sRGB, Adobe RGB, ProPhoto RGB: Which to Use and Why?

Have you ever been confused about which color space you should use and wondered what the differences are? This video will help you understand, and most importantly, choose the correct one. 

When you're working in software such as Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop, you may have seen different color profile options you can choose (also known as working spaces or color spaces). In fact, when you create a new document in Photoshop or click Edit > Color Settings > Working Spaces > RGB, there are actually 16 options you can choose from. However, the three most common choices are:

  1. sRGB
  2. Adobe RGB (1998)
  3. ProPhoto RGB

However, which one you choose will depend on a number of variables and understanding those options is vital in order to get the best color representation of your image for the eyes of your viewers. In this video by Phlearn, Aaron Nace walks you through the three main color profiles and breaks down their nuances and which might be most suitable for you, depending on your circumstances. 

An example of what you'll learn through this video is that it's best for you to use sRGB if you're planning on uploading your images to social media or online apps. That's because apps and internet browsers use the sRGB color profile as their default setting, and using other color profiles could compromise the true representation of your image as you wish to show it. 

This is a very helpful video, as it clearly allows you to get your head around which color space you should use in any given situation. What about you? Which color space do you prefer and what has been your experience tinkering with different options? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. 

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Andrew Eaton's picture

Using 16 bit per channel reduces quantization errors in process and a 8 bit display can show a large part of adobe 1998 if its capable of it. Most pro printers have a larger colour space/ability to print more than SRGB so using SRGB could result in a poor image print

Andrew Eaton's picture

I will still contend a 8bit source can supply to a monitor more than SRGB as long as the monitor and can display it. The display signalling is relevant and the prophoto space is likely to be bigger than a 8 bit capabilities. Monitor profiles have a lot to do with the non linear response across the 256 shades of the channel or 1024 of 10 bit monitors. Often in cheaper monitors or on laptops these number of shades can be reduced due to software colour adjustments. In higher end monitors the adjustments normally in colour calibration are applied within the monitor itself (LLT) The worse the monitor the more the monitor profile has to push or pull the sign to get a linear response. I use a NEC Spectraview which has 10bit LLT with a 8 bit input (had it for 10 years) and is very capable of showing more than SRGB and banding in adobe 1998 has never been a problem.

Blake Aghili's picture

My short way:
ProPhoto ? Over-kill , not all of its colors are even recognizable by human eye.
Adobe RGB: Using this when working on a photo.
sRGB: Web export.
+ 16 bit and saving as TIFF

R. P.'s picture

If they are not recognizable, then they are not colors ;-)

Spy Black's picture

What's your target? Web? Print? Now you know what colorspace you need to work in...

Davor Ergo's picture

Does it make sense to edit in ProPhoto RGB when your monitor can display only about 70% of Adobe RGB?

Andrew Eaton's picture

There is the file profile and then there is your monitor profile which the file is interpreted through. In my view using Prophoto is a bad Idea and im using a 100% adobe 1998 screen...

Daniel Medley's picture

It depends on your target. Are your images only going to be viewed on your monitor or other screen? Then ProPhoto may not make since? Is there a possibility that your images may be viewed in other targets? Say, printed?

Once data is gone it's gone. If your photos may be destined for different or a variety of targets then editing and saving your files in ProPhoto is the way to go. Then you can export to various targets in whatever color space the intended target requires.

Deleted Account's picture

ProPhoto RGB contains more colors, it also contains all the colors contained in the other profiles.
As your images can be used on different supports (print, offset, web, monitor, etc.) I think that it is better to edit the images using the largest color profile (ProPhoto RGB), and then to export the images using the color profiles fitting better the final use.

Lee Christiansen's picture

It is a mistake to edit with a colour range where we can't see the colours we're working with and ProPhoto is too big for monitors and too big for some of our vision.

So we work in sRGB or aRGB, depending on the monitor we have.

But we should also consider the end use. How many people who work in aRGB for an sRGB use will double check each and every file after conversion to be sure things are what we expect.

I much prefer to work / edit in the colourspace for intended use and so I retouch and adjust with those limitations to squeeze the best I can within those parameters.

Davor Ergo's picture

Makes sense. Thanks. My workflow is: editing RAW in Lightroom then sending my photos to Photoshop and do some more editing, than I save them back to Lightroom and export from there. Question: Because Lightroom works only in ProPhoto RGB, is it better to edit the photos in Adobe RGB when editing in Photoshop and export the photos from Photoshop instead of sending them back to Lightroom?

Lee Christiansen's picture

Lightroom can display in any profile you like.

I work with Capture One, so it's been a while since I worked with LR - but if memory serves, go to LR Preferences and choose External Editing. In the top box of selections choose sRGB or aRGB. I seem to remember that choosing either of these will have LR display with that colour gamut.

I used to choose the soft proofing option at the base of LR under the image in "Display" and selecting the soft proof type in the panel under the histogram, but then found making the change in Preferences did the job all the time for me.

In early days of LR I used to find there was a difference between LR images and their exported versions (which I had PS convert to sRGB on import by default). Clearly this was because of a colourspace difference with LR displaying in ProPhoto which I wasn't aware of. After lengthy conversations with Adobe who were scratching their heads, the next version of LR miraculously came out with a softproof option. After that I discovered the Preferences change which sorted things nicely.

