Will Editing in Pro Photo Color Space Screw Me Up? My Monitor Is Standard Gamut.


TPF Noob!
Jul 4, 2008
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Will editing a photo in the Pro Photo RGB (or Adobe 1998 RGB for that matter) color spaces screw me up? I have standard gamut (sRGB) monitors.

Some people have wide-gamut monitors that are able to show all, or almost all the colors in the Adobe 1998 color space. But even those monitors won't show certain colors that are reputedly visible in the Pro Photo space.

Reputedly again: many, if not most, photos, don't even have these "extended", if you will, colors in them. Apparently,these colors don't appear in the natural world very often. But if you happen to come across some scene that includes these intense colors and you take a digital photo of it: how do you know what your working with if you can't see it?

Suppose you typically edit virtually all your photos intended for viewing--tweaking, at the very least, the exposure, contrast, saturation, vibrance and sharpness, on each one; and often editing more. How do you know what your really doing if your working in a color space that has colors you can't see?

And suppose you want to make a print. How do you know what is going to come out on that print? If your photo has colors your monitor isn't showing you, is that going to make it harder to make a nice print?

I am using standard gamut monitors (with IPS screens), color calibrated with a Datacolor Spyder 3 with the Elite software. These monitors are rated to be able to reproduce all or almost all the colors in an sRGB colorspace, but no more. Reputedly, there are some colors that are visible to the human eye, that are not visible in the sRGB colorspace, but are in Adobe1998. And there are reputedly even more in the so-called Pro Photo color space. My monitors cannot reproduce these colors.

I currently use Adobe Lightroom 3 for most of my photo-editing, but will likely be upgrading to Lightroom 5 when it comes out soon. I just acquired Photoshop CS6. I use a variety of Topaz plugins, Hugin (for panoramas), and Portrait Professional. I just acquired a Canon Pixma 9000 Mark II printer, but I haven't printed anything yet--either on that, or any other color printer. I have no idea what color space the printer can print in.

You're using LR 3 and plan to upgrade to LR 5. That means you've been doing your editing in the ProPhoto color space and will be forced to continue editing in the ProPhoto color space. Adobe/LR isn't going to give you a choice.

You're right that your monitor can't physically display the gamut of the ProPhoto color space, nobody's can. What you're doing is typical of what most of us are doing and it's what I'm doing.

As you edit a photo you're involved in a process of reduction. I don't know your exact workflow, but since you're asking these questions I'm going to assume you're starting with camera raw files. Those raw files contain a lot of data. It's more data than you can ultimately fit on a print from you Canon 9000 printer. So you're going to edit your photo down to the printer. In that process you want to avoid manipulating your data in ways that will cause visible harm. Think of any editing change you make as double edged; the photo is improved and damage is done. Think of sharpening for example -- sharpening algorithms make a photo look better and at the same time add noise. We make the change because the benefit outweighs the harm. Editing is a balancing act to get the best result while doing the least harm.

In a restricted color space or reduced bit depth the harmful side of that editing sword ramps way up. When the editing is finished we proceed with the reduction which is itself part of the editing process and we have to monitor that as well. That's why LR and Photoshop will soft-proof conversions between color spaces. I know it sounds really odd to think you're editing your photo in a color space that you can't really see. You're doing that to suppress any possible harmful effects that result from your edits. One of the edits that you have to ultimately do is convert down to your output color space. In that final process it's possible that your photo can change subtly. You're managing the entire process to bring your photo into a final hard print reality. At that point the color space you have to work with is really the color space of the printer inks.

Part of the solution is soft proofing. Soft Proofing: Matching On-Screen Photos with Prints
(Photoshop will do it, Lightroom but only version 4 & 5)

Basically, you get/create a profile for your printer/ink/paper and then use the software to estimate what the print will look like. More importantly, it can tell you if any of your colors are out of gamut, and it gives you an out-of-gamut warning...similar to the highlight warning.
Basically, you get/create a profile for your printer/ink/paper and then use the software to estimate what the print will look like. More importantly, it can tell you if any of your colors are out of gamut, and it gives you an out-of-gamut warning...similar to the highlight warning.

I'd go as far as to leave soft proofing on the whole time you edit provided that you know what color space you'll be outputting to.

If soft proofing in anything other than sRGB, when you are ready to upload to the web, first convert to the output profile and then to sRGB. That should render the image similar to the print in additive space. Just be sure to do this, especially if the output profile is a printer, otherwise what you upload will more closely resemble the original working profile than the output profile you've used to proof. By working in a wider gamut than the output LR has more data to choose from to approximate a "next best" to what ever color you're intending.
OK. So it sounds like it's not going to be a problem--and it only has advantages. Thanks.
It won't be a problem, but only if you use an appropriate color management workflow. Otherwise it can be a problem when the working color space is a wider gamut than the output color space.

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