Adobe RGB Versus sRGB – Which Color Space Should You Be Using and Why

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How frequently have you been to your camera settings to switch between Adobe RGB and sRGB color space? Are you even aware of what these terms mean, or what exactly is a color space? Even I was unaware of these technical terms until a few years back but I quickly realized their importance.

What is a color space?

A color space is a part of the color gamut, which is basically the universe of color tones. So you can assume different color spaces to be planets of different sizes. Out of many planets, Adobe RGB and sRGB are two most commonly used color spaces in photography.

Depending on your preferences, you can choose the desired color space and get the best possible result out of it.

Adobe RGB Versus sRGB - Which Color Space Should You Be Using and Why

By The original uploader was Cpesacreta at English Wikipedia [Attribution or CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

What are Adobe RGB and sRGB color spaces?

Adobe RGB is a bigger color space than sRGB as it is comprised of many more variations of color tones. This is one of the reasons that Adobe RGB monitors are vastly used by photographers – they can display more colors as compared to an sRGB monitor.

Monitors and printers

Adobe RGB monitors are used by a majority of modern day printer operators as well because they are capable of showing what a CMYK (cyan magenta yellow and key or black) printer color profile can produce. This helps the printer operator to ensure that colors that are being displayed on the Adobe RGB monitor shall be very close to the print that comes out of the CMYK color space printer (used for magazines and publications).

So being a photographer it makes sense that you use an Adobe RGB monitor so that you can edit your photos and see the actual colors that will come out in the prints.

Whereas, if you are sure that you will not get your photos printed in the near future then it does not make any sense to use an Adobe RGB monitor. If you only take photos for yourself or to upload them to the web, then an sRGB monitor is ideal for your purposes.

Adobe RGB Versus sRGB - Which Color Space Should You Be Using and Why

Camera shooting color space

But in order to view the actual colors of Adobe RGB or sRGB color space on your monitor, you need to capture the photo in that particular color space in the first place.

Unless you capture a photo in the required color space, be it Adobe RGB or sRGB, you cannot use that photo to its full potential. Shooting photos in the larger Adobe RGB color space allow you to capture more color tones, thus helping you see accurate colors on Adobe RGB monitors and in the prints. Whereas clicking in sRGB color space allows you to upload images to the web without any change in colors.

While shooting in one of these two color spaces each has their own advantages, there are few disadvantages as well.

Adobe RGB Versus sRGB - Which Color Space Should You Be Using and Why

Setting your camera color space.

Advantages and Disadvantages of shooting in Adobe RGB

Advantages:

  1. You get to capture a wider range of color tones in your photos.
  2. This color space is capable of displaying color tones that come out of a CMYK printer, thus ideal color space if you print your photos.

Disadvantages:

  1. When you upload a photo captured in Adobe RGB color space on the web, the colors get desaturated (and can look “off”).
  2. Adobe RGB monitors are costly, so in order to edit Adobe RGB color space image, you need to invest a lot in a monitor.

NOTE: You can convert an Adobe RGB color profile image into sRGB color space using software such as Photoshop and Lightroom.

Adobe RGB Versus sRGB - Which Color Space Should You Be Using and Why

Left: While exporting photos in Lightroom, you get the option to choose the color space. Right: In Photoshop, you can go to Color Settings and select the required option as your working color space.

Advantages and Disadvantages of shooting in sRGB

Advantages:

  1. When you upload a photo shot in sRGB color space, the colors remain the same and do not get desaturated, unlike an Adobe RGB image.
  2. A majority of monitors in the world use the sRGB color space and are not that expensive, unlike Adobe RGB monitors. This ensures that the colors that you experience on your monitor would be almost the same on any other sRGB monitor.

Disadvantages:

  1. As the color tones in sRGB are less compared to Adobe RGB, you do not get accurate colors in your prints.
  2. If you submit your photos for photography contests, there are chances that those photos will be viewed on an Adobe RGB monitor. This might reduce your chances of winning as a photograph captured and edited in Adobe RGB will look more pleasing to the judges.

Conclusion

Adobe RGB or sRGB, which color space to choose while shooting?

If you are a photographer who prints your photos often and you want to ensure that the colors are accurate in your prints, then you must shoot in Adobe RGB color space. Shooting photos in sRGB color space might give you a variation in colors that you see on your monitor and in the final prints. Also if you participate in online photography contests, it is safe to capture and edit photos in Adobe RGB color space.

But if you only capture photos to upload them on the web, then shooting in the sRGB color space is the ideal choice for you. If you upload Adobe RGB color space photos to the web, you will notice that colors get desaturated.

