The Color Purple

Or is it?  In my last post I spoke a little about getting the colors correct when photographing architecture.  Color and more specifically color space can be a bit confusing and a bit daunting when trying to get things right.  As a photographer or artist I’m sure we’ve all experienced printing our final product only to find that the colors are, well, just not quite right.  Then going through and making corrections and reprinting and repeating until we either run out of paper or ink.  This is where color calibration and color space all come together. Let’s talk a bit about the different color spaces we deal with in today’s digital world.  As a photographer or artist in the modern world we must be aware of the different color spaces and their appropriate application.  For starters we have RGB, sRGB and CMYK.  Typically your monitor and printer work in the world of RGB (Usually Adobe RGB 1998.  But there is the slightly wider gamut Pro Photo RGB that a lot of photographers including myself like to work in.) sRGB is the gamut used on the web and is more limited than ProPhoto or RGB.  Some online printers use this as their colorspace of choice. (When using an online printing service it’s important to find out what color space they require your image to be in for accurate reproduction.)  It is very important that if you’re going to be displaying your images on the web that you use this color space.  Otherwise you are going to be very disappointed in the results.  Here’s a chart showing a comparison of the color spaces.

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You can see that ProPhoto gives us the widest gamut and CMYK (used for offset printing) gives us the smallest.  While the chart shows differences in the gamut, it can not show what happens say when you take an image that is in sRGB and try printing that on your RGB color space inkjet printer.   The system will, depending on your settings, try it’s best to match the colors that are outside the gamut and interpolate to the closest match it can find within the gamut of the device.  Other things happen though.  Saturation changes, distinct color shifts occur and contrast can be affected as well.  Making for a print that is nothing close to what we see on our monitor.  When working on delivering an image it is important that you either work in the that particular color space or do a comparison.  In Photoshop you can do this by going to View, then Proof Setup and selecting your destination color space.  Once you’ve done that you will see the shift that the delivery color space will cause.  You can set this up so that anything out of gamut will give you a warning directly on the image.  Meaning that the system will interpolate that color.  From there you can make the necessary corrections so that your image will render properly.  Or at least a version that you can live with.  Hope this helps a little.

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