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When I convert my photos from Adobe RGB colorspace to sRGB for browsers, the color slightly changes and I’m bothered by it. I know that sRGB covers a smaller space of colors so I won’t get an exact same result after conversion, but I still wonder if there is a way to get better results.

Of course it’s not a problem in cases when I start with converting and do the retouch afterwards, but many cases I either don’t want to do anything with the photos or forget to change the colorspace. So I would like to know if it can be converted without any noticable change, or should I just get used to it?

I used (Photoshop CS5) “Edit -> Convert to Profile”, I tried both Relative and Absolute Colorimetric, I checked all the boxes at the bottom (“Use Dither” and such). I also tried without those boxes checked, but it resulted almost the same, only a bit worse.

I already read the answers for How do color spaces like sRGB and Adobe RGB overlap?, but changing to 16 bits/channel didn’t help either.

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Do you know if your monitor can display the full Adobe RGB gamut? – mattdm Dec 28 '12 at 13:28
I don't care what the number crunchers say, "perceptual" almost always works best for me. Yes, there are subtle shifts, but they make more sense in keeping the image together as a whole. – user2719 Dec 28 '12 at 13:58
up vote 9 down vote accepted

If everything is working correctly, the difference should be subtle and you shouldn't generally notice a big shift.

I have a suspicion:

You may be working on a monitor which is not capable of rendering the whole Adobe RGB gamut. In this case, out-of-gamut colors are clipped or approximated (perhaps poorly). When you convert to sRGB, the colors are mapped more correctly and can be actually rendered, and you get the shift. In other words, the sRGB version was "right" all along — you just weren't seeing it.

This is one reason I recommend that most people work in sRGB even though bigger color spaces sound better.

The other possibility, if you're working in a nicely color-calibrated setup, is that your image does have a lot of tones not represented in sRGB and losing them does happen to make a big difference in the scene. In that case, there's nothing you can really do, although if web and sRGB are a large portion of your display audience you may want to take the time to do sRGB-specific color work.

This is kind of web-browser specific, but take a look at Microsoft's color management test page, and in particular the "image test" link. In a properly-configured system, as you click between Adobe RGB, sRGB, and ProPhoto (click between the or thises), you'll see only very subtle changes. If your environment isn't set up correctly (in the browser test, including if you don't have proper browser support), the Adobe RGB and ProPhoto examples will look horribly washed out and wrong. (Viewing the page on my iPhone provides a great example of a browser with no proper color profile support.)

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It is very likely that your monitor cannot support the full AdobeRGB gamut. The best way to convert an image from one color space to another with minimum changes in color reproduction is by following the below process:

  1. Having set your workflow's color management to AdobeRGB (Photoshop, Lightroom, etc)
  2. Having your monitor profile set in AdobeRGB as well (for premium monitors with good coverage of AdobeRGB color space)
  3. Process the photo
  4. Convert to sRGB
  5. Change monitor profile to sRGB
  6. Assign Profile to AdobeRGB (that's odd but I explain below why)
  7. Convert again to sRGB

That process may look strange at first but it's the best method I found out -the hard way by myself after a lot of efforts!-. Explanation: When you convert from AdobeRGB to sRGB in Photoshop (or other software) the image may still look the same inside the program but you will have the wrong profile loaded in your monitor; if you change the profile of the monitor (to the converted one) is similar like assigning profile in photoshop so you will need to "offset" that shift with reverse "Assign Profile" (these are steps 5 & 6). If you do the above process you will have (almost) the same image: sRGB image with the monitor profile set in sRGB AND AdobeRGB image with the monitor profile set in AdobeRGB.

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