Davor Ergo's picture

I think Lightroom is always in ProPhoto RGB and can't be changed. But what you say makes sense. If I work on an image in Photoshop in aRGB it should look the same when I bring it back to Lightroom. Because aRGB is "contained" in Pro Photo RGB which is what Lightroom uses. But working in Photoshop using aRGB is beneficial for me because my monitor can't display ProPhoto RGB. Right?

Lee Christiansen's picture

Essentially RAW processing software just deals with the RAW data, but what we see is the profile that is selected.

So LR doesn't really "work" in ProPhoto. The important thing is the softproofing (ie how we view the image as it is intended). If we work on an image in LR or C-1 with softproofing sleceted by default to sRGB and then change that viewing to aRGB or ProPhoto, the actual data is not changed, just our viewing pleasure.

I set up C-1 in much the same way with either SRGB or aRGB as my default viewing option so I know what it will look like whe it is converted to that colourspace as a JPEG / TIFF etc.

There are actually different options as to how that conversion is made which can effect the output or softproofed image, but can't remember if LR offers you that choice.

Daniel Medley's picture

You're correct, LR's only color space when developing is ProPhoto. Workflows vary, but I do global edits in LR then move to PS, finish editing in ProPhoto. I save the layered file (either TFF or PSD) and it saves to the LR catalog from which I can access it later if need be. That's where my finished edits live forever; right next to the raw file. Later, if I want to do some more edits in PS, I just locate the file in LR > right click > Edit in Photoshop > select edit original. I can then either take up where I left off or amend and change edits. It's all a layered file. But the key is to KEEP it all in ProPhoto.

I export from PS by flattening the file > convert to whatever color space needed for the intended target > Save as or Export.

The idea is to keep your processed "master" file with the largest color space available and convert it as needed. It's less about editing and more about the intended target.

Daniel Medley's picture

A good read to explain why, generally, processing in ProPhoto is the way to go:

If you don't mind doing a lot of reading and really getting into the minutia this site is great:

Andrew Rodney is quite possibly the best source for all things color, color spaces, and general color management.

Daniel Medley's picture

"Lightroom can display in any profile you like."

As I understand it, Lightroom ONLY displays in ProPhoto in the Develop module. You can proof in an approximation of other color spaces, but you're always working in ProPhoto. The reason Lightroom uses ONLY ProPhoto in the Develop Module is to retain as much data as possible. You can export from LR in different color spaces, but when in LR's Develop Module, it's ProPhoto. The previews and most other areas are displayed in aRGB. can provide more information:

The idea is to retain as much data as possible and then export to the color space your intended target requires.

Daniel Medley's picture

Here is a good rundown of why a ProPhoto working space is advantageous in most circumstances:

Lee Christiansen's picture

This is why I say "can display in any profile you like"

i.e. You can softproof in any profile you like.

Everything else in under the bonnet to retain as much flexibility and quality whilst making those adjustments. That's the point of RAW of course, so we can bash the image around and not have it being destructive from a data or colourspace point of view. :)

Daniel Medley's picture

You also said, "So LR doesn't really "work" in ProPhoto." Which like most of everything else you've said is just flat out wrong.

Daniel Medley's picture

"My workflow is: editing RAW in Lightroom then sending my photos to Photoshop and do some more editing, than I save them back to Lightroom and export from there. Question: Because Lightroom works only in ProPhoto RGB, is it better to edit the photos in Adobe RGB when editing in Photoshop and export the photos from Photoshop instead of sending them back to Lightroom?"

In my view, it's best to keep everything in ProPhoto. When you've completed your PS edits, just save it and it will be indicated in your LR catalog. You can open it up from there. This would be the home of your final "developed" images.You would then convert it to whatever color space is needed for the intended target. That way you have ALL the data available to be able to accommodate whatever target you may need.

Your workflow is similar to mine. Dump images into LR > global edits as needed in LR > Send to PS to finish edits > save layered TFF in ProPhoto. I then move on to the next image.

That way I have all master "developed" images accessible from my LR catalog. If I'm going to provide a given image to a client for printing I'll open up the developed file from my LR catalog in PS > flatten it > convert it to aRGB (or whatever color space is required by the printer)> save it as a separate file> hand off to client.

If I'm going to use it as a web image/social, etc.I do the same thing but convert it to sRGB. But I always retain the master developed file in ProPhoto to retain ALL of the data because once data is gone it's gone forever.

Deleted Account's picture

"It is a mistake to edit with a colour range where we can't see the colours"
Sorry Lee, but this is one of the biggest foolishness (sorry if it offends but I don't find a softer word) that I have heard in all my life of graphic design and color correction…
No, it is not a mistake. You are the one mistaking here. Apparently your experience with the print industry, and its necessities, is close to zero if you think that sRGB is the best profile to use (I am hearing all my friends color correctors and typographers laughing out loud in the background…)

"I much prefer to work / edit in the colour space for intended use"
The point is that very often there is not only ONE use for ONE image, they could be several. Several uses, several supports/materials, several printing methods, etc. and the sRGB profile is not the most adapted profile to obtain the best results on a wide range of uses.

