Which one do I use?
This is a question posed to us here at Art Warehouse daily. I will try and keep the technical mumbo-jumbo to minimum. But here goes…
First, lets define the two color spaces. (These definitions come from PCMag.com – links are provided after each so you can double-check me)
1. sRGB – A color space defined by HP and Microsoft for displaying images on the Internet. Based on the video capture profile in the broadcast TV standard (see ITU-R BT.601), many devices, including scanners and digital cameras, default to using sRGB. It was developed in the mid-1990s to provide a consistent color model for CRTs without the overhead of embedding an ICC color profile in the image. sRGB and Apple RGB are close in color gamut, but both have a much smaller gamut than Adobe RGB, which is closer to the range of color printers.(http://www.pcmag.com/encyclopedia/term/51922/srgb)
2. AdobeRGB – A color space defined by Adobe in 1998 that enables images edited in RGB to translate accurately to most color printers (CMYK printers). The Adobe RGB color model has a much greater color gamut than sRGB and Apple RGB, but not as large as CIE Lab. (http://www.pcmag.com/encyclopedia/term/59684/adobe-rgb)
Alright, definitions out of the way. Which one is better you ask…
To better understand which one to use, you must first understand the difference between the two. AdobeRGB, by its design is better, as it represents a wider range of colors. How much better? Typical comparisons reveal that AdobeRGB is able to represent about 35% more color range than sRGB. But does that make it the best for photography? Not exactly, as the world works with sRGB far more than it does with AdobeRGB. sRGB was developed first, and almost everything on a computer is built around sRGB. The internet, video games, applications, personal devices, and most everything else uses sRGB as the standard for color space. Even the monitor you’re using cannot display all the colors of AdobeRGB. That’s right, most consumer-grade computer monitors can only display about 97% of the sRGB color space, and only about 76% of the AdobeRGB color space. Professional-grade monitors are even limited slightly in that they can typically only display 98% of the AdobeRGB color space. These are very expensive too.
Since most web browsers use sRGB as its color space, if you upload an image to the internet with the AdobeRGB color-space gamut, the browser will convert it to sRGB, and it’ll do a terrible job during the conversion. If you shoot in AdobeRGB, and let the web convert your photos, the result will be dull, muted tones. So why not shoot in sRGB full time? You absolutely can. However, if you’re printing your work, you’re losing potential colors in your images by shooting sRGB.
Printers, have began adapting the AdobeRGB color space. This allows for more vibrant colors in your prints, with better color consistency that your own monitor cannot even replicate. But do you want your prints to look differently than they do on your monitor? We say yes, as it provides richer colors that bring out details that would otherwise go unseen.
When shooting in AdobeRGB, you’re able to convert it to sRGB at any time, without any loss of color in your images. However, this is a one way street, as sRGB is unable to accurately convert back to AdobeRGB.
If you’re not printing your images often, sRGB is the choice of color space for you. It’ll be the surefire way to guarantee that your photos look great on the web, and still look accurate in print. However, if you’re often printing your work, and looking for vibrant colors, AdobeRGB is the choice for you, it just adds a few steps to your workflow process, as you’ll need to save them as sRGB to correctly display them on the web.
Hope this helps clarify some of the mystery surrounding the two color spaces and which one to use. If you have any comments, leave them below, we are always glad to help answer questions, and sometimes your comments will help someone else.