I'm going to share a big "Ooops" thing that I did that has resulted in a huge headache for me in hopes that it helps you to not make the same "oops" mistake.

About 8-10 months ago, I switched my RAW processing from the Adobe RGB color space to the ProPhoto RGB color space. Huh? What the heck is Kate talking about?

In both Lightroom and Photoshop, when you process a RAW photo, you are working in one of several Color Spaces. A color space is simply the range of colors that your camera can capture, your computer monitors can display, and a printer can print. I am seriously NOT going to get into the technical mumbo jumbo of color spaces. There are hundreds of blog posts and web sites devoted to the science of color spaces and that's not what I'm concerned with. What I'm concerned with, is when my choice of color space affects how my images are seen and printed. That's what it all boils down to isn't it? I feel similarly about a camera's sensor...I know that it's important to protect it, keep it clean, bigger is typically better, and it produces my images in digital form. Other than that, I really don't need to know the science of it. 

I want to show you some images that tipped me off that I was having a problem with my color. These are screen shots from my iPad. Now remember...things look different on your mobile devices than on your computer right?! So, months ago, I just figured it was the iPad...and nothing I did wrong. Well, I did do something wrong. This is a screen shot on my iPad of my business web site's home page. It may not look bad to you...but to me...who spent money on a trip, time away from my family, excessive time in front of the computer to process these photos, and a ridiculous amount of time to set up my web site, they're HORRIBLE! Major disappointment. 

This is what the image looks like after I fixed the problem and reloaded the images on my web site. It's another screen shot of my web site's home page taken on my iPad. Look at the sky, the color in the trees, the vibrance, contrast, saturation, and depth.

Here's an image from one of my workshop pages before I realized there was a problem. Again, you may not think anything of it, but when compared to what I was "expecting" to see on my web site...dull and boring.

This is what it looks like after the fix.

So what's the difference between these color spaces and how do I decide which to use and when? You may have heard that there are "small" color spaces and "big" color spaces. Adobe RGB is "bigger" than RGB or sRGB (RGB standing for Red Green and Blue). Put simply, this means there are more colors available to you, more to work with while editing. Why is this good? Because it can help avoid things like banding, artifacts, noise, halos, and just plain old weird looking colors. So, with that in mind, I want to work with the "biggest" color space available to me which is ProPhoto RGB. I found a blog post on line by David Cardinal that is worth reading. This is his chart and it's easier to understand than any of the other charts out there.

You can see as you get farther away from your RAW data, the color space gets smaller and smaller. 

Here's how to find your color spaces in Camera RAW and Lightroom

At the bottom of CAMERA RAW is this blue settings link. When you click on it, this is where you choose your default color space to work in. It lists your workflow options and you can click on the drop down menu to choose your color space. This will remain the same for all of your RAW processing unless you decide to change it again.

In Lightroom the default color space is ProPhoto RGB. What this means for your workflow is that you'll want to convert your color space when exporting either to another software (Photoshop, NIK, OnOne etc...), to email, to the web etc...

When you want to work between Lightroom and Photoshop and maintain the ProPhoto space (or change it when going to Photoshop) go to Lightroom-Preferences (on a MAC)  and Edit-Preferences on a PC. Under "External Editing" you can choose which color space is chosen when moving between programs. The first one is Photoshop if you have it installed and there's another option for additional programs listed below.

When you are sending images to the web, email, social media, you'll choose the color space within the export window. Click Export and then it's listed under "File Settings" and you can use the drop down menu to choose sRGB for web and email. For printing, some printers can work in ProPhoto, some in Adobe RGB, and some only in sRGB. When printing on-line, make sure you know what color space they require otherwise your prints will not look anything like you expect. They'll be washed out and lacking in color because the printer doesn't know what to do with all those extra colors from the ProPhoto color space. If you create a preset on the left side, and later decide to change the color space for a specific purpose, you can simply export once with the new color space chosen. You can update the preset to the new color space which will make it permanent for your preset by right clicking on your preset and choosing "update current settings". 

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In Photoshop, to get to this screen, go to the top menu and click on Edit and then go nearly to the bottom of the list and choose "Convert To Profile" and pick "working RGB-sRGB" for web and email.

So what was it that I did wrong? I finalize my images in Photoshop and I have actions that size images for particular uses. I changed a bunch of my sizing actions this year. I "know" that I'm supposed to use sRGB when displaying on the web. However, when I changed my actions, I forgot the step "Convert To Profile" and all the resulting images were saved in the ProPhoto color space. Images I had uploaded to my Facebook page, my web site, Fine Art America. UGH! I have to delete each and every one of those and replace them with images with the correct color space to be displayed properly. More and more people are viewing our web sites and social media pages on mobile devices every day. It's a part of our lives now and we need to make sure we're changing with the times. I work on a calibrated monitor and while I can not control exactly how my images are being displayed on other people's monitors (everybody's is slightly different) or mobile devices, I will make it a part of my workflow to produce the best possible image that I can. If you take pride in your images, you'll want to do the same. I certainly don't want to "push" ProPhoto on you, you can use whatever color space suits your needs, I just wanted to make folks aware that if they choose a color space as their working color space, that they may want to make changes before posting on the web or printing. Every output has an ideal color space. Best of light...and color...to you all!