If like me you had 45 years of experience with color correction for hexachrome (discontinued process today), cmyk and rgb prints, and uses for one single image going from pad printing, to serigraphy, to billboard, to magazines, to packaging, to fine art, etc. you would have a different vision of what profiles to use and how to use these profiles, and you would understand that it is always better to have the more possible colors in your original, so ProPhoto RGB …
You can convert from ProPhoto RGB to sRGB and you will get a sRGB image
You can also convert from sRGB to ProPhoto RGB, but the result will be a a ProPhoto RGB with only the sRGB colors, so no more than your original sRGB

Lee Christiansen's picture

OK Maxal, I'll try not to be offended - but it isn't foolish to work in a colour range that we can see.

You don't make any mention of softproofing to see the available colours, so we'll have to assume that if you're working in ProPhoto you can't see everything you're working on. Feel free to clarify but without that info we can only go by what you write.

And I didn't say that sRGB is the best profile to use. (Please try to read what I say, not what you think I say). The best colourspace to use is the format of the intended use.

So when I talk about working in the colourspace for intended use, then I'll work in the biggest colourspace for intended use. I'll talk to my clients first. If they're needing aRGB, and also using for web, then I'll process and do post in aRGB, and I'll check each and every image with a conversion which I will do for them to be sure each and every image works after conversion.

Feel free to spend countless hours retouching and processing images where you are guessing what the colours might be - if only you could see them. I'll work with what can be displayed because at no point are we going to see anything else.

My original has oodles of colour range, because my original is the RAW file. After that I'm needing to make intelligent decisions in post and I can't do that iof I can't see what I'm working with. Yes we'd all love to work with a huge gamut of colours for perfection, but at present aRGB is all we can cope with and ProPhoto is actually outside the range of what many can see with their eyes.

So I start with my big range of colours and I process my RAW files within the confines of what can be seen. I make the image the best it can be within the confines of what can be viewed. Such is life and we deal with it. But as part of that process I can push the maximum of what can be seen and be confident that my hours are well spent - not being dashed later when I realise all that work was for naught because of surprises down the way.

And I view all this in the colourspace that is deemed best for the end product. If it is for an aRGB workflow later then Ill set C-1 to view as aRGB. If the images have that need and also web, then I'll set C-1 to aRGB. And if the end product is only ever to be used on web, then I'll set C-1 to an sRGB workflow and do the best I can within that limitation - but at least I'll spend my hours productively.
And yes we all know that sRGB converted to ProPhotos will only give an sRGB range - sheesh.

I'd prefer to spend my hours retouching an image and not have a bunch of big surprises when I eventually convert a massive colour space to a little one. Oops - look at all those colour artifacts and changes, I'd better go back and spend another few hours altering those colours that I still can't actually see. I make the best of what I can deliver and I'll retouch with that in mind.

If you are processing and retouching in ProPhoto, please tell me what amazing monitor you are using to see this colour range. I need to buy one. Nope... I didn't think you had one. Or are you just retouching blindly and hoping it won't mean more hours when you get a nasty surprise later?

45 years of experience is all lovely. But don't mistake that experience with being right all the time.

I've got nearly 15 years of retouching experience, so I'm no slouch. And I've spent those years working with a variety of colourspaces and printing types. Before retouching I was dealing with print requirements before we had the convenience of computer screens and PS. Yes I'm old enough to remember the bad old days too.

Now maybe your "editing" experience is not what mine is. I talk (as many here do) of processing RAW files and retouching images. Both of these disciplines require us to see what we're doing before making any judgements.

Otherwise we may as well be working with ProPhoto files on a bad monitor that can't even display sRGB - because if we're going to work blind, what does it matter how blind. And NONE of us are going to champion that way of working.

For anyone who actually processes / retouches in ProPhoto (ie viewing a ProPhoto colourspace embedded image), then I'm asking - what monitors do you use to be able to see those colours. Perhaps you can ask all those friends of yours to stop laughing and teel us what amazing monitors they are using that they can clearly see what they're doing.

How can we truly see a ProPhoto image without the technolgy to display it? How do you know what you are working with?

Then I'll ask a number of well respected printing companies if they'd like the files in ProPhoto to print directly from and see what they think. (Not found any yet who want that format).

I'll say it again. Biggest is not always best. Delivering the best WITHIN a project's limitation is the better way to work. It may pain us to do so, (because we're perfectionists at heart), but btter to deliver the best final image than hope an image would look great if only we could show it.

And how many photographers when producing perhaps a large number of images (for a wedding etc) will work in aRGB but deliver in web friendly aRGB, will actually check each image carefully to be sure the conversion is great, and I wonder which form of conversion they will choose?

I don't deny ProPhoto is a lovely thing. I'd love it when monitors everywhere can display it and printers can cope and paper stock will deliver it. For now we need to work with what we can actually work and see with.

Daniel Medley's picture

I won't be as harsh as you :) But one thing that people seem to not realize is that editing in sRGB, you actually throw out data that you can see; most notably color transitions and gradations. By editing in ProPhoto, you can better retain those transitions and gradations that will absolutely be visible in an sRGB color space.

Lee Christiansen's picture

This is very true. And it depends of course how much pushing and pulling we're intending. Something that requires quite a bit of retouching would warrant exporting to aRGB, then post in PS and conversion to sRGB if that is the intended target.

Remembering that I have NEVER said that sRGB is the best profile to use whilst editing / retouching.

