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RGB Adobe 1998 vs. SRGB

John E , Dec 27, 2011; 08:20 a.m.

I've been shooting RGB Adobe 1998 ever since I got into Digital. Recently, however, I read on a pro lab's website that all printers only read SRGB and files that are sent in should be SRGB if not the lab would convert them to srgb before printing. If this is true, is there any reason to shoot RGB for pictures that are going to be printed?


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Vilnis Peimanis , Dec 27, 2011; 08:50 a.m.

It is not true.
Check with your lab for your specific situation.

peter carter , Dec 27, 2011; 09:01 a.m.

More often than not, you can get an optimized profile from them to use.

David Henderson , Dec 27, 2011; 09:34 a.m.

Hmm. Do you know which pictures you're going to print before you take them? If so, well I've been at this game a while but I must be missing something because I can't, and like all poor souls with this lack of foresight I have to take photographs offering me the widest possible range of options for colour, applications and processing- and thats Raw.

In any case the person advising you is wrong. Some printers can get outside the sRGB gamut, though apparently not the machines employed by this lab. Using a profile appropriate to the medium (paper) and printing machine will help you optimise colour for an individual image without risking the lab converting your colourspace rather randomly. If the lab doesn't provide profiles, use another.

Andrew Rodney , Dec 27, 2011; 09:51 a.m.

There is no such thing as an sRGB printer (that color space is based on a theoretical CRT display). So no, the labs demand sRGB but they have to convert to some other color space to make a print. Unless you are only using this lab, today and in the future, best to use a larger color space, convert to sRGB for this lab and hope for the best. I say this because you have zero control for soft proofing or converting the data to this output device. Flying a bit blind. So no, all printers absolutely do not read sRGB, many will not accept an RGB document (the drives demand CMYK!).

For information about RGB color spaces, why you’d want something larger than sRGB, certainly for an archive color space, see:

John E , Dec 27, 2011; 10:19 a.m.

David: Yes, I know which ones will be printed. When shooting sports or schools they're all printed.

Edward Ingold , Dec 27, 2011; 11:52 a.m.

If you shoot in RAW format, the color space makes no difference. It is applied only when you view, edit or convert the image. If you shoot in TIFF or JPEG format, then you are committed to the selected color space. When editing, Adobe RGB (or better, Profoto RGB) has more tolerance for adjustments. Once adjusted, you can convert the results sRGB for printing without noticeable loss.

Theoretically, a processing lab could "read" any color space and use it accurately. In general, it's safer to convert the images to sRGB before submitting them for printing at a lab. If you adjust the images using a calibrated monitor, it's best to instruct the lab to print them without further adjustments.

You have more options when printing at home. If you print from a color-managed application like Photoshop, the color space doesn't matter - the software does the necessary conversions automatically. If you instruction Photoshop to manage the color when printing, you get the best results using a print profile for that printer and paper combination. If you let the printer manage the color, find a combination of settings that works best for you. Either way, the results will be reasonably consistent from image to image.

If you print from a non-CMS program, like Internet Explorer or Outlook Express, you won't have a choice which color space to use. It may be that sRGB, in combination with printer settings, will work best, or some other color space and settings. That usually requires a lot of trial and error, which takes time and wastes material. If you sent images to unsophisticated recipients, it's usually best to convert them to sRGB. That might include most minilabs.

Andrew Rodney , Dec 27, 2011; 12:00 p.m.

If you print from a color-managed application like Photoshop, the color space doesn't matter - the software does the necessary conversions automatically

Not clear. The encoding color space (the RGB working space) does indeed make a difference in the final output. That is, if you start with sRGB versus ProPhoto RGB as an example, but use the same output profile and settings, there will be a difference in many printers (that exceed sRGB in this example, there are plenty).

Harold Fritsche , Dec 27, 2011; 02:11 p.m.

Recently I did a test. I edit in PS CS5 using the Prophoto RGB color space and print on an Epson 2200.
First, I loaded an image and printed it using the correct color profile for the paper.
Second, I converted the Prophoto to Adobe RGB and printed it again, making no changes, and on the same sheet of photo paper.
Third, I closed and reopened the same image and then converted it to sRGB, and printed it again. As before, I made no additional changes.
When I examined the images, all three printed very nicely and I could discern NO noticible differences.

I expected to see a difference between the three. Shouldn't I have?


Andrew Rodney , Dec 27, 2011; 02:13 p.m.

Harold, much depends on the image gamut itself. Had you provided an image who’s gamut exceeded Adobe RGB (1998), those colors could be output on the 2200 (an older, lower gamut printer by today’s standards) assuming those colors fell within the gamut of this printer. Otherwise I’d expect you’d see no difference.

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