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The Zen of sRGB Color Space


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Find out why sRGB is something that no eCommerce company can live without!

It’s happened again—yet another customer has returned a product, complaining that your product doesn’t look in person like it does in your website’s product photos. Does your company have a knack for attracting picky clientele or is there something more to this problem? Is it possible that you might be doing something wrong as you process your product images?

This is a basic representation of the RGB color scale, showing how colors blend together to create different colors

This is a basic representation of the RGB color scale, showing how colors blend together to create different colors.

There are a number of possible explanations for product image inconsistencies, but perhaps the most common explanation for this sort of conundrum is inaccurate color because photographers or photo editors are not utilizing sRGB color space.

1. What is sRGB color space?

The sRGB color space, or color profile, is based on the RGB color model, which is based on three colors: red, green, and blue. When these three colors are combined, they create variations of other colors. The sRGB color space is composed of a specific amount of color information; this data is used to optimize and streamline colors between devices and technical platforms, such as computer screens, printers, and web browsers.

Each color within the sRGB color space provides the possibility of variations of that color. The image below displays a larger RGB color scale, and the sRGB color space lies close to the circle’s white center where different colors are closer together in range.

A large multi-hued circle represents RGB colorspace

The sRGB color space lies near the center of the RGB circle.

Other color spaces, such as Adobe RGB, have a wider range of possible colors and the difference between individual colors is bigger than it is in sRGB. The following two images draw a comparison between various shades of green in sRGB and Adobe RGB. As you will notice, Adobe RGB’s three colors, which represent shadows, midtones, and highlights, contain more saturation than their sRGB counterparts and are drastically more different from each other.

Here are the sRGB green samples

Here are the sRGB green samples.

Here are the Adobe RGB green samples

Here are the Adobe RGB green samples.

However, although sRGB’s colors are clearly not as strong as Adobe RGB’s colors, sRGB boasts many distinct advantages when compared to Adobe RGB.

2. Why should I use sRGB color space?

SRGB is the world’s default color space. Most consumer applications, devices, printers, and web browsers default to sRGB and read color information accordingly when dealing with images, and when it comes to workflow efficiency, sRGB is king.

For the most part, eCommerce businesses are usually not looking to produce billboard-sized prints of their product images; most only need to make poster-sized prints or wall murals at the largest. Processing images in the sRGB color profile will ensure accurate colors across multiple devices when printing images or uploading them to the web.

You can choose to shoot in sRGB by adjusting your camera’s color space settings to sRGB (shown below) or you can choose to shoot images in Adobe RGB and convert the images to sRGB in post-processing.

Adobe RGB

Color space can also be changed during post-processing, as shown here

Color space can also be changed during post-processing, as shown here.

Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages. Setting your camera to sRGB will save you some time, but may limit your ability to capture vibrant colors because you won’t be recording as much color information. Shooting in Adobe RGB and converting images to sRGB later on may expand your image’s vibrancy and record more color information, but will require extra conversion time. Shooting in SRGB is a great way for product photographers to capture colorful images and save themselves precious time.

Another excellent way to save some post-processing time is by setting your camera to shoot in JPEG “Fine” format rather than in RAW or TIF format. While RAW and TIF files capture a great deal more color information and details than JPEG files, shooting in JPEG will save you tons of time and digital storage space.

You can change your image capture format to JPEG in your camera’s internal shooting menu

You can change your image capture format to JPEG in your camera’s internal shooting menu.

3. Why is sRGB better than RGB for the web?

Since eCommerce businesses primarily utilize the web to sell consumer products and goods, then images are largely only needed for web use. Web browsers and devices are synced with sRGB colors, so using the sRGB color space is the way to guarantee that your image appears the same on all types of screens, websites, and devices.

Take a look in the differences in the images below:

sRGB

sRGB

Adobe RGB 1998

Adobe RGB 1998

sRGB

sRGB

Adobe RGB 1998

Adobe RGB 1998

Because the web is optimized to interpret sRGB colors, images in sRGB appear to be more saturated and clear when compared to the non-optimized Adobe RGB image. Vibrancy and sharpness are incredibly important in making your products look appealing to customers.

Additionally, using sRGB color space combined with accurate white balance will ensure that your customers feel that they are getting what they paid for and will lessen the risk of returns. Not only will this mean more sales, but it also builds trust and customer loyalty, which leads to a solid customer base and the most powerful form of advertising for small retailers: word of mouth referrals.

For all of its benefits, the sRGB color space is something that your eCommerce company simply can’t afford not to use!