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Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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21 Oct 2020 9:24AM   Views : 449 Unique : 291


I keep getting the colour profile of files I save wrong, and I’m hoping that if I write about it, even if it does nothing for anyone else, it’ll stop me cocking it up. So let’s begin with definitions.

In digital photography there are a number of different ‘colour spaces’ – the other one of note (especially for me) is Adobe RGB. And this is where the explanations get too complex for my taste. I suspect that Amateur Photographer’s resident lecturer, Professor Bob Newman has explained it, but that probably didn’t help me at all.

The long and the short of it is that the Adobe space includes more different colours, but that sRGB (for standard RGB) is the web default, and this site is optimised for it. There’s a non-linear element to the way it works, which is good for efficiency, but may not be ultimately accurate. The Adobe space is better for printing but sRGB is better for the web. All of this means that if you upload something that isn’t sRGB, when you look at it on Ephotozine, the colours will have changed.

The trouble is that your software doesn’t know what you plan to do with your files, unless you actually tell it. If you ‘Save for web’ you strip out the EXIF data, but if you ‘Save as’ you will need to make sure that you’re saving the right format. I often forget to look…

So for one thing, I’ve been practising saving files. And, half the time, resaving with the right profile selected.


Can you tell the difference? Can I? A few days ago, I realised that I’d forgotten to alter the colour space of my post, but by then I’d got a few votes and four User Awards, so it obviously isn’t absolutely critical. Not always, anyway. At other times, it seems to matter quite a lot, particularly – for some reason – with flesh tones. That may be my imagination, though.

There it sat in my mind, stewing. I watched a number of videos on YouTube, most of which were very much about which profile you need to use, and matching the profile to the device or paper that you will use to display the picture. And then I found a channel called Color Plaza TV, which introduced me to the ProPhoto RGB colour space, which is bigger than the Adobe RGB space.

The quietly-spoken chap on Color Plaza also reminded me that all the colour spaces work on the basis of a set of mathematical coordinates, one for each of the three colours to indicate its intensity. Every colour we see is a combination of the three colours, and so can be described by a set of three numbers. All the colour spaces use three numbers, from 1 to 255.

We’re used to seeing colour spaces as a two-dimensional graph, but spaces are actually three-dimensional things. Color Plaza used an infographic showing the spaces, and made the point that a physically larger space which is defined by the same 1-255 coordinates has a bigger difference between 1, 1, 255 and 1, 1, 254 than another (smaller) colour space. You may want to think about that a bit in order to process it from ‘of course it has’ to ‘so the same numbers give different colours in different spaces’ – I certainly had to!

And this is where the odd thing happened. I set my colour space on Photoshop to ProPhoto RGB to see what happened. I didn’t notice anything at first, and then I saved a colourful image as an sRGB file, and it became darker and duller. The two separate versions sitting side-by-side on my recent images view of PS are markedly different.

I’m writing this at five in the morning, because I woke up and wondered if by saving the file that way I had lost data. I had to get up and find out: so I opened the sRGB file, then altered its colour space to ProPhoto RGB. And the colours came back…

The importance of the profile isn’t in terms of absolute information, but knowing how it will look when you and others view it. If you are working in a bigger space and don’t look at (and save) your image as an sRGB it will look different when you post it on the web. All the data will, I think, still be there, but you won’t be able to see it in the way that you expected…

This is the heart of the advice to post in sRGB: it’s so that you can be sure that other people will see what you did. Please note that I am still at the start of a journey here! It may be one that you can make as easily as walking down the street, but I have struggled, and I have blisters inside my thinking boots. Any helpful thoughts will be gladly accepted.

But please don’t just say that you always shoot JPG files and they’re good enough for everyone the way they come out of the camera…


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dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
21 Oct 2020 9:26AM
Now, there's the test. The same picture, saved as sRGB (top), Adobe RGB (middle) and PhotoPro (bottom).