Many times any further post work doesn't tax an image and if the intended target is sRGB there is no harm in maintaining that workflow throughout.

(Although I'd hope the majority of the big adjustments that would push/pull colours/exposures etc would be done wit the RAW file befgore exporting and that process is essentially what the above refers to).

We can softproof in aRGB and work with a ProPhoto file whilst in PS and this is a pure way to work. But it also requires an extra stage and the advantage is only really gained if we're revisiting the image for further work or 20 years when maybe the monitoring world has caught up. If we're doing that then I have the RAW file and how many times does that happen?

But yes you point out a very valid point. I'd certainly champion an aRGB workflow and conversion to lesser if needed at the end, but ProPhoto throughout with softproofing throughout is (for me), pushing things a little too far.

Each to his own, and whatever works for us all. :)

Daniel Medley's picture

"As your images can be used on different supports (print, offset, web, monitor, etc.) I think that it is better to edit the images using the largest color profile (ProPhoto RGB), and then to export the images using the color profiles fitting better the final use."

This. The old adage with a different twist; it's better to have the data and not need it than to need the data and not have it.

Lee Christiansen's picture

A point worth considering is whether files delivery is JPEG or TIFF / PSD and whether those images will receive extra work / processing down the line.

JPEG is only 8-bit and is better suited to sRGB. There's a lot of colour information for 8-bit and there's a trade off between range of clours and the ability to display them smoothly across the spectrum with only 8 bits of data. An 8-bit JPEG in aRGB can fall apart pretty quickly with some post production pushing and pulling, whereas an 8-bit sRGB image will survive somewhat better.

Bigger is not always better.

Daniel Medley's picture

General rule of thumb is to edit/process in the largest color space available. Save layered .tff "finished" files in the largest color space available. Then export to the color space needed for whatever the intended target is.

For example, after I've edited and saved a layered .tff "master" file in ProPhoto, if I decide I'm going to use it on the web, I'll open it, flatten it, convert to sRGB, save as either .jpg or .png, and then upload it to where ever.

If I decide to print it, I'll open the layered .tff "master" file, flatten it, convert to aRGB (the printer I use prefers aRGB), and then save it as a separate file to deliver to the printer.

The idea being that as far as data is concerned it's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

All of my edited keepers are saved as layered .tff in the ProPhoto color space and stored away for safekeeping.

Brian Stricker's picture

I get teh idea of editing in the largest space. However, as mentioned a few times in the comments, if your monitor doesn't display that color space then are you really editing in that space? How many are using monitors that are even AdobeRGB let alone Profoto so how could I see the full color space if my monitor doesn't display it. Seems to me the colors are getting shifted to work in the color space my monitor. I am far from being any type of expert but it seems pretty simple to me but I guess I am missing something.

Daniel Medley's picture

You're missing something. That something is that it's not only about the device on which you're editing. It has more to do with the intended target. By converting to sRGB and then editing and saving, you're throwing a bunch of data away that you can never get back (unless you want to start from scratch again on a raw file). Editing in the largest color space available--ProPhoto--retains the data.

You can then convert to the intended target whether it's for web, print, lab, etc.

If you're positive that your images will never be printed or viewed on anything other than your monitor, then it's not a big deal.

Lee Christiansen's picture

Daniel, no one is saying that we need to convert everything to sRGB.

And yes, retaining data is great - it's why we shoot in RAW. But at somepoint something has to give, and that is typically when we're needing to faithfully view what we're doing - ie when we're processing the electronic image after capture.

So when processing a RAW file, we must be sure what we're processing and for that we need to see what we're doing. It we can't see the ProPhoto colourspace then who knows what surprises are further down the line.

Lie it or not, processing RAW files for output to anywhere, the biggest colourspace we dare to view / softproof, or output to is aRGB, because that is all our current monitors can deliver. There are variences on this monitoring colourspace option, but none as huge as ProPhoto.

Depending on the project, I will set my RAW processing software (C-1 for me) to softproof the appropriate colourspace and for now that will be either aRGB or sRGB. (Partly because of the intended use and partly because of what my CG2420 Eizo monitor can dleiver).

If I'm delivering for CMYK printing then I'd initially softproof in aRGB with C-1 (because that's my biggest option) and I'd softproof in Photoshop for fine tuning with the profile supplied to me by my printing company for their workflow to be sure that the conversion wasn't going to bring up surprises, (and there can be some big ones sometimes).

Retianing data we can't see is like viewing a cropped-in image. Lovely that the image is so big, but useless if we can't see the whole image.

And if we're going to trust those conversions as a matter of course because we're hung up on working with the biggest space possible no matter what the intended target - then we need to discuss the best options for conversion. And as photographers / processors / retouchers, we need to own the responsibility of checking each and every conversion with care.

Daniel Medley's picture

"Daniel, no one is saying that we need to convert everything to sRGB"

I didn't claim that.

"So when processing a RAW file, we must be sure what we're processing and for that we need to see what we're doing. It we can't see the ProPhoto colourspace then who knows what surprises are further down the line."

That's why we have proofing. If you're processing in ProPhoto and your colors change dramatically when converting, then you need to revisit how you post process.

