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Setting Up Color Space in Adobe Photoshop CS5

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In this excerpt from The Adobe Photoshop CS5 Book for Digital Photographers, Scott Kelby you how and why to either change your color space to Adobe RGB (1998) if you’re shooting in JPEG or TIFF, which is better for printing those images, or ProPhoto RGB if you shoot in RAW or work with Photohsop Lightroom.

Photoshop’s default color space is sRGB (some pros refer to it as “stupid RGB”), which is fine for photos going on the Web, but your printer can print a wider range of colors than sRGB (particularly in the blues and greens). So, if you work in sRGB, you’re essentially leaving out those rich, vivid colors you could be seeing. That’s why we either change our color space to Adobe RGB (1998) if you’re shooting in JPEG or TIFF, which is better for printing those images, or ProPhoto RGB if you shoot in RAW or work with Photohsop Lightroom. Here’s how to set up both:

Step One:

Before we do this, I just want to reiterate that you only want to make this change if your final print will be output to your own color inkjet. If you’re sending your images out to an outside lab for prints, you should probably stay in sRGB—both in the camera and in Photoshop—as most labs are set up to handle sRGB files. Your best bet: ask your lab which color space they prefer. Okay, now on to Photoshop: go under the Edit menu and choose Color Settings (as shown here).

Step Two:

This brings up the Color Settings dialog. By default, it uses a group of settings called “North America General Purpose 2.” Now, does anything about the phrase “General Purpose” sound like it would be a good space for pro photographers? Didn’t think so. The tip-off is that under Working Spaces, the RGB space is set to sRGB IEC61966–2.1 (which is the longhand technical name for what we simply call sRGB). In short, you don’t want to use this group of settings. They’re for goobers—not for you (unless of course, you are a goober, which I doubt because you bought this book, and they don’t sell this book to goobers. It’s in each book-store’s contract).

Step Three:

To get a preset group of settings that’s better for photographers, from the Settings pop-up menu, choose North America Prepress 2. Don’t let it throw you that we’re using prepress settings here—they work great for color inkjet printing because it uses the Adobe RGB (1998) color space. It also sets up the appropriate warning dialogs to help you keep your color management plan in action when opening photos from outside sources or other cameras (more on this on the next page).

Step Four:

If you’re shooting in RAW exclusively, or using Lightroom (Adobe’s awesome application for photographers), then you’ll want to change your color space in Photoshop to ProPhoto RGB to get the best prints from your RAW images (plus, if you use Lightroom, you’ll wind up moving images back and forth between Lightroom and Photoshop from time to time, and since Lightroom’s native color space is ProPhoto RGB, you’ll want to keep everything consistent. While you might use Lightroom for your JPEG or TIFF images, there’s really no advantage to choosing ProPhoto RGB for them). You change Photoshop’s Color Space to PhotoPro RGB in the Color Settings dialog (just choose it from the RGB menu, as shown here). That way, when you open a RAW photo in Photoshop (or import a file from Lightroom), everything stays in the same consistent color space and if you wind up bringing an image from Lightroom over to Photoshop, and end up printing it in Photoshop (instead of jumping back to Lightroom for printing), you’ll get better results.

Step Five:

About those warnings that help you keep your color management on track: Let’s say you open a JPEG photo, and your camera was set to shoot in Adobe RGB (1998), and your Photoshop is set the same way. The two color spaces match, so no warnings appear. But, if you open a JPEG photo you took six months ago, it will probably still be in sRGB, which doesn’t match your Photoshop working space. That’s a mismatch, so you’d get the warning dialog shown here, telling you this. Luckily it gives you the choice of how to handle it. I recommend converting that document’s colors to your current working space (as shown here).

Step Six:

You can have Photoshop do this conversion automatically anytime it finds a mismatch. Just reopen the Color Settings dialog, and under Color Management Policies, in the RGB pop-up menu, change your default setting to Convert to Working RGB (as shown here). For Profile Mismatches, turn off the Ask When Opening checkbox. Now when you open sRGB photos, they will automatically update to match your current working space. Nice!

Step Seven:

Okay, so what if a friend emails you a photo, you open it in Photoshop, and the photo doesn’t have any color profile at all? Well, once that photo is open in Photoshop, you can convert that “untagged” image to Adobe RGB (1998) by going under the Edit menu and choosing Assign Profile. When the Assign Profile dialog appears, click on the Profile radio button, ensure Adobe RGB (1998) is selected in the pop-up menu, then click OK.

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