Adobe RGB vs sRGB vs ProPhoto RGB
Mac versus PC, RAW versus JPEG, Coke versus Pepsi, all solid battles in their own right but Adobe RGB versus sRGB is still one that confuses more people than anything else. One of the problems is that there is big name experts on both sides of this debate arguing why their side is right and the other is totally off-base. What we will try to do is to show how both affect images so that you can choose the right one for your situation.
What exactly is this colorspace stuff anyway? Basically its the amount of color that is contained in the file when you save it. The three most common colorspaces are Adobe RGB, sRGB, and ProPhoto RGB.Â As my friend Rick Miller puts it, you can relate gamut to containers of beer. With sRGB being a 12oz can of beer, Adobe RGB would be a pony keg, and ProPhoto RGB being a full kegger.
The image shown here (courtesy of Cpesacreta) shows the relative sizes of the different colorspaces.
The difficulty here is knowing when to use which colorspace. Who would take a 12 ouncer when they can have a whole keg right? You would think, but the problem is that not all devices can actually display the larger colorspace which can cause even more problems when it comes to viewing the images, add to that the lack of color management in most applications (like web browsers) and you will often get dull or washed out colors when viewing the images.
Wait a second, huh? If you use a colorspace that allows MORE colors, than why would the images look WORSE when viewing them? The answer that since almost no devices can actually display Adobe RGB, you wind up with an intepretation of the image causing it to look dull.
Effects of Color Space
Does all of this really make a difference? Let’s take a look at some images that were shot in RAW (thus no colorspace recorded on capture) and then saved as both Adobe RGB and sRGB using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.
In all of these cases, the images saved as sRGB should appear more vibrant in Internet Explorer and Firefox since they are not color managed applications. Apple’s Safari browser is supposed to properly display Adobe RGB files and Firefox is supposed to have color management in upcoming versions. However, until everyone is using a browser you should avoid Adobe RGB in order to provide the best images to the widest audience.
What about ProPhoto?
ProPhoto offers the widest gamut of the available common color spaces so should have a place somewhere right? Well yes it does. The best use of the ProPhoto is to use it within your workflow to preserve the largest amount of color in your images and then only do a final conversion to sRGB when saving your images as jpegs.Â This is quite easy with Photoshop and Camera Raw while Lightroom uses ProPhoto RGB internally (Geek Note: Actually, Lightroom uses Melissa RGB which uses ProPhoto RGB chromatisity values working in linear gamma, named after Melissa Gaul, one of the Lightroom engineers).
Should you shoot in Adobe RGB or sRGB?
This is another tough question that different people will answer differently. The simple answer is niether. Shoot in RAW and convert to the colorspace you want during your workflow process. If you want to shoot in JPEG then you have to make the choice. The best thing to do is actually experiment with your equipment and software to determine what gives you the best results. Some people think you should shoot in Adobe RGB and then convert to sRGB if the file is for the internet, while others think you should shoot in sRGB so no conversion or translation is applied, thus you should get more accurate color representation.
In the end, you have to make up you own mind as to what works best for you, but you do need to be aware of the differences and some of the issues you can run into based on your choice.
References used in this article