Why are the col­ors in the pho­to dis­tort­ed after upload­ing to the Inter­net? How to get beau­ti­ful pic­tures when print­ing, cre­at­ing a pho­to book? What to do if col­ors look rich and bright on your pro­fes­sion­al mon­i­tor, but dull and dirty on the client’s gad­get? All these prob­lems can be solved if the col­or space is cor­rect­ly adjust­ed dur­ing shoot­ing or in post-pro­cess­ing.

For pho­tog­ra­phers, the most impor­tant col­or spaces are sRGB and Adobe RGB. We tell you what it is, how they dif­fer and which one to choose.

The cor­rect col­or space will pro­vide the best col­or when print­ing or upload­ing pho­tos to the Inter­net / Source: unsplash.com

What is color space and color model

A col­or space is a “trans­la­tor” built into mon­i­tors, print­ers, cam­eras, and phones that allows devices to read and dis­play col­ors cor­rect­ly.

To sim­pli­fy, for exam­ple, in the RGB col­or space there are three num­bers: R — 255, G — 0, B — 0. For you, this is just a set of let­ters and num­bers, and a graph­ics edi­tor or phone will trans­late these val­ues ​​into col­or and show you rich red. Each pix­el in the pho­to has its own set of such num­bers and, accord­ing­ly, its own col­or, which the col­or pro­file decodes.

Pho­to enlarged to 3200%. The image is made up of squares — pix­els, each of which is paint­ed in its own col­or. In RGB space, a select­ed pix­el adds col­ors from three R, G, and B val­ues ​​/ Illus­tra­tion: Eliza­ve­ta Chechevit­sa, Fotosklad.Expert

It turns out that the col­or seems to be a point in the coor­di­nate sys­tem. You poke here — there is blue, in anoth­er place — pink, in the third — green. But not every­thing is so sim­ple. Then all devices would have the same set­tings and the col­ors would look absolute­ly iden­ti­cal. Sounds great, but unre­al­is­tic.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly we have dif­fer­ent coor­di­nate sys­tems with slight­ly dif­fer­ent col­or sets. They are called col­or mod­els or col­or pro­files.

A col­or mod­el is a math­e­mat­i­cal descrip­tion of col­ors. They con­tain the prin­ci­ple of what col­or, with what bright­ness, sat­u­ra­tion and how exact­ly it will be dis­played. This is nec­es­sary so that the col­or on dif­fer­ent media looks as sim­i­lar as pos­si­ble.

The most famous col­or mod­els:

  • RGB. The most com­mon col­or pro­file. In it, col­ors are formed from a com­bi­na­tion of three col­ors: red ®, green (G) and blue (B). The com­plete absence of these col­ors gives black, and the sum of all three gives white. This col­or mod­el in one form or anoth­er is built into all phones, mon­i­tors, and cam­eras.
  • CMYK. The mod­el is based on a mix­ture of four col­ors (print­ing inks): C (Cyan) — blue, M (Magen­ta) — magen­ta, Y (Yel­low) — yel­low, K (Black) — black. Used in print­ers and pre­press when you know for sure that you will be print­ing this pho­to.
RGB and CMYK col­or mod­els / Source: freesvg.org
  • HSB or HSL. A col­or mod­el that dis­sects each col­or into three com­po­nents: H (Hue) — hue or hue, S (Sat­u­ra­tion) — sat­u­ra­tion and L or B ( Light­ness or Bright­ness) — bright­ness, and in some trans­la­tions lumi­nos­i­ty. This mod­el is built into the col­or tools in Light­room, Cap­ture One, Pho­to­shop, and Adobe Cam­era Raw.
HSB col­or mod­el inte­grat­ed into Pho­to­shop tools / Illus­tra­tion by Eliza­ve­ta Chechevit­sa, Fotosklad.Expert
  • Lab col­or mod­el. This mod­el has the largest col­or gamut — dis­plays the most col­ors at their max­i­mum bright­ness. The col­or pro­file is pop­u­lar in pro­fes­sion­al cir­cles when an image is being pre­pared for print­ing.

The dif­fer­ence between Lab and CMYK is that CMYK col­or repro­duc­tion is tied to the phys­i­cal para­me­ters of mate­ri­als and tech­nol­o­gy. For exam­ple, the col­or will be dif­fer­ent due to dif­fer­ent types and col­ors of paper, ink, print­ing machine man­u­fac­tur­ers. Lab, on the oth­er hand, unique­ly defines the col­or, it is a uni­ver­sal mod­el.

Coor­di­nate sys­tem of three axes: L (light­ness) — bright­ness; a — col­ors from red to green; b — col­ors from yel­low to blue. As a result, each col­or is described by three num­bers for each axis / Source: openclipart.org

Adobe RGB or sRGB: Types of RGB color spaces

The RGB col­or mod­el includes sev­er­al col­or spaces. This is nec­es­sary because dif­fer­ent mon­i­tors, print­ers, phones have dif­fer­ent col­or repro­duc­tion — man­u­fac­tur­ers have not agreed on a sin­gle stan­dard, every­one has dif­fer­ent tech­nolo­gies and prod­uct vision. The intro­duc­tion of com­mon col­or spaces is an attempt to bring every­thing to a com­mon denom­i­na­tor. Thanks to this, in most cas­es, the pho­to on your lap­top and on the clien­t’s phone will be the same col­or.

