Lost in (Color) Space

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Color space is a specific organization of colors and permits reproducible representations of color in both analog and digital representations. A color space may be arbitrary, with particular colors assigned to a set of physical color swatches and corresponding assigned names or numbers or structured mathematically, as with Adobe RGB or sRGB. Most camera menus also offer Color Space option that is much different than Color Balance.


The Color Space options that are typically available in a mirrorless camera’s custom settings are Adobe RGB and sRGB. It seems simple, so why not just pick one.

Here’s the problem: sRGB (aka Standard RGB) was created in 1999 and had a goal of producing color consistency between hardware devices. It defines a gamut of colors that represents each color well and can be used by monitors, scanners, printers, and digital cameras. Gamu ,or color gamut usually refers to the subset of colors which can be accurately represented under a given circumstance, such as within a given color space—now we’re back to where we started—or by a certain output device.

sRGB has been incorporated into most Web browsers to make sure the colors on the pages match the color scheme of the computer’s operating system. Because of the color consistency it creates, most hardware devices that work with photographic images now use it as the default setting. All of which sounds very inviting, doesn’t it.


Adobe RGB was designed for photographers whose work will 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 that shooting some tests, making a few prints and then decide. This is the way we worked back in the film days and the methodology is still valid today, even if the tools are a lot different.