— USE ABODE RGB COLOR SPACE
In a digital photography workflow, a principal axiom is that you can start with more and get less but you can never start with less and get more. (It’s not really a famous axiom; I just made it up.) A prime example is taking a tiny 72 dpi JPEG and trying to blow it up to print a poster. It’s not going to work.
Another area where this rule applies is with color spaces. A color space refers for our purposes to a system for representing colors in a numerical form. Adobe RGB and sRGB are the most common color spaces used by today’s DSLR cameras.
The figure above, which is borrowed from the Eizo website (Eizo makes what are probably the best monitors out there but you’ll pay for it), shows how these two color spaces relate to the broader color space that encompasses all of the colors and tones that the human eye can discern. You’ll notice immediately that Adobe RGB is a wider color space or gamut than sRGB, particularly for greens and some shades of blue. By setting your camera to capture your RAW files in Adobe RGB space, you’ll be taking advantage of more color information than if you shot in sRGB. As with the next two parameters I discuss in
the following sections, choosing the best setting in-camera will allow you to accurately judge your histogram.
Note that the choice of in-camera color space (again, as with the following two sections below) when shooting RAW does not affect the actual RAW data. If you use Adobe Camera RAW, either in Lightroom or Photoshop, a color space is not truly applied to a file until you convert it to say a TIFF, a PSD, or a JPEG. If you use your camera’s own software (e.g., Capture NX for Nikon, or DPP for Canon), the choice of in- camera color space will be read directly and used as the basis for your photo processing.
Just remember, Adobe RGB is the best choice for in-camera setting when shooting RAW for two reasons. You’ll have a more accurate histogram and you avoid any potential for being fooled into working with less information in post-processing.
So, does this mean that sRGB is always to be avoided?. On the contrary, whenever you convert an image to a JPEG for use on the web or for a presentation, you’ll be outputting the file as sRGB because this is the color space that best corresponds to the screens on most modern electronic devices. Files sent to the web with an Adobe RGB color profile embedded won’t look as good. I save files destined for print (magazines, large prints, etc.) in Pro Photo RGB (an even wider gamut than Adobe RGB) and files destined for electronic distribution in sRGB color space.
About the author Gregory Basco
Like many nature photographers, I started my career doing something else. A political scientist by training, my research focused on the politics of the environment in Latin America. I researched environmental politics and ecotourism in Costa Rica and worked here for a number of years as a conservation professional, having first come to the country in 1992 as a Peace Corps volunteer. I now dedicate myself full-time to my own photography and my Costa Rica photo tour company. I work out of my home office in Costa Rica’s central highlands, where I live with my wife, twin boys, our dogs and cats, and various hummingbirds and songbirds that visit our backyard feeders. Visit Greg’s galleries, store, and workshops at Deep Green Photography.