Understanding Color Space: The Final Frontier

by | Jun 4, 2020

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Most DSLRs and mirrorless cameras give you a choice of capturing image files using either sRGB or Adobe RGB aka Adobe RGB 1998 color spaces. What’s the difference between these options?

sRGB aka Standard RGB was created in 1999 with a goal of producing color consistency between hardware devices. It defines a gamut (see What’s a Gamut? below) of colors that is used by monitors, scanners, printers and digital cameras. sRGB has also been incorporated into most Web browsers to make sure that colors on Web pages match the color scheme of the computer’s operating system. Because of the consistency it creates, most hardware devices that work with images now use sRGB as the default setting. All of which sounds very inviting, doesn’t it?

Adobe RGB is designed for photographers whose work is going to appear in print and offers a broader range of colors than sRGB. If you want to really make yourself crazy, you can Google “sRGB vs. Adobe RGB” and read opinions about it from a wide range of viewpoints. Being a pragmatist, I suggest you do the same thing with this color space argument as you do with the JPEG vs. RAW controversy. Shoot some tests, look at the results on a calibrated monitor and then make up your own mind. This is pretty much the way we worked in the film days, except we used prints and that methodology is still valid today, even if the tools that we use are different.

What’s a Gamut? In color reproduction, gamut represents a complete subset of colors that can be accurately represented under specific conditions, such as within a given color space or by a certain output device. Converting a digitized image to a different color space, typically alters its gamut, i.e, some of the colors in the original will be lost in the process.

How I made this shot: I made this shot in Prospect, Colorado when playing around with all the creative modes that are found in the Olympus E-P3  I don’t remember the creative mode I used and the EXIF data doesn’t show it either. What it does show is that I used an Olympus M.12mm f/2.0 lens (that has since been returned to the company) with an exposure of 1/320 sec at f/4.5 and ISO 400. EXIF data shows this was an sRGB file.

If you enjoyed today’s blog post and would like to treat me to a cup of Earl Grey tea ($2.50), please click here. And if you do, thanks so much.

Along with photographer Barry Staver, Joe is co-author of Better Available Light Digital Photography that’s available for $21.88 or used copies for giveaway prices—around seven bucks—from Amazon, as I write this. Kindle version, for some reason, is really expensive.