Equipment, Software & Technique

Color Profiles Revisited

September 27, 2012

I just got back from a workshop where the topic of Color Profiles came up and light bulb went off in my brain. Maybe that is why learning is called enlightenment.  Back to the subject of profiles; the ones I have most often have used are sRGB and Adobe RGB (1998).  At the workshop ProPhoto RGB was discussed and recommended for photographic images.

Just what is a Color Profile you may be asking.  It is a set of numbers (data) that allows you to define characteristics of how color on a device will be handled and /or the range of colors that will be displayed or printed. It is an important aspect of color management and an integral part of displaying or printing your imagery.  Below lists some of the main color profiles we use today along with information on when to use them.

sRGB is probably the most widely known and used profile with the most limited color range. It is my understanding most browser (but not all) on the internet display images in this profile. If you ever upload an image to the web without that color profile your work may look rather dull or muted.

Adobe RGB (1998) displays a wider color gamut than sRGB and is often the industry standard for printers and displays.  This is the profile I have historically assigned to my images.

ProPhoto RGB color space was originally developed by Kodak and also known as ROMM RGB.  It offers a very large gamut of color range and capable of capturing more detail especially in saturated colors. It does have its drawbacks though and appropriate for use on 16 bit files only. It is not recommended for 8 bit images.

My workflow is to capture in RAW, where no color profile is assigned yet. I process using Adobe Bridge and in ACR will be now assigning ProPhoto RGB during that process. Prior to printing, I will be converting to Adobe RGB and prior to uploading anything to the web I will be converting to sRGB. The theory it is best to capture and store the widest color possible, especially with the rapid development in technology. This way you have the data for the future when the technology is here.

Thanks for reading and check out my work at


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