top of page

sRGB vs Adobe RGB vs ProPhoto RGB

Color spaces are essential in photography; they apply in some way to every photo you take. The most well-known color spaces are sRGB, Adobe RGB, and ProPhoto RGB. But what makes them so important? Beware: There’s a lot of misinformation about this topic online. Outdated and inaccurate recommendations abound – but so does a lot of valuable information, if you’re willing to learn it. This article introduces sRGB, Adobe RGB, and ProPhoto RGB, and when to use each one.

I’ll preface this article, like most technical articles I write, by saying that this is a complex subject! You might want to dig down and read it a couple times to fully internalize how everything works. I did my best to write it all in plain English, as well as define complex terms in context, so hopefully it’s still easy to understand. You’re also free to ask questions in the comments section at the end, and I’m happy to help clarify anything you’re still wondering about.

1. What Are sRGB, Adobe RGB, and ProPhoto RGB?

sRGB, Adobe RGB, and ProPhoto RGB are three of the most commonly used color spaces in photography.

“Color spaces” is not some fancy term meant to confuse or bewilder. It just means a set of colors – a container, almost. If you have two paints (say, red and blue) plus a white canvas, your entire color space is just the colors you can make by mixing the two paints. And yes, that includes painting more lightly to let some of the white canvas shine through.

A good way to envision color spaces is to look at a set of all the colors people can see. (If no one can see it, it’s not a “color” anyway – colors are subjective like that.) You may have seen an illustration like this before: