Slightly O/T but what is your workflow for color management? Locked

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Michael Berg
Michael Berg Contributing Member • Posts: 865
Slightly O/T but what is your workflow for color management?

Hello all,

Is it just me, or is it more than just a little difficult to get a clear and concise description of the differences between color spaces and more specifically how and when to apply what colorspace?

Try to do a Google search on the topic. The first link that pops up is our old friend Ken Rockwell, who positively hates AdobeRGB because he clearly had some issues with it back in the days and now he's just soured on the whole idea. Use sRGB "just to be on the safe side". Uh. Really?

Nearly all the links that you find will tell you something like this:

  • Don't use anything but sRGB "on the web".
  • AdobeRGB is mostly for print
  • Displays can't show anything but sRGB anyway
  • Browsers don't work with anything but sRGB
  • There are many more colors in the AdobeRGB color space than in sRGB

As far as I can tell, all of the above are complete nonsense. For example, there are precisely as many different colors in sRGB as there is in AdobeRGB - 16 million. Both are encoded with 24 bit color, 8 bits per channel. You don't get more colors in AdobeRGB, the color "steps" are just more pronounced and so "reach further" (go brighter/more saturated)  (255,0,0 is much redder in AdobeRGB than in sRGB)

And as far as monitors go - well, can you still buy a display that doesn't support P3, AdobeRGB or ProPhoto color spaces, or at least something a lot wider than sRGB? Even mobile devices like iPads are P3, as are phones that have OLED screens - and even your plain old iPhone. So no, it is not true that "sRGB works best on the web". It's true though that it doesn't work for anyone who has a wide gamut monitor.

If you edit your photos in sRGB on your wide gamut monitor, then your colors will look drastically oversaturated and you might end up processing them incorrectly. I wonder how many users out there are unknowingly facing this problem right now.

And browsers? Browsers like Chrome, Safari and Firefox, are in fact color managed - have been for years. They pull out embedded ICC profiles and they render the image according to the gamut of the users display. Some conversions are possible, some are not but the point is if you have a wide gamut monitor and have configured your operating system to use this color space, then browsers will in fact try to render images according to their color space profiles.

Stating that AdobeRGB is mostly for prints - I don't even know where that could have come from. Maybe the first wide gamut devices were printeres but we're back in the 1990's here. Today displays - not just computer displays but tv's as well, are absolutely wider gamut than sRGB. So this statement simply isn't true. Yet it is repeated again and again in articles you find on the subject. Even recent articles - "Don't use AdobeRGB unless you intend to print".

But granted, this is a very difficult subject to understand. There are so many variables involved it's easy to see why people get confused:

- Your monitor may allow displaying images using sRGB or AdobeRGB (my Benq has a physical switch that will drop it down from AdobeRGB to sRGB).
- Your operating system may need to be told what color space your monitor is using. Fail to configure that and your raw processor may not show you the image you expect.
- Your image come with an embedded sRGB or AdobeRGB ICC color space profile
- Your audience may have monitors that only support sRGB

And the chances of getting it wrong are plentyful:

- Show an sRGB image on an sRGB monitor and it will look as you intended.
- Show an sRGB image on a wide gamut monitor and it will look oversaturated
- Show an AdobeRGB image on a a wide gamut monitor and it will look as you intended
- Show an AdobeRGB image on an sRGB monitor and it will look washed out

If your friend has a wide gamut monitor and sees your sRGB photo, it will look over saturated. If your friend has an sRGB monitor and sees your AdobeRGB photo, it will look washed out because the browser can't map between color spaces in that direction automatically (note: I did read that some automatic conversions are possible, from Adobe to sRGB but I'll have to dig that up again).

Right now I'm shooting in RAW + jpeg. I allow my camera to use AdobeRGB for the jpegs since my Benq is wide gamut and will show the images correctly, which helps me through the initial culling quicker. But when I need to upload something to Instagram or in fact share an image with anyone over the web, I find myself in two minds. I can either process the image to sRGB in case the end user has an sRGB display and risk having my image look completely oversaturated if they in fact have a wide gamut display, or I can process the image to AdobeRGB in case the end user has a wide gamut monitor and risk having my iamge look washed out if they only have an sRGB monitor. There is no single, good choice it seems. Either way is half right and half wrong.

I think the only way to really fix this is to have jpeg contain multiple versions of the same image. Or to have it contain some omni-colorspace that every other color space can be remapped from.

What's the point of this rant? Just venting some frustration I guess. And perhaps hoping to hear from anyone who might have some tips to share, some suggestions or just tell a bit about how they process images with respect to color spaces.

DPReview, if you're listening, this would be an excellent subject for a series of in-depth articles ..

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