Colourspaced Out

Morkel Erasmus Morkel 3 Comments

Good day folks. Ever wondered about which color space  to process in (I’m using the US spelling of “colour” as this is how our cameras refer to this function)?

Ever heard that term before at all?

I’ll keep this brief, as there are already a plethora of posts to be found online about this subject. If you want to totally geek out on the subject, then check out this article (and some subsequent ones) on Cambridge in Colour.

In short, a “color space” is a useful conceptual tool for understanding the color capabilities of a particular device or digital file. When trying to reproduce color on another device, color spaces can show whether you will be able to retain shadow/highlight detail, color saturation, and by how much either will be compromised (quoted from the article linked to above).

Typically, your camera can select one of two color spaces to shoot in: Adobe RGB or sRGB.

I have my cameras set to capture in Adobe RGB.

Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop also offer you a 3rd option, ProPhoto RGB, which it states is the best to use for the program’s possible colour output. I personally have my software set to ProPhoto as default.

Basically, it boils down to this: there are many colours in the visible spectrum of light that a camera cannot capture, and that your eye cannot distinguish.

A color space aims to define a recognisable chunk/slice of all these for your camera to capture and for your software to be able to render. Check out the graph below…

B5hAE

sRGB is pretty much the narrowest “slice” of colour variation you can choose.

Adobe RGB is a better option if you want to capture a higher variety of colours.

ProPhoto RGB is currently the widest “gamut” of colours and the recommended space to work in for Lightroom and Photoshop.

Here is a diagram from an article on the Adobe website, showing a similar graph as above but which includes ProPhoto RGB.

horseshoe

 

It should be clear from these graphs and the definitions that you want to be shooting your RAW files natively in the color space with the widest possible gamut. This is Adobe RGB for most cameras.

It should also be clear that you should process and save your images in either Adobe RGB or ProPhoto RGB if you want to print your images at high quality.

But…

There is a reason you would want to be able to convert your images to sRGB…read on.

The entire system of computers as we know it, including the internet, has been built around the RGB standard, more specifically, the sRGB standard. Standard PC monitors can display up to 97% of the colours that can be rendered in an sRGB color space, but only up to 76% of the colours in an Adobe RGB color space. Some internet browsers (ahem, like MS Internet Explorer!) also cannot recognise wider gamut color spaces than sRGB – and automatically convert images to sRGB, doing a shoddy job of it. From a web posting/sharing point of view, you want every person seeing your image to see the SAME version of the image, right?

Don’t believe me? Check this out.

Here is a photo of mine as displayed on the Gallo Images library, available for stock sale. The Gallo website is currently experiencing an issue which makes it impossible to render wide gamut color spaces correctly (I am told this is in the process of being corrected). Note how DULL the colours and luminosity are displaying here.

adobeRGB_web

Now, here is the image, correctly converted to sRGB in my own workflow…

cosmos_scape_1_2011_edit2

Vast difference, eh?

Still don’t believe me? Check out this article as well.

Now that you know a bit more about this issue, go and set your cameras to capture in Adobe RGB.

In my follow-up post I will show you how to set your color space in Lightroom and Photoshop to the correct space, and also how to make sure your images prepared for the web are correctly converted and embedded with the sRGB color space.

Morkel Erasmus

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Comments 3

  1. Heinrich Neumeyer

    Hi Morkel

    Hope you are well!

    Thanks for the innovative blog and for clearing this up for me as I went through my Menu as recent as yesterday and did not even know what the difference was between Adobe RGB or sRGB was.

    NOW I know 🙂

    I enjoy and learn a whole lot from your posts, being photos or tips on photography.

    Would have been SUPER to have met you in person at the Photo Expo.

    Keep well and good luck with all your endeavours out there.

    Kind regards and best wishes

    Heinrich

  2. Martin

    Hi Morkel,

    a question.
    I’m not trying to trip you up mate, I’m interested to know.
    If the camera captures Adobe RGB how can Lightroom or Photoshop then work with a wider gamut of colours than the camera has captured?
    Does that mean it has to somehow assume what they are and recreate them?

  3. Johann van Rensburg

    Hi Morkel

    Interestiing and very informative!

    I’ve however experienced MANY problems in the past when shooting in AdobeRGB and then to “match” my colours with commercial printer companies, e.g. printing a lot of school photos, etc. It appears that the commercial printing machines’ standard colour profiles are less “affected” by sRGB – the result: I’ve changed back to sRGB and less hastles at the printers!!?? Your comments please!!

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