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Colour Space...what is it?

Discussion in 'Beginner's Corner' started by Nikonchris, Jun 27, 2017.

  1. Nikonchris

    Nikonchris Well-Known Member

    Just fiddling with the settings on my camera and came across a menu that says Colour Space....sRGB or Adobe RGB.

    What are they? What are the differences and which one should I use?
  2. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    There are an infinite number of colours in the world.

    There are a finite set of numbers in an image file that can represent colours.

    Colour space defines which numbers mean which colours.

    Use sRGB unless you specifically know you need, want and can use Adobe RGB.


    Some additional commentary - I don't necessarily agree or disagree with the article, but the diagram of overlapping colour space kind of makes the main point - https://fstoppers.com/pictures/adobergb-vs-srgb-3167
    Andrew Flannigan and Roger Hicks like this.
  3. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    As Tony said the colour space defines what is meant by the triple (R,G,B). Adobe sRGB is understood if the file does not contain a colour profile (ICC profile). Cameras do not attach a profile so if you change the camera setting to Adobe RGB then you need to handle the file in an editor or viewer that you can set to work in that colour space. The camera setting has no effect on Raw files as the developing software will have its own rules a out colour space. When output to a device, such as a printer, you have to account for the colours that the printer cannot handle
  4. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the admirably concise explanations,

  5. Gezza

    Gezza Well-Known Member

    Just to make things more complicated you should really also think about how you are going to output your images. If you are going to only use them for web display then I would agree with the above but more and more printers are starting to adopt the adobeRgb colour space which offer more colour and vibrant prints. You can convert AdobeRgb to srgb but you can't go the other way. If you do shoot in adobe you need to convert to srgb for web use or you end up with dull images.
    It's all good fun isn't it.
  6. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    And printing in full Adobe RGB counts as 'Use sRGB unless you specifically know you need, want and can use Adobe RGB' :)
  7. Gezza

    Gezza Well-Known Member

    Printing in AdobeRgb is simply what it is. All I'm saying is unless you know you will only ever use srgb for web why not use the wider space as it's so easy to convert downwards anyway.
  8. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

    I have been taught that as Adobe RGB effectively has the wider gamut of colours available to it, you should shoot Adobe RGB in the first instance. If you are outputting to web, or if your commercial printer requests that files are in the sRGB colour space, you can convert that way easily but you can't add in colours that weren't there in the first place. Much depends on the type of printer that is being used at the final output stage and what software is used to make the files print ready.
    Gezza likes this.
  9. Craig20264

    Craig20264 Well-Known Member

    Interesting thread. I knew none of this, so thanks for the info.
  10. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    Just to make things more complicated ... editing for full use of colours really needs a large gamut monitor so that you can take advantage of the colours. This monitor needs to be calibrated so in editing you have 2 tasks - to set the ICC profile for the image file so that (RGB) in the file "means" the colour the camera intended* and an ICC profile for the monitor so that when it receives (RGB) it displays the intended colour (if it can). Then when you output to the printer you need the ICC profile for the printer (which depends also on the paper and the ink) to make sure that when it receives the (RGB) value it displays the intended colour if it can.

    Soft-proofing during editing allows you some choice over how to deal with any out-of-gamut colours and general change in appearance between a transmitted image (on the monitor with the light behind it) and a reflected image (as a print using available light to view). Printers can have a wider colour space than sRGB but each printer+paper+ink combination has its own colour space. They don't "match" Adobe RGB although this is often the reference for comparison. Prints have low contrast compared to monitors and contrast varies with paper type. If processing for printing (whether yourself or by a print shop) there is no point to have an uncalibrated high contrast monitor - what will look super snappy on the screen will, depending on subject matter, tend to come out looking life-less on paper.

    The actual lighting and illumination affect this process so monitor calibration includes setting both a colour temperature and brightness to help ensure prints viewed under the same light look as close as possible.

    Now that cameras have a raw setting it is most useful to use that rather than adobe RGB if you want wider colours. I would suppose the photographic history of the profiles originates in the scanning of negatives to TIFF or JPEG in a set colour space and the early development of tools such as Adobe Photoshop.

