Don’t Fear the Lab Mode

dekePod Episode 003: dekePod has been known to get a little crass at times. And, of course, I’m very proud of that. But this episode, I lift my mind from the gutter and send it merrily floating down a stream, a very real stream filled with imaginary colors that cuts through the backyard of a little world called Lab. Sound enchanting? Damn straight, it’s enchanting! Here’s the official marketing description:

Color models like RGB and CMYK are frightening enough on their own. But the fact that there’s one called CIEL*a*b* D50 (or just Lab), and Photoshop actually encourages you to use it, is terrifying. But Deke says not to worry. RGB and CMYK are for machines. The Lab mode is for you.

As a special added bonus, you’ll meet the family turtle. If you’re interested in downloading it (the video, not the turtle), try one of these links:

  • For a high-quality QuickTime movie, right-click here and choose Save Target or Download Link or the equivalent.
  • For an M4V file that you can play on an iPod, right-click here and choose one of those same commands.
  • Or you can subscribe to dekePod via RSS or iTunes.

You can also check out the page at my book publisher O’Reilly Media.

And if you’re interested in exploring this technique for real — not in six minutes, but in more than an hour of opulent, immersive, luxuriant detail — check out my video series Photoshop CS3 Mastering Lab Color, available from


Next entry:How Do You (or U) Do Raw?

Previous entry:Share Your Thoughts on Orphaned Works Legislation


  • Shhhhh… shhhhhh…

    it’s all ok—Deke has plans for us…

    I can’t wait!

    Mordy Golding

  • Wham Bam socko!

    Jeeze, this is more fun that watching the fart bubbles rising to the surface of my weekly bath-water. I really learn stuff here.
    Peeing off the bridge to help the poor water starved crops it such a selfless act I am left speechless. I bow down to your civic engagementude.

    Available soon at a supermarket near you; nitrogen charged organic produce!

    I will allow the fear to pass through me, only l*a*b will remain.

  • Veggies

    You guys give organic veggies a whole new boost.  Thanks for your contribution!

  • Terrific…

    Awesome pod, Deke. Thanks for keeping us afloat in this world of poor tutorials.


    George Logic just makes sense!

  • The New dekePod


    I enjoyed the new dekePod. OK, here comes the but: How about a little more technical stuff? Just a little more how-to in the six-minute video would be great.

    You did an excellent sales job. I may check out the tutorial on

    Again, nice job on the video. Very entertaining. I have it featured on the latest post on my site.


  • Brightness/Contrast Command is our Friend Now?!?

    Holy Hannah! Deke

    Have you gone down the dark side of color correction at last? What’s next? Perhaps, the Sharpen Tool as a valuable asset in our toolset?

    Seriously, you have really changed your views regarding this command, compared to your comments in previous versions of Photoshop, and you have me curious as to what changed.

    The question still remains…. When adjusting the values in the Brightness/Contrast dialog window…. just exactly what do those numbers (+10, +20, -20, etc.) mean?.... +20 what? -10 what?

    Of course, the approach “Just move the sliders until it looks good and then stop right there” can apply here too.

    repeating the mantra “Change is Good!”,


    p.s. Thnx for the Lab stuff!

    Thomas Benner


  • That’s my favorite part of the video

    Where I mock “all the darling little digerati” who used to hate Brightness/Contrast when I was, in fact, one of them. It’s deliciously hypocritical, I think.

    Yeah, so anyway, B/C is pretty good now. In CS3, they brought in the Brightness and Contrast behavior from Camera Raw, so Brightness affects midtones and Contrast hits the quarter-tones. In other words, no clipping.

    I remain troubled that the values are for the most part meaningless. (I believe they’re percentages, but of what?) But that’s true for the overwhelming majority of Camera Raw. Adobe’s argument—what’s the purpose of employing 8-bit values in a higher bit-depth space?—is reasonable insofar as it goes. But I wouldn’t mind seeing a white paper on how the percentage values (if indeed they are percentages) are derived. At one event I attended, the Lightroom team suggested they might put something like that together (in response to a couple of trainers reaming them over the topic), but I haven’t seen anything.

    But shh shhh . . . we all know values are just numerical fairy wings that accompany magical slider bars, thus permitting our imaging dreams to come true!

  • Long time fan, first time caller

    Deke, I’ve been following your career and watching your videos since 2000. I worked at a studio where we had your Photoshop 5.5 videos on tape. I was a fan then and I’m still a fan. I love you off-the-wall antics, but most of all I love your deep understanding of Photoshop. You and Dr Brown have reinvented edutainment. I create a lot of tutorials for my students; however, I don’t think I’m nearly as entertaining. By the way some of us have been using LAB colour on the flat images for some time; however, I didn’t know about using the brightness and contrast in LAB mode. Super tip! Can I ask you a question? What do you think of DNG? I use Canon cameras exclusively so I’ve been using the propritary CR2 file format. Should I convert my images to DNG? By the way I bought your DVD set on Illustrator and loved it. I’m a big fan of Lightroom and I’m aware there is a lot of tutorials on this topic; however, most of us are using Photoshop and Lightroom together, perhaps we could get some tips on integrating these into an effective workflow. Gerry

  • apologies

    Dear Deke,
    my most abject apologies - I was going to join in this wonderful website from another email address just for the pleasure of getting 2 newsletters instead of one (these are sure to become collectors’ items on ebay, I could make a fortune reselling an original) but then something came up and I totally forgot about it.
    This means I am one of the 5 horrible people who were supposed to join but did not.
    Again my apologies.

