Pointless fussing over colour space and invisible colours is pretty much The Emperor’s New Clothes brought to life for a modern age. Intermediate photographers are easily sucked into believing mixing colour spaces would make a significant difference to their photography. The sexy names of those alternative colour spaces, AdobeRGB and ProPhoto RGB, make for a charming mystique.
Chasing invisible colours can afflict years of their creative lives, cost them many thousands of euros and leave them with worse images (the toll of constant conversion and mixed colour spaces). I’d hate to see that happen to more victims or to see PhotoLab kneecapped to chase unicorns. To effectively process wide gamut colours one must be able to see those colours.
As our interesting conversation revealed, PhotoLab makes it very easy to pursue a pure workflow from acquisition in either sRGB or AdobeRGB. As my monitors calibrate to 100% sRGB and just 80% AdobeRGB (and due to bad experiences in the past with mixing colour spaces), I stick to sRGB. The workflow is even purer with AdobeRGB. Acquisition, RAW development, output can all be in AdobeRGB. Curiously, specifying AdobeRGB in your camera as the acquisition colour space does not result in capturing any more data as the RAW data is the same and PhotoLab and other good RAW development tools ignore the attached profile when handling that RAW data and convert the RAW data with their own profile for that specific camera.
@tilltheendofeternity wrote a couple of years ago about his experience with PhotoLab and colour space and soft proofing:
For me PL2 is a start point as it produces the best RAW development of any app. After that I send the image to either NIK plugins, Luminar or Affinity for further work
I have a hardware calibrated monitor (100% sRGB, 98% Adobe) and the print company is use for prints specify all files to be sRGB. I soft proof using Affinity and the icc profiles supplied by the print company for the papers they use. So far, it all works fine as a process.
I would much rather have luminosity masking as that has the potential to impact every image that I work on. Soft proofing only matters when I physically print which isn’t that often.
Affinity Photo is just €50/$50 and it’s cross-platform. Anyone who wants soft proofing for printing literally can acquire such a tool (along with a first rate bitmap editor to replace Photoshop including HDR and panorama tools) for less than the price of an update.
There is a persuasive argument to be made on paper that the working colour space for PhotoLab should be ProPhoto RGB:
When you post-process a photo, you have to choose which working space you’re in. This is the color space your post-processing software restricts you to use; no edit you make can lead to a color found outside your chosen working space. In general, it is ideal that your working space is ProPhoto RGB when you edit a RAW photo. That’s because RAW photos often contain colors outside of both sRGB and Adobe RGB color spaces, especially in high-saturation shadow regions.
Two years ago @Wolfgang from DxO made a call for some real world example images where the AdobeRGB working colour space affected final output:
Indeed, it is currently impossible to get colors out of PhotoLab that are not contained in AdobeRGB. We are aware that this is a limitation, but frankly, there are not many colors in nature that do not fit inside AdobeRGB. If you encounter images that contain colors outside AdobeRGB, please share them so that we can raise the priority of this topic.
There was relative silence on this topic (one post referenced a theoretical gamut chart with no images). I would suggest anyone who wishes to martial support for changing the handling of colour spaces in PhotoLab come with some real world images which suffered from being processed in AdobeRGB and then printed (downloadable printable files please; screen tests won’t really do as almost no one will be able to see the invisible colours when converted to working monitor space).
Wolf made the case against exporting in ProPhoto RGB:
Technically, you can choose any ICC color profile for export, including ProPhotoRGB. But as you say, doing so does not make much sense. The ProPhotoRGB export will only contain colors that already existed in AdobeRGB.
– I use this ICC color profile feature when preparing images for a printing service that provides ICC profiles (e.g. Picto).
– For post-processing the image in a 3rd party image editor (e.g. Affinity Photo, Adobe Photoshop), I recommend to stick to AdobeRGB as it contains all information that is available in PhotoLab and avoids additional conversions.
Of course if PhotoLab’s working space were ProPhoto RGB, that would be the right space in which to export.
Colour spaces are an arms race:
- sRGB is 35.9% of visible CIELAB
- AdobeRGB is 52.1% of visible CIELAB
- Wide-gamut Adobe RGB is 77.6% of visible CIELAB
ProPhoto RGB (Kodak) is 90% of visible CIELAB1
If DxO were to change their working colour space every time an improved colour space became fashionable, there would be far more issues with correct colour processing (gamut mismatches are awful) and no real world improvement. It’s possible the world has caught up to the point (advanced colour spaces are highly dependent on monitors on which to see that space and make the adjustments and pro printers able to print those colours), it would make sense to make the working space in PhotoLab ProPhoto RGB.
Before voting for such a time-consuming and significant change, I’d like to see something more than theoretical gamut charts.
Until then, if you can’t see it, you can’t correct it.
- Does anyone else find it poetically ironic that Kodak’s last significant contribution to industry science before declaring bankruptcy was revealing the perfect colour space?