Adobe RGB Versus sRGB - Which Color Space Should You Be Using and Why

Left: This is how your photo gets desaturated when you upload Adobe RGB color space photo to the web. Right: When you upload sRGB color space photos, you get correct colors as seen here.

Nonetheless, to be on the safe side you can shoot photos in the Adobe RGB color space. If needed you can always use the file for prints, and if you wish to upload to the web then you can simply convert the color space using Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom.

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Kunal Malhotra is a photography enthusiast whose passion for photography started 6 years back during his college days. Kunal is also a photography blogger, based out of Delhi, India. He loves sharing his knowledge about photography with fellow aspiring photographers by writing regular posts on his blog. Some of his favorite genres of photography are product, street, fitness, and architecture.

  • Walt

    But if you are shooting raw, then sRGB vs RGB matters not at all. The raw format contains ALL the information from the sensor. Using sRGB or RGB in camera throws away data that is outside their respective curves. When you import the raw image into your post processing software – for example Lightroom uses the prophoto color space for its internal processing – which is LARGER than RGB or sRGB color spaces. When you export from your post processing software, you choose which color space to save your completed file in. If you are NOT using raw, then it makes sense to use RGB in camera, since it has a bit larger color space than sRGB. But why not use raw and take advantage of EVERY pixel of information available?

  • KC

    This is a topic that goes far beyond the camera. The short answer is RGB. Most browsers and websites can see the RGB tag, emphasis on tag. Most displays are near RGB, and monitors are RGB.

    It’s been a long day and I can go into a very long winded, technical, and dull, write-up, but it ends up being RGB in many cases – unless sRGB is specifically requested. Even then, since you have no control over how the image will be viewed, and the end viewer has no clue how it’s supposed to look, you might as well go RGB.

    You’re right, Walt. JPEG’s can be RGB tagged. The JPEG spec is long overdue for an update. I don’t think it’s changed since CRT’s cluttered our desktops.

  • Henning Kulander

    This article looks like it was written in the past. A more up to date view on this can be found in articles like this:
    https://webkit.org/blog/6682/improving-color-on-the-web/

    If the browser does not read the AdobeRGB profile in the picture, it will look washed out. Most browsers read the profile today, so AdobeRGB pictures will look correct on sRGB screens, and better on AdobeRGB screens. Browsers other than Chrome has been doing this for many years.

    New mobile phones, TVs and gaming monitors target the DCI-P3 colorspace, which is not the same as AdobeRGB, but wider than sRGB, so will benefit from the added colors in AdobeRGB. I think sRGB won’t be the best colorspace for web for much longer, if it still is.

    The most future proof thing to do is of course to shoot RAW, and export to whatever color space you need when exporting.

  • DLS

    Like the others have said, you should use neither of these profiles when processing the photo. Shoot RAW and work in ProPhoto RGB and you will have the camera’s native gamut which is huge compared to these ancient profiles. High quality monitors today also have much wider gamut than AdobeRGB. If you have those monitors calibrated (you should) and have the needed profiles generated, you can convert from the native profile to one of these limited profiles at the end when and if needed in production or the web.

  • Prashant Patel

    Same as few reader have said, we should not use this profiles while processing the Pics. New Smartphone, Television and gaming screen target the DCI-P3 colorspace, which is not AdobeRGB but wider than sRGB and will benefit from the added colors in AdobeRGB. The JPEG spec is long overdue for an update. I don’t think it’s changed since CRT’s cluttered our desktops.

    Finally Thnaks you Kunal Malhotra for sharing & described Color Space here in brief. I am very Happy to discuss about this here. https://edumosam.in/

  • Marco Silva Navarrete

    that`s right as I know. That thing sRGB vs AdobeRGB only applies for shooting on .jpg. (and is amazing how the writer didnĀ“t point it !!)

  • JustChristoph

    What a flagrant attempt to steal Kunal Malhotra’s (not to mention DPS’s) thunder. Have some shame.

  • Jyves

    Myself I learned something,
    Always shooting RAW and working on AdobeRGB but I allways feel that my images were looking dull after downloading on the net. Now I know that I have to transfer to sRGB before downloading. My question is, when you swich from AdobeRGB to sRGB is the gamut information outside of the sRGB space cutoff or the information is compress from a wider gamut to a smaller one?

  • Crunch Hardtack

    ProPhoto. One can always edit the color space in software to handle any anticipated use, be it online or print.

  • Swapan Mukherjee

    Very well explained.

  • FYI – Adobe RGB images posted on a website like this one look off-color, drab, dull and usually green.

  • depends on the setting you choose in LR or PS or whatever you’re using. Usually it’s compressed to find the nearest color.

  • TV price drop alert

    I really like this blog, It’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also get knowledge, from these type of blog, nice entry. Thanks.Nowadays, technology also has developed most
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