"Depending on the project, I will set my RAW processing software (C-1 for me) to softproof the appropriate colourspace and for now that will be either aRGB or sRGB. (Partly because of the intended use and partly because of what my CG2420 Eizo monitor can dleiver)."

Again, it's not so much about the space in which you're editing. It's the TARGET.

"If I'm delivering for CMYK printing then I'd initially softproof in aRGB with C-1 (because that's my biggest option) and I'd softproof in Photoshop for fine tuning with the profile supplied to me by my printing company for their workflow to be sure that the conversion wasn't going to bring up surprises, (and there can be some big ones sometimes)."

I think you have a fundamental misunderstanding of how it works. Whether your target is sRGB or aRGB, those two color spaces are contained inside of the ProPhoto space--sort of. If you are working within a properly managed workflow you should see little if any visual difference when converting from ProPhoto to sRGB or aRGB. If you do, then you may want to revisit how you're doing your processing.

.At the end of the day, do what works best for you. I just feel that as a best practice, hanging on to all the data your sensor captured is best.

Lee Christiansen's picture

No fundamental misunderstandings here...

The part to which you refer - I was talking about CMYK and often printing companies will apply their own profiles to suit inks / paper stock. This is an imperfect process and adds varients to the outcome - hence my need to soft proof with their profile to view the eventual outcome.

A conversion from ProPhoto to sRGB or even aRGB can have visual consequences. If we convert using a Perceptual conversion then there can be an overal natural effect but it can effect colours not outside the target gamut. Whereas Absolute Colourmetric can maintain colours but have unexpected results when outside the target gamut.

I looked up a quick link:

There is also Relative Colormetric and the less useful Saturation rendering intents. Choice between the 3 most useful intents is essential when we consider the client needs and priorities.

When we put big into small, something has to give. There are changes. We decide what those changes should be and what we can live with. We can do it at any stage of course.

And if we're softproofing a ProPhoto file, then this conversion choice has equal merit. Alas nothing is perfect and if we're revisiting images we'd need a note of which we chose to replicate our original softproofing choice. Starts to get messy sometimes - but doable.

I guess we could process our RAW files and softproof the viewing to replicate sRGB or aRGB and output as ProPhoto - with the clear instruction that every image must be converted by the client (or at very least double checked if converting to a different colourspace than we had softproofed it in) - sort of like saying "I checked it this way, I'm delivering it differently, so you need to convert it again yourself," and that would be retaining the data as you suggest... but it opens up a whole world of pain when clients don't understand or have quality monitoring to make those calls.

I find a very rare client that gets all that. Usually they want a file that works. Even when they have a graphics dept. I lose count of clients coming to me with aRGB JPEGs and saying the last photographer's images look rubbish on the web.

(See end of post for further thoughts on client delivery).

I certainly hang onto my data as much as possible. I keep all my RAW files from every job, `so that's the maximum data. If a job has clear possible multiple uses which require aRGB and sRGB then my workflow is aRGB because that is the biggest a monitor can manage and introducing a softproof stage which outputs a file that always requires conversion for any further use is fraught with issues and unhappy clients.

My clients need simple files that work. Most clients do.

If my client intends useage only for the web, (which I'll know because they might pay a licence for that specific use), then I will deliver as sRGB rather than deliver as aRGB and explain they need to reconvert. ("Why can't you just do that" they'll say...) And if that is the only use, most likely I'll output from C-1 as sRGB to Photoshop, (and set up C-1 to view as sRGB). This way I can be sure my retouching efforts which may also include saturation adjustments and colour adjustments, are looking good with the intended target colourspace.

If my client requires other uses, and understands the difference between aRGB and sRGB, then I'll happily deliver in aRGB and my overall workflow supports that.

What I won't do (unless specifically instructed), is to softproof in aRGB but output in ProPhoto with the expectation the client will know what to do with that file and the client knows never to output that file to web or a printer natively.

And what I would never do, (no matter waht the cleint instructs) is to have a ProPhoto workflow throughout and output as ProPhoto or merely output to lesser at the very last stage - because none of us are blessed with monitors that can cope.

If we're after untimate file size and quality, and we're assuming the end client wants a huge gamut range so they can bash our images around, why are we not just giving them DNG files and they can convert those for print.... ha.

I'm guessing you are suggesting to softproof as aRGB or sRGB method, whilst maintaining file colourspace all the way through to output... still softproofing whilst working on a ProPhoto image whilst retouching in Photoshop. Yes that can work... But it does seem that some might want to pass that ProPhoto file on to the client with the expectation of the client / printer taking final responsibility of colour management / conversion.

In that case, that workflow with potential client issues who simply don't get it, make me shudder...

Many end clients don't understand colour management, and our instuctions can easily not get passed on. (I deal with a lot of production houses and PR agencies and they often don't even know what a TIFF file is).

Let's face it, many clients ask for JPEG delivery because of file size and speed, and none of us are going to squeeze ProPhoto into an 8-bit compressed image.

For me, I need to deliver an end result. It is what my clients pay me for. There are other stages and methods which I understand fully - but do my clients?

if we're talking about an internal workflow then we can work with as big a gamut as we like and softproof to our heart's content. All good. But we should ascertain whether we're talking about delivering to the client as ProPhoto. This may be where the conversation has gone off the rails with misunderstandings.

