In Camera Colour Management

I really cannot justify moving on here until I have had a quick look at ‘In Camera Colour Management’.  In all of the articles and chapters I have read on Workflow, the same workflow point keeps arising and that is colour management and the calibration of your digital equipment’s colour output.

We will be looking at colour management in much more detail over the coming weeks, especially as I move onto using RAW as my primary image capturing medium, but I want to make sure that my camera is set up correctly so I have been researching (again).

Freeman (2011, p.62) states that:

Maintaining colour accuracy – in other words, colour management – is an important issue for digital capture.  There are two sides to colour management.  One is linking the different ways in which the several devices in the workflow reproduce colour, from camera to monitor to printer.  The other is staying faithful to the colours of the subject.

Fundamentally, colour management is the way your digital devices handle and render colour, and how these ‘descriptions’ are communicated.  These communications conform to the standards of the ICC (The International Colour Consortium), and are commonly know as profiles.  Every piece of digital equipment we use within our digital workflow should have its own profile.

Not going into the techie bit just yet, but in order to be faithful to the colours in our photos, and to have absolute accuracy in our photographic interpretation, we should synchronize our equipment in order to produce the best work we can.

Literature suggests that part one of this puzzle is choosing the correct colour space recorded by your camera; colour space is the term used to describe colour values, and the range of colours that are capable of being recorded or displayed. (n.b. a gamut is often used to describe the range of colours available in photography, and translated, gamut means “the range of colors that can be reproduced by a particular printing process, display device, or set of paints”, so now we know).

Somewhere, embedded in your camera’s menu is a setting enabling you to change the colour space used when taking photos.  Typically, but depending on the camera you use, there will be at least two choices, either sRGB or AdobeRGB, my Nikon only gives me these two choices.  (n.b. colour spaces, such as those mentioned above are the theory behind colour management, and colour modes, such as RGB, CMYK, HSB and Lab are the practices behind colour management, but more about that at a later date).

Adobe RGB (1998) comprises a fairly large gamut, and historically the most commonly recommended space for photography.  Good for images that will later be converted in prepress to CMYK for printing (as most professional photographs are).

sRGB IEC61966-2.1 stands for Standard RBG, but is smaller than Adobe RGB (1998) and so not recommended for professional photography that will be used for prepress.  Its advantage is that it matches the average PC monitor, and is standard for low-end printers and scanners.

Freeman (2011, p.174)

Everything I have read suggests that using AdobeRGB is the best choice of colour mode setting in camera, as it has a wider gamut than sRGB, therefore allowing your camera to capture more colours from within your scene and allowing more choices within your post-processing workflow.

Checking my settings, I have been using sRGB as my preferred colour mode, so I have changed to AdobeRGB to see if I could find a difference in my work.  Now I have only taken one shot and I really can’t see a difference between the two, although these are JPEG representations, so that might be the reason why and perhaps I should conduct the same experiment when I start using RAW …

sRGB IEC61966-2.1

sRGB IEC61966-2.1

Adobe RGB (1998)

Adobe RGB (1998)

Of course, getting these settings right in the camera is not so vital if you shoot in RAW and all of your data is kept separately in RAW format, as everything can be adjusted at a later date, but if you want to shoot the best pictures you can, without too much post-processing, then getting your colour management right across all digital mediums is a must.



Freeman, M.  (2011) The Digital SLR Handbook.  Revised 3rd Edition.  East Sussex: The Ilex Press Limited.


Freeman, M.  (2011) The Digital SLR Handbook.  Revised 3rd Edition.  East Sussex: The Ilex Press Limited.

Langford, M., et al.  (2008) Langford’s Advanced Photography.  7th Edition.  Oxford: London.

Steinmueller, U., Gulbins, J.  (2010) The Digital Photography Workflow Handbook – From Import to Output.  Heidelberg: Steinmueller Photo.

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