Which Colour Space Should You Use?

on May 19, 2015

Here's a question to fill those long lonely nights at the camera club as you sit around the flames of the blazing digital projector and reminisce about cocking a shutter.

Which digital colour space do you need? The old days ( Elvis, dinosaurs, 50¢ hot dogs...) were easy because you got the colour space the manufacturer handed you and were darned grateful for it. If you loaded Kodachrome you got Hollywood colour and paid a premium - if you shot Afga you got European art colour and watched it turn magenta - and if you purchased Ferrania you wondered where the strange smell was coming from.

Now we are generally given the choice of Adobe RGB or sRGB in our camera menu. The first for printing, the second for computer display, is the general tenor of the advice. Follow it if you like, but we earnestly suggest you investigate other alternatives:

1. FinalYEARstudentRGB

This is a colour space that is so dark and grungy that it feels like reading Kafka on a wet night in Pittsburg. The white portion of the spectrum never gets above the luminance level of a boarding house sheet at the end of the month.

2. CAMeraclubRGB

On the other end of the scale is this colour space that constantly bangs the saturation meter needle off the stops like a machine gun. You wondered why the digital projector started smoking? This is the reason. It comes pre-loaded with a sharpening algorithm that actually hurts the eyes to see.

3. Ilford CIBA RGB

This was first announced in the 1956 British Workingman's Socialist Camera Society Annual and will be ready for final release in about 4 months. From Pentonville.

4. FlapoRGB

Distinctive to the Flapoflex range of cameras, this colour space will not work with anything else. If you offend the clerk who sells it to you, it will not work at all. Mind your tongue.

5. soBRG

The sort of colour space that does everything backwards just to spite you. Slide the controls at your peril.

6. WellnessRGB

As a complete contrast, this is a kind and gentle colour space that lends itself to pastels, soft flowers and fluffy kittens. Actually it has no contrast at all - everything looks as if it was shot through waxed paper. A soothing choice if you can stay awake.

7. The New Colour Space

This is the setting that appears on your camera menu a month after you have set up all the criteria and just started to get used to it. It appears overnight with no indication of what it does - the David Carradine of computer programs. If you select it, it will disappear from the menu again.

There, that was easy. Now we can get on to calibrating your memory card for the northern or southern hemisphere. Complete instructions in the next blog post.