Davor Ergo's picture

If I know the image I work on is going to be used mostly for web and maybe some smaller prints, my monitor can display 70% of aRGB a has a bit depth of 6-bit, is it ok to set up Lightroom external editing for aRGB 8-bit? After reading all these comments I think it is. What do you think?

Davor Ergo's picture

Great comments here. I think I got it now. Edit in ProPhoto RGB, proof for the color space you need to export in and correct color in proof if needed.

Iain Stanley's picture

that's pretty much my workflow

Daniel Medley's picture

Exactly right.

barry cash's picture

Very good article more people should heed this advise, but most shooters that use jpeg either can't PP or they just deliver down and dirty images to clients. Its easy to let the camera process the files and then with a minor tweaking you grade them with the same brightness and your done. I find both ways acceptable depending as you say what your client is paying for and what they expect. I only shoot RAW no matter what!

Iain Stanley's picture

the irony is that when so many people shoot in jpeg and export straight out of the camera, they then boast that they don't ruin their images by processing in post...go figure.....

Lee Christiansen's picture

So many comments here, I feel that misunderstandings have arisen over workflow and what is delivered or what clients / printing houses should expect. The joys of forums are that we assume others know what we're refering to when we talk of "working" in a format / colourpsace without extra clarification

My take, in no particular order:

If we're talking about an internal workflow then we can work with as big a gamut as we like & softproof to our heart's content - as long as it is within our monitor's capabilites. We've got to see what we are doing.

RAW processors (LR / C-1 etc) can be set to softproof to our intended output. If we don't set that, we're going to get surprises when we open up in Photoshop or when our clients get a file which is not ProPhoto.

There is more than one conversion process - each with pros and cons. Some better aesthetically, some better technically. When we're softproofing or converting, we're often squeezing big into small and this has visual consequences.

Delivery to clients needs to be appropriate to their needs. ProPhoto is lovely but far exceeds printing capabilities or web use. ProPhoto in this respect is probably a disaster waiting to happen. aRGB and sRGB are the spaces to choose for client / printer delivery.

Printers may be able to handle aRGB, but can the paper stock? There are unfortunate limitations in all our endevours. I know I've been caught out.

If we're converting a large gamut to a small gamut, we need to check images carefully because of potential artifacts. Different conversion methods, (Perceptual / Relative Colourmetric / Absolute Colourmetric) may have their own quirks to the end result.

If we're to process in PS with colourspaces that require softproofing, it can add a layer of extra work before delivery that is often not needed. It may also require additional notes about softproofing. It may require additional files saved for end-client use.

If I'm sending to a printer who requires CMYK, then I'll often ask for a copy of their profiles so I can softproof appropriately.

It is always a mistake to assume knowledge without knowing the person... :)

Clients don't always understand colourspace. Often as not they have no idea. Communication before a project is essential and our workflow needs to reflect this. (No point in maintaining a ProPhoto file whilst softproofing in aRGB and final conversion to sRGB if the end product will only ever be used on the Web.)

There is a potential difference between "working in ProPhoto" and "maintaining a ProPhoto file whilst softproofing in a different colourspace." (Easy to forget these details when we write - I know I do...) So we need to clarify our writing position or ask what the position is of a respondant before we scream at them.

Bigger is not always better. aRGB on an 8-bit file can bring issues, whereas sRGB on an 8-bit file maybe less. And of course some of the filters we employ in PS only allow 8-bit, (or at least some do on my vs6). Big colourspaces with little bit rates... ouch.

I bet I've missed a couple of summaries.

Daniel Medley's picture

Sadly I suspect that you actually believe the nonsense you're spouting.

You really need to revisit your understanding of this whole thing. I highly recommend that you visit Andrew Rodney's site: .

In particular, you should watch a couple of videos of his. The first one: sRGB Urban Legends Part 1:

The second one is called sRGB Legends Part 2:

Spend about half an hour watching them. They, in fairly good detail, spell out exactly why what you're saying is complete and utter nonsense.

Hopefully others in these comments that may buy into your nonsense will go to the links too.

Lee Christiansen's picture

How is it nonsense.

I say that we can retain a file in a colourspace of our choosing, and we should view that image in a softproofed space that our monitor can see. (Or are you suggesting we view in a colourspace our monitors can't actually see).

There are indeed different intents when converting colourspaces. Google is your friend.

Comments about extra files need to keep a check on workflow are common sense.

Some clients do not understand colourspace.

Your links keep refering to sRGB. I'm not hung up on sRGB - can't think why you think I am.

RAW processors do indeed allow us to softproof oir RAW files in a smaller gamut than the RAW file for convenience. I have C-1 and it has a specific menu for doing this. LR has a specific menu optionfor doing this.

aRGB or ProPhoto on an 8-bit file can bring issues if pushed hard in post. Other times it is not an issue. This is why I say "may" or "can". Sometimes it does sometimes not. But it os worthy of consideration.

None of my post stated absolutes. In contrast it outlined different options and was wiritten in part to clarify my workflow, which seems to correlate to your workflow in many way - except you seem to think I'm an sRGB junkie.

Just wondering why you're harping on about sRGB when I've already mentioned (several times) that there is merit for retaining either aRGB or even ProPhoto. My only conern is that we must always be alble to view all the colours - which is why softproofing is a benefit. (Something you said too I believe).