    *Cameras also have built in profiles for how they translate the raw data to colours - these are not ICC profiles (which standardise the representation of a colour across devices) but choices in saturation (and perhaps hue) so that in Canon speak "landscape" increases blue & green saturation relative to "standard" and "faithful" does the opposite. Again these do not affect the raw files.
  11. GlennH

    GlennH Well-Known Member

    Inkjet printers usually produce colours outside of the sRGB colour space, hence the reason that Adobe Elements uses Adobe RGB to "optimize for printing". High St or online labs almost always use sRGB by default and are not colour managed, so if you fed them Adobe RGB, the colours would likely look muted.

    As far as I know, most browsers are now colour-managed by default (except Internet Explorer) so you could theoretically get away with using Adobe RGB on the web and it wouldn't be as disastrous as it once was, though you'd need the profile to be embedded in the image file for it to work. sRGB is still a safer bet for the internet overall.
  12. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Yeah, I would reverse Tony's* advice overall though and say always work in the widest possible colour space for the longest possible time unless you're absolutely certain you WON'T need it (e.g. posting unaltered JPEGs straight to the web). ProPhoto RGB is the best bet, and Lightroom uses something pretty similar in the Develop module.

    *I was going to make a joke about him taking his reverence for all things 8 bit too far, but perhaps I shouldn't introduce colour depth to this discussion.... ;)
  13. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    I don't think we're disagreeing, necessarily, I just think we have a different view on how many people will see a benefit from using something other than sRGB. For example, for a lot of people, talking about 'printing your images' refers to using somewhere like PhotoBox, which requires sRGB 8bit JPGs. If you used Adobe RGB in the camera, you'd go through all of that processing, then have to soft proof in sRGB before converting the JPG to sRGB to upload to PhotoBox.

    If you know you'll benefit from Adobe RGB use it, but for many people, my view is that it's an extra layer of processing which they probably won't get any benefit from.

    I guess the best we can say is, look at sRGB and Adobe RGB, understand the compromises in both directions, and then pick the one that gives you a workflow you get the best results from.
  14. GlennH

    GlennH Well-Known Member

    It's worth noting that, if the colour space of the image is encompassed by sRGB, the latter will theoretically be a better colour space to use for 8-bit editing than Adobe RGB. If it were practical, you'd choose the editing [colour] space that most tightly enveloped the gamut of each photo. At the other end of the scale, images that contain deep yellows or greens are quite prone to posterization the moment you convert them to sRGB or Adobe RGB from raw, irrespective of the colour depth. I used to notice this regularly in my early days of digital processing as a garden photographer, but didn't understand it at the time and found it frustrating.
  15. Craig20264

    Craig20264 Well-Known Member

    I'm out :confused:
    Nikonchris likes this.
  16. PhotoEcosse

    PhotoEcosse Well-Known Member

    I shoot in Raw which means that I can forget about many of the settings on my camera, including colour space. I am happy that my Raw files contain as much colour information as my sensor is capable of capturing. I then process (primarily) in Lightroom and choose a colour space (usually sRGB) if I am exporting a Jpeg file for projection while allowing Lightroom to manage the colour when I am printing.

    If I were ever to feel the need to use a commercial printer, I would probably export the files in whatever coloiur space the printing house specified.
    Jimbo57 likes this.
  17. Nikonchris

    Nikonchris Well-Known Member

    Thanks Guys...I think I get it now. ;)

    My take away is that it does not matter what colour space you shoot in as long as its in RAW.

    Then depending on whether you want to print to paper or web you can choose then to either save the JPEG in Adobe or RGB....and even then you could export two versions one in each of the colour spaces....

    Is this about right or have I missed it entirely? :confused:
  18. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    That is the most flexible option. It puts the onus on you to do at least some processing on every image. Some people like that, others don't.
    Jimbo57 likes this.
  19. GlennH

    GlennH Well-Known Member

    Rough guide :)

    • Obsessively archiving rendered photos with maximum data (i.e. raw converted images) = 16-bit ProPhoto RGB TIFFs or PSD files
    • Less obsessively archiving rendered photos = 8-bit Adobe RGB TIFFs or JPEGs (sRGB if you must - forfeits significant amount of colour, especially blues, cyans, greens)
    • Inkjet printing = ProPhoto RGB or Adobe RGB (or direct from Lightroom)
    • Photo libraries & commercial CMYK printing = Adobe RGB
    • High Street & online labs = sRGB (usually)
    • Internet = sRGB (generally)

    In-camera settings immaterial if you shoot raw.
    Jimbo57 likes this.
  20. Gezza

    Gezza Well-Known Member

    Well that opened things up a little.

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