help me.

    I’ve followed these directions, I’ve recalibrated my monitor, but still, whenever I import to Photoshop even as smart object, and use the embedded profile, I still get lighter blacks and different tones.

    Here is a link to a screenshot: http://api.cld.me/F0ot/Screen%20Shot%202012-03-14%20at%2011.39.19%20AM.png

    I’d love any suggestions you might have! Thanks a million for your suggestions.

    • Facebook User says:

      I figured out what was wrong. Lightroom 4 uses a new version of Camera Raw which you have to get directly from them because it is a release candidate. Once I updated it to the proper version (6.7), everything rendered just fine.


  18. I got a question I hope to get some help with… I’ve done all of the above, but that doesn’t resolve my problem, sigh. My colors look the same in LR and PS (nice and bright), but ghostly grayish on the web. If i start my edit in ACR, then everything is fine, but if exported from LR and edited in PS, then on the web (and thumbnails) they show up gray and washed out, like in your example above.

    Thanks in advance!

  19. Hi, thanks for your post! I have a question because it’s not a color mismatch but it’s a quality issue. If I open the raw or jpeg from LR5 to PSCC (previously PS4) then I lose quality in sharpness. It’s not a little, it’s a lot and very frustrating. I’ve made all the changes in export and color settings in both to match but am still having issues. So frustrating! I’ve contacted Adobe on their FB page but no answer. I am exporting copies with changes not the originals into PS. Whether, I open the image by “edit in PSCC” or drag and drop the file or open the file from an exported file on the harddrive or export it from LR when I’m done with it in LR, it’s always the same. But it’s strange because it’s only about half the time.

  20. Hi good explanation! but I still have the issue of my photos looking different…. I use Cs4 and LR5 and when adding a preset in LR and choosing edit as layers in photoshop the preset looks totally different in photoshop

  21. I’ve gone through LR and Photoshop and made sure everything matches as shown above. I work on a Mac Yosemite and cannot get my pics to come out right. I calibrate with spyderware elite. When I export from LR to print to a lab, they said i should export as SRGB. Can I still use all the above settings and still export as SRGB in the end to the lab? This all so confusing to me. Thanks for your help in advance.

    • Yes, you can still export as sRGB. Just be aware that any really saturated colors, particularly saturated reds, might be slightly duller in sRGB than they appear in LR and PS, simply because the color space is smaller.

      When you say you can’t get your pictures to come out right, what are you comparing against? The exported photo in another program? A print?

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