    BTW I haven’t received your stern reproachful email about my non-joining properly - could you send it again? It will become a collector’s item too!


    adobe certified expert (really)... well, see: and I’m still certifiable too!

  • Hold da kæft…

    ...pardon my danish…. you are good!!

    How can you stand being you?? lmao

    I bought my first Deke book back in ..... oh… i forgot… The Photoshop 6.0 Bible. Read it from cover to cover. To this day its still my favorite reference book. Then i moved on to your videos, I had a blast with your PS CS2 dvd series.

    Thanks for doing this Deke, and for doing it in a very entertaining way.

    Please keep it coming.


  • I think the question is

    How do those around me stand me being me? My wife, my kids, my staff, Colleen, a lot of people could weigh in on that one.

  • Your staff?

    Deke, you totally have a penis fixation!


  • Petra, you obviously need no encouragement

    But I have to admit, that did make me laugh.

  • I heart DNG

    Generally speaking, I recommend converting all raw images to DNG and tossing the CR2s, NEFs, ORFs, etc. Lots of reasons.

    I have a discussion on the topic in one of my videos. If you have an account, go to and check out the movie titled “Adobe’s DNG standard” which is late in Chapter 1, “Shooting, Acquiring, and Converting.”

    If you don’t have an account, remember that you can get a free week by going to Then get yourself an account. grin

  • Do you think cameras will ditch their proprietary raw formats?

    All cameras can shoot in the universal jpeg format, so why don’t they switch to dng for raw shooting? Do you think that they will in the future?

  • Don’t encourage me!


  • Ok…. I’ll Say It

    C’mon Adobe, I believe you can do so much better…. as in…. providing numerical value feedback that actually means something.

    Whew! I said it. Terry White, please don’t hate me for asking so many questions when you come to Austin! I really like your software!


    Thomas Benner


  • Adobe would like that

    And perhaps one day they *will*.

    But for now, the camera vendors (esp. Canon) are every bit as powerful as Adobe, so why should they cave?

    (Answer, because Adobe’s solution is better. And in this one regard they know that.)

    Really, DNG is CR2 put through a ZIP filter. Not rocket science. But it means, with the help of DNG, you have to buy an external hard drive every 9 months instead of every 6. (Higher is better in this regard.) Which is money you could be spending on . . . gosh, dunno . . . gasoline!

    (Petrol for you overseaers.)

  • Edutainment!

    Deke, learning has never been this easy, especially for a newbie like me. Thanks a lot! Hope to see more!


  • Direct from - a n00b

    Well here I am from (whose videos of yours seem positively sedate by comparison to the ones here). I must say these videos are great fun to watch you remind me of the guy who does Zero Punctuation except you’re about photoshop and he’s all over video games.

    So anyways I just thought I would drop a line, say hi on an older blog because I’m a n00b and not watching anything in order, and ask if that was the median filter that you used to kill colour noise because if it was that’s awesome I had no idea that filter even had any use… nice… I’ll have to try that now. Oh and I love LAB mode and I want to see more of that thing you did in the blend options because that looked interesting.

    Also what program are you doing video on?

    And I loved your song but it did kind of make my brain dribble out of my nose a bit (it does that from time to time, no biggie).

    I’ll go back to now and continue my training.

  • Request for picture you used in Lab color in Photoshop User

    How can I download the picture you used in the LAB color article in Photoshop User for Sept and OCT-Nov issues?

    I want to work thru your steps on the same photo you used so I can check that I’m doing it right.

    Thanks, Frank

  • Saving in Lab Mode

    Passing on a question from the YouTube video page (

    “But how do you save an image in lab mode??”

  • RAW, 16 bit, Lab and co.

    Hi Deke

    Really good stuff!! Here in Brazil it’s all about Samba and Bossa Nova, but when it comes to the Digital Photography Workflow, we are also using Photoshop. I learned so much with your videos. It’s learning with entertainment and that makes it so “light fare”.

    My issue is as follows. I shoot only RAW. In other tutorials they advise to convert from RAW to 16 bit and AdobeRGB or even ProPhoto RGB (lossless conversion and a bigger luminance range). So far so good! When it comes to Smart Objects and Smart Filters, the nightmare begins. I’m only watching progress bars in Photoshop. Do I really need the 16 bit mode? Is there really such a difference? BTW, I tried also the Lab mode and I became such amazing results. What do you think about RAW—> 8 Bit and Lab? In your videos, most of the time you are working with JPEG, 8 Bit ( I think because of the performance issues). I know another solution is to buy a Mac Pro 8 Core, but for the moment it’s no way.