The Only thing I changed between saving them was the colour profile. Which do you like? What differences do you see?
Chrism8 Avatar
Chrism8 16 1.1k 34 England
21 Oct 2020 9:42AM
For me I prefer the slightly warmer RGB ( middle image ) its also probably more as the image was seen, the sRGB looks a tad cooler and the whites aren't quite white, the Photopro image at the bottom looks to accentuate the magenta seen in the skin colour and its enhanced the purple lips a tad to much for me.

kaybee Avatar
kaybee 19 8.7k 28 Scotland
21 Oct 2020 9:48AM
Flat, fine, too red.....................
But the longer you look at an image the more the brain seems to 'compensate' when the image is something that we are familiar with so with the likes of this you will probably find that all are good .... until you put them next to each other and flick between them.
Just my opinion and more than likely completely wrong (I normally am when I formulate my own theories).
saltireblue Avatar
saltireblue Plus
13 14.5k 89 Norway
21 Oct 2020 9:56AM
When viewing the embedded info, the top image shows correctly as sRGB, but the other two show not as RGB and PhotoPro, but as 'uncalibrated'
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
21 Oct 2020 10:14AM
And there lies the thing about this... It is a very soft and gentle image, natural light and actually did look flat, initially. I agree with Roy's assessment of how they look: and it all depends - if you WORK in PhotoPro, then an sRGB shot looks very flat, while the PP is right. Here, I worked in sRGB and the PP is gaudy!
mistere Avatar
mistere Plus
10 37 8 England
21 Oct 2020 11:54AM
Another issue is, what does the website do to the image when you upload it. They sometimes alter the size, what else gets scrambled in the process.
I've loaded the same image onto three different sites and they all look slightly different. I was sure that my monitor was to blame so I tried a better one (borrowed
not purchased, I wanted to find out before I spent) it didn't make any difference. Neither did a graphics card upgrade.
I just tried saving the same image as RGB, sRGB and PhotoPro. The sRGB looked very slightly better. The file size changed for each image though.
RGB was 1.10 MB the sRGB was 1.17 MB and the PhotoPro was 1.05 MB.
GGAB Avatar
GGAB 7 31 1 United States
21 Oct 2020 12:52PM
"The Adobe space is better for printing" Not necessarily true. If the majority of your printers gamut falls within the sRGB color space, this could be the better choice. The key is knowing not only the color space of your file, but the color space of your printer. Unfortunately with most desktop printers, at least the low end desktop printers, you have no way to know. You also have no way to calibrate the printer to a known target so a print made today will match a print made 6 month's from now.
The other item here is rendering intent. This is how colors outside of the gamut of your printer are interpreted.
chase Avatar
chase Plus
18 2.5k 682 England
21 Oct 2020 1:18PM
A huge subject to tackle and understand John.
The top one to me seems the most natural of the three.
Lots will also depend on the monitor you are using to view your images.
There are many different ways of approaching this subject, which is right, which is wrong, if any. I guess it's what works for you.
My workflow and workspace work for me but, I am only looking at things here on one monitor Wink
GeorgeP Avatar
GeorgeP 16 62 26 United States
21 Oct 2020 2:54PM
The problem is those numbers 1 to 255. Most the web browsers assign eight bits to each color and hence you get the numbers zero for black and 255 for a white. Mix the red blue and green ratios and you get the typical colors you see on the screen. Your camera records more colours (maybe 14 bits for each red, blue and green) and the computer can process them happily. The snag is that other peripherals may not be so good. Worse, my screen may not be calibrated like yours so I will see something different. So, for web pages we all head for the lowest common denominator - sRGB and hope that the masterpiece on my screen looks the same on yours. Great topic but beware, if you saved a file as sRGB you destroyed colour information when you went from more than eight bits to eight. Once, gone, it can’t be recovered- but maybe smart software can interpolate if you read that RGB data.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
21 Oct 2020 3:07PM
Thank you to George and George for significant technical input. I had assumed that anyone who bothers to read blogs might well have bothered to get a high-quality colour printer: the sort of thing with more than two cartridges (my Epson has nine, fed pigment ink by a PermaJet bottle system). And with a cheap and cheerful 'replace the printer - it's cheaper than new cartridges' model, sRGB might be pushing it.

