Choose the color space for my files

  • Updated

We recommend using the sRGB color space since our print labs use it, but your photos can be in any color space you choose and we'll preserve your chosen color profile. However, you'll want to test how your photos appear on different operating systems and browsers to ensure your visitors see your photos the way you want. We also recommend ordering a few test prints if you're using a color space other than sRGB so you can fine-tune your process to help your photos look their best in print.

Isn't Adobe bigger?

JPEG files are 8-bit, which means you get 256 reds, 256 blues, and 256 greens whether you use Adobe '98 or sRGB.

However, Adobe '98 is broader, meaning it spreads its crayons across a broader range of colors by making the jump between each color more coarse.

You get finer increments of skin tone by using sRGB, for example. But the pure cyan in HP's original logo can only be accurately represented by Adobe '98; whereas, in sRGB, you'd have to pick a substitute color.

What's best for printing?

That depends on both the photo and the printer.

The printers in most commercial labs, such as WHCC (one of our labs), Bay Photo (one of our labs), Mpix, Shutterfly, Kodak, Fujifilm, Photobox, Costco, Snapfish, Wolfe's, etc., shine light on photographic paper, similar to the way film prints are made. They have a similar color range to the sRGB color space. Most of them expect your file to be in sRGB, and, if it isn't, your prints might look washed out.

Ink-jet printers, however, spray ink on paper and can represent a broader range of color.

Most consumers judge prints by pleasing skin tones, shadow detail, and the vibrancy of photos—as opposed to the absolute accuracy of a particular green or blue.

That's why the vast majority of us look at stunning photos on the Internet and say, "Wow!"

Very few people aside from high-end color experts notice that photos displayed in web browsers are limited by how many colors they can display.

If you have a photo with colors that fall outside the sRGB range that are important to render accurately, and you have an ink-jet printer that can render them, Adobe '98 is a better choice than sRGB (and ProPhoto is even better). We support each of these color profiles, so feel free to upload any of them to your SmugMug site and we'll preserve your choice.

Adobe '98 is also better if you have a commercial client, such as a magazine, that requests photos in Adobe '98.

But for most photos of people printed at commercial printers, sRGB is a great choice.

What's the best workflow?

Your camera captures images in RAW. Many high-end cameras give you the choice of converting, in camera, to Adobe RGB or sRGB before saving on a memory card. Sometimes the best workflow is to save your photos in Adobe RGB, because it preserves the most colors, and then convert to sRGB for the Internet.

The problem with that is you get the disadvantages of both color spaces with the advantages of neither.

If sRGB covers the colors of your shots (as it does for weddings, portraits, and most event photography) and your shots are destined for the Internet and commercial printers, we recommend they not pass through Adobe RGB first.

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