Color spaces in photography

Color spaces in photography

Color space: ProPhoto RGB, Adobe RGB, sRGB


When we shoot in RAW, the information records as it is, without any processing and conversion. But when we open the file in a program, for example, Photoshop or Affinity Photo, the program asks which color profile to use:

ProPhoto RGB – the widest tonal range and colors: there are about as many of them as we can see with our beautiful eyes.
Adobe RGB – already smaller, gives a smaller palette of tones and colors, in most cases it is used in professional printing.
sRGB – the most modest profile, much more truncated both in color and in the tonal range; this is a standard color on the Internet and devices – all photos on Instagram, Facebook and other resources uses sRGB.

At first glance, you may think it is better to choose ProPhoto RGB or Adobe RGB and have the whole palette of colors, but, there is one catch. It is not always technically possible, because your monitor most likely “knows” only sRGB.

Monitor and color profiles

Why do colors look different on different devices?

Most consumer monitors (from Apple, laptops, MacBooks, smartphones and other typical screens) have only sRGB profile. The fact is that only professional monitors usually support Adobe and ProPhoto profiles.

Does this mean that you need to immediately covert RAW to the sRGB space? No, if you do it when developing RAW, you won’t be able to go back. You can’t make Adobe RGB out of sRGB. Even if the monitor can’t produce as many colors, it’s best to leave them for printing. You can “cut off” unnecessary colors when converting to jpeg (when saving for web), but you will not be able to go back and restore the colors.

The second problem is related to LED monitors – I will be honest, they are typically not so good in color reproduction. In the article on ring lights, I mentioned that LEDs have a problem with reds and skintones. And if the photo was taken with LED light, then it is, of course “uh – a problem…”. Separately, I want to note the absence of a “real” black color on such screens (on smartphones – it is a pity). And over time, as the device is getting older, color problems become more and more noticeable.

Hint: set a neutral gray color on the desktop instead of wallpaper, this will help to deal with auto contrasts and maintain adequate color perception.

Note: before you start working with color and retouching, the monitor must be turned on for at least 30 minutes. Exactly half an hour is required for the monitor to consistently display colors and tonal range.

So, where are they, these “magic” monitors working with Adobe RGB and ProPhoto RGB?
Here are few examples:
EIZO cg2730 – Luxurious professional monitor with factory color calibration, real black colors and a very smooth gradation of tones, DisplayPort, HDMI, and DVI-D inputs (and 5 years warranty!)
BenQ_SW271C – less grandiose, but also good
Apple_Pro_Display_XDR – for those who prefer Apple products

Further reading – Adobe manual for changing color settings – Adobe manual for the correct color reproduction

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