Sometimes I look at the search terms people use when they wind up on this blog. The title to today’s post is an example. It’s a question that initially seemed pretty simple to me, but appeared more substantial the more I think about it. At first blush, the answers appear to be:
- You don’t want to clip colors your printer can print.
- You want to have images with as much data as possible, even if you can’t see or use that data now.
- ProPhotoRGB has other advantages, such as minimizing hue shifts when applying curves.
There are pretty obvious reasons not to use ProPhotoRGB, but they’re not compelling:
- If you’re using eight-bit per color plane color depth (you’re not still doing that, are you?), you can get contouring in a big color space like ProPhotoRGB.
- You will have to change color space to export to eight-bit-per-plane-color-depth spaces like jpg, or run the risk of contouring.
However, the issue that I’m wrestling with is the same one that may be troubling the Google searcher, or at least a variant of it: how do we do WYSIWYG image editing if our monitors can’t display some colors in the image? We can edit those colors out, but that’s not a satisfying solution, because that’s dumbing down our printers. We can just cross our fingers and hope we like what comes out of the printer. We do that for other failures of WYSIWYGness. I guess we just need to add this to the list.
There’s another, related issue. If we’re using a color space with a gamut much larger than our printer’s, how do we keep track of what colors are out of gamut and how those colors will be mapped? The way I do it is to make friends with the gamut alarm and soft proofing features of Photoshop. Now that Lightroom has soft proofing, we don’t need to go to Photoshop to get similar information. What if you have an image with out-of-gamut colors? It’s nearly always better to do the gamut mapping yourself rather than let the color management software do it, but you don’t want to dumb down your image to what your present printer can handle. Photoshop layers and Lightroom virtual copies to the rescue.
I’m not entirely happy with my current analysis of this situation, and any help is appreciated.