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Photography Post-processing Printing & Framing

Which Color Space Should I Use?

I don’t generally write an article on a subject that’s already adequately covered; I only write when I think I can add something new. I’ve reviewed the color space material, and have little to add. But maybe I can at least steer you to the articles with the best information.

Equipment Capabilities

It is generally understood that most monitors have trouble covering even the smaller sRGB space. Newer IPS monitors exceed sRGB though, and come very close to or match the Adobe RGB space (see What Is the Best Monitor for Photo Editing? at the Expert Photography site). And as discussed in the Breathing Color article The Ultimate Guide to Digital Printing: Inkjet Prints vs. C-Prints – Part 2, although different brands of professional printers have different areas in which they excel, they all come close to (and may exceed in some areas) the Adobe RGB color gamut (or pallet, if you prefer).

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Breathing Color makes the canvas we use at Bee Happy Graphics. We get our other media from other sources.

RGB Color Spaces

The best, most complete, and current article I’ve found (after reading a reasonable but not exhaustive list of articles) is sRGB vs Adobe RGB vs ProPhoto RGB by Photography Life, updated April 12, 2021. I wasn’t familiar with that website, so was armed with my usual dose of suspicion, but this might make another good reference for photography issues.

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For what it’s worth, Bee Happy Graphics would meet his definition of a high-end lab. I’ve intended to add information to our Services page explaining exactly how far we will go to get your pictures right, but I haven’t yet gotten to it (actually printing your pictures wouldn’t take nearly that long       😉    ). Maybe soon.

Another good article is from Cambridge In Colour, which has a lot of good information on topics of interest to photographers. SRGB VS. ADOBE RGB 1998 has a few different illustrations that are also revealing.

Summary

The above articles show that plenty of equipment exceeds the sRGB gamut. The advice of many experts on the question of which color space to use is similar to their advice on which resolution/file size you should set your camera on; it depends on what you want to do with your pictures. In both cases, I would agree with them if my crystal ball would do a better job of predicting the future. But as it is, my recommendation here is also the same as for the resolution issue (see our FAQ page) for the same reasons – go big or go home. Again, it is fairly easy to downsize at will, but nearly impossible to upsize.

A Dissenting Opinion

A dissenting opinion can be found in sRGB vs. Adobe RGB by Ken Rockwell. I’ve read his work before; Mr. Rockwell does know what he is talking about. He recommends sRGB mostly because as an amateur, he feels the chances of you screwing up far out way any possible gains in vibrant colors. And although the article is a little dated (© 2006), I doubt enough has changed to affect his opinion. He could be right.

Conclusions

Ultimately, you will have to make this decision on your own, based on your own motives, capabilities, and priorities. I hope this helps. Any questions (or comments)?

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As a professional, I feel obligated to go for the gusto, and so I do have the right equipment, but If I don’t maintain the larger workspace through the whole process it doesn’t work (just like Mr. Rockwell said), and there are times when either my preferences get inadvertently changed – when the software gets updated, for example – or I mistakenly save a file without changing the filename, or … that I wind up with less than expected. But that is why I always keep the raw file, and why my layer names in Photoshop reflect the actions taken. For me, accepting sRGB wouldn’t be providing the best available print to our customers.

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