Adobe RGB vs sRGB: Explaining It in the Simplest Terms to Photographers

Adobe RGB vs sRGB: what is the difference and what should photographers know?

Fact: most cameras are automatically set to the sRGB color mode straight out of the box. This applies to JPEG images as said cameras are also typically set to shoot JPEGs when taken right out of the box. But the Adobe RGB color mode is arguably more important. In the most common vernacular, the sRGB color standard is what has applied to the web for many years. It’s a certain number of colors, and for those years most monitors only rendered within this color space. As time progressed, monitors have become better and so too has the web. This has resulted in more tests being done to accommodate to the Adobe RGB color space, which is much larger than the sRGB color space. For practicality, unless you’re willing to stop worrying about dynamic range and high ISO output, you’re probably not going to care about the Adobe RGB space and the sRGB space.

To explain this in layman’s terms, you should equate sRGB to the web and Adobe RGB to print. While screens are improving, printers and the paper they print on are capable of rendering more colors than screens can, even today. When you shoot a JPEG, the information gets saved as either Adobe RGB or sRGB, depending on what you choose. The RAW file will always have all the information, so liken it more to Adobe RGB, at least in what is refered to in this article. Since the Adobe RGB color space is significantly more vast than the sRGB color space, editing a file by color channel becomes much more versatile. This means you don’t need to edit the contrast and exposure channels as much. Instead, you can just mess with color channels.

Once again though, all of that applies to RAW images. So why would you care otherwise?

  • If the phone you’re beaming images to from your camera is accepting JPEG files and you’re editing JPEGs on your phone. Most phones these days cover a large area of the Adobe RGB spectrum
  • If you’re making a print directly from a JPEG.
  • If you’re exporting your image from a RAW for a print or for it to render the highest quality colors.

There are more reasons, but truthfully, this is all most photographers will care about.