Most often, the pho­tog­ra­ph­er is faced with two col­or spaces:

  • Adobe RGB. A col­or space with a wide col­or gamut. When com­pared to sRGB, col­ors are more vibrant and sat­u­rat­ed. In addi­tion, it gives more shades of dark green. Most often it is used in print­ing and pre­press.

To ful­ly unleash the poten­tial of this space, you need an expen­sive mon­i­tor that sup­ports Adobe RGB. It turns out that your client will hard­ly be able to see all the rich­ness of col­or. But it is pos­si­ble if you work only with oth­er pros, print­ers and in the b2b seg­ment. The dis­ad­van­tage of space is that when upload­ing pho­tos to the Inter­net, the col­ors are fad­ed, dull, dirty.

  • sRGB. A col­or space with a nar­row­er col­or gamut than Adobe RGB, but very com­mon. sRGB is sup­port­ed by all mon­i­tors, phones, tablets, TVs, pro­jec­tors. More­over, it is in this col­or space that you need to work if your pho­tos live only in vir­tu­al spaces — social net­works, web­sites, cloud dri­ves.
Col­or gamut Adobe RGB (black tri­an­gle) and sRGB (white tri­an­gle) / Source: wikimedia.org

Impor­tant: it is work in the wrong col­or space that can great­ly dis­tort col­ors when print­ing a pho­to or pub­lish­ing it on the Inter­net. But some­times even the cor­rect col­or space does not save.

For exam­ple, Xiao­mi phones are noto­ri­ous for great­ly increas­ing col­or sat­u­ra­tion. It turns out that you and your client will have the same col­ors on the mon­i­tors of the pic­ture, and in the phone of this brand it will be much brighter. What fol­lows from this? Dis­ap­point­ing con­clu­sion: per­fect col­or repro­duc­tion does not exist. If a cus­tomer is com­plain­ing about the col­or but your col­or space is cor­rect, ask them to view the pho­to on dif­fer­ent devices — phones, lap­tops, desk­tops — or bet­ter yet, check the pic­tures your­self before send­ing. If the prob­lem per­sists, you should think about cal­i­brat­ing the mon­i­tor by a spe­cial­ist.

How to change color space

You can choose which col­or space to work in — Adobe RGB or sRGB — both before shoot­ing on the cam­era and dur­ing post-pro­cess­ing. We tell you how to choose the right col­or space in the cam­era, as well as Light­room and Adobe Pho­to­shop.

camera color space

To select a col­or space before shoot­ing, go to the cam­era menu. For exam­ple, in Canon it’s an icon with a cam­era icon with two dots, while in Nikon it’s just a cam­era icon.

If your cam­era set­tings are in Eng­lish, then look for the Col­or Space line in the list / Source: wikimedia.org

How to Change Color Space in Photoshop and Adobe Camera Raw

So that after pro­cess­ing a pho­to in Pho­to­shop, its col­or does not change, open the pro­gram and go to the menu Edit­ing / Edit — Col­or Set­tings / Col­or Set­ting.

In Set­tings / Set­tings select the pro­file Uni­ver­sal set­tings for Europe 3 / Euro Gen­er­al Pur­pose 3 and click OK / Illus­tra­tion by Eliza­ve­ta Chechevit­sa, Fotosklad.Expert

If you shoot in RAW and be sure to go through Adobe Cam­era Raw before Pho­to­shop, you can change the col­or space there by click­ing on the under­lined line at the bot­tom of the win­dow.

How to change the col­or space in Adobe Cam­era RAW / Illus­tra­tion by Eliza­ve­ta Chechevit­sa, Fotosklad.Expert

How to change color space in Lightroom

- Go to Edit­ing / Edit — Set­tings / Pref­er­ences — Exter­nal edit­ing / Exter­nal Edit­ing.

Set Adobe RGB or sRGB in the Col­or Space drop-down list / Illus­tra­tion by Eliza­ve­ta Chechevit­sa, Fotosklad.Expert

– If you find that you were work­ing in the wrong col­or space for you, then you can change it before sav­ing the processed pho­tos. To do this, click on the tab Library and find the but­ton Export/Export.

In the menu that opens, find File Set­tings and select Col­or space / Illus­tra­tion by Eliza­ve­ta Chechevit­sa, Fotosklad.Expert

Read also:

How to cal­i­brate the mon­i­tor and which cal­i­bra­tor to choose for this

Pho­tog­ra­ph­er Mon­i­tors: Col­or Accu­rate Mod­els

Skin Col­or in Light­room: How to Get the Per­fect Skin Tone