So you don't feel bad, I have watched your friend's videos. It's all fine, but it doesn't change my position that we should monitor with a softproof which our monitors can show if we choose to work with an image that has a colour gamut as big as ProPhoto, (or even aRGB if we've not go a great monitor). But you say this is nonsense?

The video describes colurspace differences with jugs of water. Better to describe it as volumes of gas, because we can compress gas or we can just overfill the smaller container. This would be a better analogy for conversions, but as the video says - it is just an over simpified anaolgy.

And yes, I've experienced the gamma differences between ProPhoto and sRGB, just like the video says. It is what initially prompted my reports to Adobe before I was able to start using softproofing in LR. But if we're softproofing it doesn't really matter now - because we adjust our images by eye and not by numbers. If it looks good, it is good - and if there is even more data underneath then that's greaty too. (This would be the principle of RAW processing over JPEG and ProPhoto over aRGB).

But as my "nonsense" says, we can have a file in a big gamut, but we can softproof so our monitors can see what we're working with when we output in a more useful end product to our clients. (Oops - isn't that exactly what you were saying?)

If you read my post you';ll find it a flexible approach. I merely say we can work lots of different ways, but each way has a duty of care. We can't just pop up LR and edit in ProPhoto viewing space (ie the softproofing option), if our monitors can't show this. We can't export to PS and view a ProPhoto in its native colourspace if we can't see it - otherwise we're viewing blindly.

Instead I introduce the caveat that with any big colourspace (assuming our image uses that space to its fullest) we need to be able to see what we're doing. If that's nonsense then I give up. But no fear - that's why we have softproofing until our monitors catch up.

And that way we can (if we choose) have the benefits of a massive colourspace to hand if we're feeling nervous that a smaller colourspace may hinder our creative juices.

Sometimes I will edit entirely in sRGB because the workflow / end result suggests this is the best way forward, and sometime I might edit / retouch in aRGB and I'll view as aRGB. Or sometimes I will process an aRGB file with an sRGB softproof because I know that's how it will end up.

You are reading the difference between me writing sRGB and aRGB aren't you. Without my reading glasses I could make that error and you do seem to think I refer to sRGB a lot. So for clarifiaction I'm referring to either S-RGB or A-RGB (or Adobe RGB).

As to the other points I make, they're just common sense really with experience of clients, how printers have asked me to deliver etc. And just with a tiniest bit of experience. :)

Or did you not read my post correctly at all - hope not.

Daniel Medley's picture

Just a quick thought, you didn't watch the vids, did you? Or you just skimmed through? Either way, you didn't grasp what was being said.

You said: "It is a mistake to edit with a colour range where we can't see the colours we're working with and ProPhoto is too big for monitors and too big for some of our vision.

So we work in sRGB or aRGB, depending on the monitor we have."

That statement is utter rubbish.

Hopefully, others in these comments who may tempted to fall for your rubbish will check out the vids and thus know better.

Lee Christiansen's picture

Ok so you're quite determined to be rude.

In the context of what I write I'll maintian it is a mistake to work with a colour range with colours we can't see. And in that context, if we can't see them we must soft proof or choose a colour range where we can see them. I clarified this most carefully in my last post.

Earler posts from others have mentioned "working" in big colourspaces without mention of softproofing. In this context it is a mistake.

I did have to dig a long way back in this thread to find mu quote. And yes I was refering to a comment that mentioned merely working in ProPhoto. It did not reference softproofing where then the workflow could easily be phrased as "working in aRGB / sRGB but maintianing a ProPhoto file".

So because some of us refer to working with a ProPhoto file but softproofing and some of us may be talking about working in a ProPhotofile without softproofing I saught to clarify. (Particularly when you have been so keen to misrepresent my position and tell me I don't know how things work).

In this respect I clearly laid out where a bigger colour range than our monitor can show, it is a perfectly good workflow to softproof in a compatible colourspace whilst maintaining the original file in a bigger colourspace.

Again context - sometimes lost when we're just trying to shoot someone down or feel good about ourselves. I'll say it again - context. Sometimes we've got to understand not only the amswer but to which question or comment it was made.

Yes I watched the videos. The guy knows his stuff and talks slowly. But I didn't find myself disagreeing with him because I'm happy to look at things with an open mind. He didn't tell me that I can't soft proof, (which I agree with), he didn't tell me much about colourspaces that I'm not aware of.

You think I want to embed the world with sRGB when it is clear from my last post I don't. If I was so hung up on that I'd be shooting JPEG in camera.

But unless you actually read my post where I state my thoughts, and read it with an open mind - I fear you'll see past the words and just keep repeating the mantra that you are rtight and I am wrong... when in actual fact we're both saying to soft proof when working on images that hold a larger gamut than our monitors can show.

Not sure how you don't get that, or maybe you just like to be king of the hill. Our positions are largely the same although our method of discussion is not.

This started as a friendly chat with open thoughts on workflow, but it has become something else - and to others I'll say sorry for that and stand by my comments a couple of posts back.

Other readers, if they're still bothering to be here, can make up their minds.

Daniel Medley's picture

I'm not being rude, you're being obstinate. The point is that generally speaking, it's best to work in the largest color space available when editing no matter what monitor you have or your output target is.

