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What colour space does Lightroom use when you load an Adobe RGB or SRGB tiff/jpeg file into the Develop module? The reason I ask is because I was told that the develop module always uses the ProPhoto Colour space.

This leads me to ask What advantages are they to editing Adobe RGB or ProPhoto files when the hardware may not fully support the colour space (especially in the case of ProPhoto) and to have to convert images to sRGB for web use?

In addition I exported several RAW images as sRGB, ProPhoto and Adobe RGB in lightroom but the results look EXACTLY the same on the monitor. Does this seem like the normal expected result?

  • Would this be better as two questions: one asking about what adobe does and another about the colour spaces? – James Snell Aug 10 '14 at 18:58
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1) I have never seen any official information, but various people close to the LR development team indicated at numerous occasions that LR is internally using color space that they named Melissa, which has gamut of ProPhoto RGB, but different gamma.

2) No devices support entire ProPhoto RGB, but many, especially modern inkjet printers, exceed sRGB and even AdobeRGB in different colors. When using these small gamut color spaces, you lose the ability to print these colors. The visual differences are subtle, though. Even if you finally convert to sRGB for web use, using larger color spaces may be beneficial, because you have control over how are the out of gamut colors toned down. If you use sRGB workflow, these colors will be just clipped.

3) This is normal. There are several reasons:

  • Your monitor is most likely only capable of displaying sRGB colors
  • You can only see a difference if you actually have an image that has those colors that sRGB can't show. Many times sRGB is enough so there is nothing to see
  • Even if you have such colors and a way to display them, the differences are often subtle. Next time when you see an image of vivid flowers on the internet, note that they are sometimes totally lacking detail inside of the most saturated areas. This is a sign of out of gamut colors.

The picture below shows gamut of a randomly picked portrait picture from my LR catalog. First is in ProPhoto, second in sRGB and third in my printer's color space. Note how is the sRGB clipped and how is the printer gamut larger than sRGB. This is even more interesting with nature shots with natural foliage green. The triangles represent sRGB and ProPhoto RGB color spaces

Color space of an actual image vs. sRGB and ProPhoto RGB

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