Camera Color Space


Today’s Question: My camera of choice is a Canon 6D. I have the option of using sRGB or Adobe RGB [as the color space]. Which one should I use?

Tim’s Quick Answer: If you are using the RAW capture mode, either option is fine because this setting won’t actually affect the RAW capture data (more on why you might choose one over the other is included in “More Detail” below). If you’re shooting in JPEG, I would recommend considering capturing in RAW in stead. But if you need to shoot JPEG, I would generally recommend Adobe RGB (although there are situations where sRGB might make more sense).

More Detail: For RAW captures, the color space option you select in the camera doesn’t actually affect that RAW capture. That is because until the RAW capture is actually processed to create the full pixel values, the color space profile is not finalized. In other words, for a RAW capture you can change the color space when rendering a different file, such as a TIFF or JPEG image.

That said, there are reasons you might prefer one or the other of these options. In general, choosing sRGB in the camera will cause the preview image you see on the camera’s LCD display to be a little more saturated and possibly with a little more contrast. In other words, you’ll likely have a slightly more pleasing image preview.

If you choose the Adobe RGB option, the preview might not be quite as pleasing, but the histogram will also be a little more accurate. But the difference here will really be quite minimal, especially in the context of a RAW capture with greater flexibility in post-processing.

The bottom line is that either option is perfectly fine for RAW captures. For a JPEG capture, I would generally favor the Adobe RGB color space, because it is a larger color space. However, if your workflow involves the exclusive use of the sRGB color space (which is very common for wedding and portrait photographers, for example), then it certainly makes sense to employ sRGB in the camera as well. And, as noted, if you are capturing in JPEG, you might consider whether the RAW capture option might provide meaningful benefits to your workflow.