When another poster said: "I think that it is better to edit the images using the largest color profile (ProPhoto RGB), and then to export the images using the color profiles fitting better the final use."

Your reply was: "It is a mistake to edit with a colour range where we can't see the colours we're working with and ProPhoto is too big for monitors and too big for some of our vision.

So we work in sRGB or aRGB, depending on the monitor we have.

But we should also consider the end use. How many people who work in aRGB for an sRGB use will double check each and every file after conversion to be sure things are what we expect.

I much prefer to work / edit in the colourspace for intended use and so I retouch and adjust with those limitations to squeeze the best I can within those parameters."

Which is just philosophically goofy. The reason it's goofy is pointed out in the vids I linked to.

If you choose to work in a smaller color space for whatever reason, more power to you. That's your choice, but the reasons you claimed above are simple fallacies that do a disservice by spreading misinformation.

As far as other readers, rather than take my word for it or your word for it, I would suggest that they read this: along with the comments. Pay special attention to the comments by Spenser Cox, Iliah Borg, and Andrew Rodney, and then visit this site: and watch the two videos, sRGB legends part 1 and part 2. Though the vids are heavily weighted towards issues regarding sRGB, they provide useful understanding about color spaces in general and why not working in the largest color space available is actually needlessly clipping colors. They also demonstrate actual measured delta E differences in colors that absolutely support that premise. In other words, he uses science and actual measurable metrics to support his claim.

Zoli Tarnavölgyi's picture

Nice conversations here, only one comment from me. Why the hell should I work in any other workspace in Photoshop, then ProPhoto rgb, if LR works only in ProPhoto?? (okay, Melissa rgb, as far as I know, Prophoto with kind of srgb gamma curve)
If somebody works with these two software together, I think, no sense to convert photos there-and-back. If the gamut doesn't limit the colors, only the monitor and your eyes will, and that is the best way IMHO. But don't want to cut the colors in the beginning...

Adobe rgb gamut was developped for the human eye's gamut, okay, but if so, why is ProPhoto rgb exists? :-) So... I just work in the biggest gamut I can, no limits there. At the end, I just profile my photos for the target, softproof, if needed and that's it. Not so complicated I think. :-)

Tiffany Jamison's picture

Thanks for a great article! I read it all, and most comments. I have a question. I now understand editing in the larger color spaces. I have been doing that, but no one could ever give me an answer other than "its a bigger color space" :| I am very much a "Why" person - if I was printing, and sharing to web in SRGB WHY am I shooting in ARGB? I felt I had no need to shoot and edit in ARGB if everything I ever did with the photo needed it converted to SRGB -and I was NEVER going to use and ARGB file. (maybe future use, but I didnt forsee that)

Thoughts from these comments:

Re: First experiment for this comment was essentially this: You won't see much of a difference if viewing a ProPhoto and SRGB image in PS on an SRGB monitor. (makes sense)

here is the catch(same comment string):

"On the other hand, if you perform this same experiment on a wide-gamut monitor, and your photo has enough color saturation, you might notice huge differences between the two Photoshop documents. The ProPhoto document would contain more saturated colors – those outside the sRGB space, but that your monitor can still display. The sRGB document would clip all the colors to sRGB and lose saturation in the process. "

This is what I am scared of - I have a wide gamut BenQ ARGB monitor (has 100% SRGB mode and 99% ARGB Mode,both calibrated) Sorry not on the level of ProPhoto yet, I read your comments regarding ARGB but bear with me, its all I have to work with right now and this was my "fancy thing" (stepping up from SRGB)

Back to the FEAR:

ARGB is more saturated/red skin tones on my monitor than SrGB, naturally.

*If I edit on an ARGB monitor I'm editing to look good on the ARGB monitor.  (removing red skin tones, excessive saturation, etc) But if I edit this photo to look on an ARGB, then switch to the SRGB mode, SRGB looks green and desaturated (because I took out all the red that seemed to appear in ARGB mode)

My audience and most of the average world can only see SRGB likley, so to them it likely looks dull and desaturated, correct?

Or even  "converting to sRGB" ill see a huge difference?

– the only way I see to fix this if I want to use my "fancy new, expensive, ARGB monitor mode" I would have to have an ARGB edited copy that looks good on my ARGB monitor mode, and then another copy that I have to touch up add red and saturation back in) for Web/SRGB, and most average persons monitor - or else my clients are going to be like WOW we look like hulk!- sort of like I am having to soft proof for clients/ web/rest of world.

And if I have no other use for the ARGB version, (again, not that advanced yet, forgive me) other than it looking good on MY monitor, is there a point? ( I don’t yet print in ARGB, most labs I have found request SRGB, ill start that adventure after I nail this first one down )

It sounds like, while I will edit in Adobe RGB, ( to preserve the color range in my photo and not clip them and have them be gone forever) I should keep my monitor set to SRGB so it’s a "what you see is (closely) to what you get for my SRGB printers and web viewing/client viewing) But my image still retain their color profile integrity if I want to print in ARGB later down the road.

Then I am not removing all the red that appears in my adobe RGB mode on my monitor, then it looking wonky/green to everyone else on their SRGB screens because I removed all the access red I see on my screen. Make sense? thoughts?

Thanks again for the great article, already sending it off to friends with whom I have had this same conversation.

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