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Adobe RGB v. sRGB

Suzanne Glassman , Nov 02, 2006; 08:48 p.m.

I have a Nikon D70 and I have set my Color Mode to Adobe RGB (based on recommendations of a digital camera/photoshop guru in the area). Most photo labs, however, require sRGB files. Is there something I should be doing in Photoshop to convert my files before I send to a lab? Can it be done automatically to all files? Or should I just set my camera to sRGB and not worry about it? Much thanks!


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Eric Reagan , Nov 02, 2006; 09:05 p.m.

If that's the only place you print, then I can't think of a reason not to use sRGB exclusively.

The Mystery Behind Color Spaces: Adobe RGB vs. sRGB


Ronaldo R , Nov 02, 2006; 10:00 p.m.

Try searcing this site, there lost of good responses to the same question. Still the best of all was: "if you have to ask, use sRGB".

Marshall Goff , Nov 02, 2006; 11:09 p.m.

You have a couple options:

1) set your camera to sRGB and don't worry about it. This will work, though it arguably limits your choices later. (See many other threads and articles for the explanation if you really want to.)

2) Shoot and process in the wider Adobe(98) space. Then, before printing, go do Edit: Convert to Profile and convert to sRGB, save under a different name, and send that file to the lab.

It's not complicated to manage the change, though there are plenty of complexities to enjoy for those who want to do so.


Suzanne Glassman , Nov 02, 2006; 11:18 p.m.

Thanks, Marshall. I've now looked back at several old threads on this topic and I'm still confused as far as what mode I should be using while working on files. For example, if I shoot in Adobe RGB, should my Destination Space (in the Image>Mode>Convert to Profile) also be Adobe RGB while editing, and then changed for the photo lab? And what should be "checked" on the Assign Profile? Currently, I shoot in Adobe RGB, my Assign Profile is "checked" on Working sRGB even though the Profile itself is Adobe RGB, and my Convert to Profile says "Working RGB - sRGB". So many choices, so little time . . . I'm actually getting a little more confused now, but would like to retain as much control over the color range of my photos as possible before sending to the lab. Thanks!

Ronaldo R , Nov 03, 2006; 12:33 a.m.

"...would like to retain as much control over the color range of my photos as possible..."

Suzanne - what are you photographing? Unless you are specialising in printing orange sunsets there's no advantage in using Adobe RGB. E.g, if your making portraits of people the whole colour range fits comfortably within sRGB.

You may be overcomplicating things. Set to sRGB and fuggeddaboudit :)

Barry Fisher , Nov 03, 2006; 02:52 a.m.

Everything I was taught in school was to work in Adobe RGB if you are printing to your own ink jet, and sRGB if printing out on a Noritsu or other similar system..

Jerry Tabachuk , Nov 03, 2006; 06:57 a.m.

suzanne, set your camera to AdobeRGB, it is a much wider gamut than sRGB, so you can capture more colors. Then set your PS working space to AdobeRGB as well, do photoshop corrections to your taste, than soft-proof the image with the sRGB or custom ICC profile from the lab you're printing, adjust the image if necessary, then convert to sRGB, save. I found this to give much better colors at the end than just doing sRGB. However, if you do not post process your pictures in Photoshop, you can set tne camera to sRGB right away as most of the printing labs prefer this color space.

Richard Williams , Nov 03, 2006; 02:38 p.m.

Note also that if you shoot raw (NEF) it doesn't matter what you set in the camera - you can change it later in the raw converter without loss of quality.

Marshall Goff , Nov 03, 2006; 07:21 p.m.

Hey Suzanne - No problem

Color management at first is confusing, and there is in fact a LOT of information on the topic. (I've just worked my way through a 500-page book on it, and can say with certainty that you don't NEED to do that to get some control over your color!)

My recommendations for this stage of what you are doing:
- Shoot in RAW. If you're shooting in jpeg, set it to Adobe(98).
- Convert in RAW processing to Adobe(98).
- Set Adobe(98) as the Working Space in Photoshop (you won't need to Assign a profile).
- Before sending the file to a lab, Use Edit: Convert to Profile to convert either to sRGB if that's what the lab wants or to their custom profile.

You can "soft-proof" the conversion if you want, but most of the time, you can just Convert to Profile using Relative Colorimetric intent (it's a drop-down box in the dialog box for Converting) and be fine.

All the whys of it are a little complicated, but the bottom line is that a fair number of "regular" scenes contain colors outside sRGB, and a pretty good number of output devices can print colors outside sRGB. Plus, in the future, who knows, so why throw out those colors now. There are other people, like Ronaldo, who believe that you won't see much difference for most scenes, and yet others who believe that since you can't see these colors on screen, editing them is pointless. I won't say they're wrong, but I believe that the minimal trade-off in understanding and workflow is well worth it for the option to preserve the last bit of color range and detail in the final print.

Good luck.

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