A student asks:
Q: What is the best color space to use with Lightroom and CS4? ProPhoto RBG or AdobeRGB(1998)
A: Best for What?
This is one of those “what’s the best car” questions… the answer can be “Ferrari” or “used Chevy” depending on the intended use. The answer, therefore, depends a lot on what you’re doing with the images… what happens to them at “output.”
It basically has to do with “Gamut” or… the amount of color a given working space can hold, and how the gamut of the working space coincides with the gamut of the printer that’s being used.
ProPhoto RBG is a *very* large-gamut color space. It can hold (or “display” or “show”) a lot of colors; more than Adobe RGB (1998).
Adobe RGB (1998) is a relatively large-gamut color space. It can hold a fairly large number of colors; fewer than ProPhoto RGB.
When you compare the gamuts of these two color spaces to the gamut of a printer/paper combination, you’ll find two interesting things:
- ProPhoto RGB holds LOTS more colors than the printer can print, but every color that it holds is a color that we can print.
- Adobe RGB holds *most* of the colors that the printer can print, but it does not hold every color that the printer can print.
In other words, ProPhoto RGB displays a huge number of colors that the printer can’t print but, as long as you’re using the “soft proofing” (getting a preview of colors that will be printed on screen) mechanism built into Photoshop (using the “View> Proof Setup…” menu item), then you’re fine. Note that soft proofing is NOT available in Lightroom (not even in the Lightroom 3 beta). In order to get a soft proof, you have to open the image in Photoshop.
So, as long as you use “soft proofing,” it’s OK to use ProPhoto RBG. If you don’t, you’re likely to be *very* disappointed with the colors you can see on your monitor, but can’t print.
If you usually don’t use “soft proofing,” then it may be better to use Adobe RGB (1998), as it displays fewer colors you can’t print (but also displays some colors that you can see but the printer can’t print).
Below are some graphics that show the gamuts of the two working spaces superimposed on the gamut of an inkjet printer (an Epson 4800 with Premium Lustre paper). The working space gamuts (Adobe and ProPhoto) are shown in gray wireframe and the printer space is shown in color. You can see how there are some of the printer colors that “stick out” of the Adobe RGB (1998) space and how ProPhoto RGB envelopes the whole printer space.
**Apple’s Aperture offers soft proofing for output, so you’re not forced to go to Photoshop to get your soft proof.