The 14-bit/8-bit stuff is clearly very pertinent - currently slightly outside my envelope!

I think this is a subject I'll be working on for a year or two yet, but I have now started.
chase Avatar
chase Plus
18 2.5k 682 England
21 Oct 2020 3:20PM

Quote: if you saved a file as sRGB you destroyed colour information when you went from more than eight bits to eight. Once, gone, it can’t be recovered- but maybe smart software can interpolate if you read that RGB data.

Quite right, but saving everything as copies means you still have the 16bit image in your original colour space....or however many bits you might work with.
JuBarney Avatar
JuBarney Plus
12 36 7 United Kingdom
21 Oct 2020 6:13PM
Middle image for me too, for the same reasons as Chris.
AltImages Avatar
AltImages 3 4
21 Oct 2020 6:16PM
I think that there's two different things here. Ten plus years ago if I accidentally uploaded an Adobe RGB image instead of an sRGB one onto the Internet I'd see something with reduced contrast and muted colours. Other browsers would sometimes show totally different colours to what they should. But by last year all popular browsers (Safari, Firefox, Chrome, IE, and many lesser ones) recognised and correctly displayed ICC tagged and also untagged images. So in practice you're not likely to see any differences online any more.

Where I think that the biggest differences now lie is where people who utilise the full extent of Adobe RGB or the new wide gamut monitors for their editing, who then save in sRGB and find that they then lose much of what they have created. This is where I've had arguments with colour experts. Because to date I do all my editing in sRGB (and so far I'm entirely happy with the range of colours my images produce). That way I get the the same colours that I've edited whether I'm printing images myself, uploading them to the Internet, or sending them for publication. I accept that technically I'm wrong. But this approach certainly works for me!
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
21 Oct 2020 8:57PM
Yes, Paul - that's how it seems to be to me: if you edit in another space, then save as sRGB, you can see a distinct loss of colour. Most notably with PhotoPro. So there's a strong practical argument ofr editing in sRGB, as far as I can see at present.
AltImages Avatar
AltImages 3 4
21 Oct 2020 9:11PM
Well that's what I am doing John. But there again most of what I shoot doesn't involve bright vibrant colours. So working exclusively in SRGB doesn't noticeably affect me. However there will be some photographers who need to produce prints that contain vivid Day-Glo like colours, in which case they should definitely be using wide gamut monitors, PhotoPro and printing paper with the cleanest whites. So basically it's a case of horses for courses.
pablophotographer Avatar
pablophotographer 12 2.2k 450
23 Oct 2020 8:46AM
A quarter of a century ago in the business of visual communication, which included, various professionals spanning from photographers, graphists, printers (humans, not electrical appliances) and engravers I was assigned with an order made by a loyal customer whose company had signed a deal with a Swiss company to represent them locally. Funnily enough the company colour of that Swiss company was a shade of orange. I was fortunate enough to have watched too many sunsets in my life so the orange pigment I created mixing two nitro colours from red and yellow reminded me that intense orange of life beauty. The customer paid and displayed their shiny sign outside their office for some time but few weeks later we received a call to take back the sign and apply an Adobe specific numbered orange that corresponded with a specigic ink profiled for prints. The specific colours we used though were not "inks" or "dyes". I went back to our colour suppliers and we came up with an orange of fading nature on the different depths of the metal.
All those lovely sunsets collapsed in my heart exactly as sunbed salons -orange- tan- or spray fake tan(!!!) cancel all those lovely tans made by real sunlight leaving me feeling sorry for the sunshine that those girls have missed... Sometimes for my eyes too... What a topic to discuss on a rainy morning...

dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
23 Oct 2020 10:38AM

For some people, colour matters a lot more, it seems!

Thank you, Pablo. And I still love sunsets.

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