Why you should care about color space/color models

IC98839Do you know what grinds my gears? When photographers, especially videographers, are elusive about the importance of color space and color profiles! Grrrrr!!!!!  Why? Because it’s an IN YOUR FACE indicator that you have not read your camera’s manual.

So without giving a whole lot of explanation, I’ll give you the abridged version of the difference between color space, color profile, and why you need to know about it.

Why (obviously) photographers should care about the color they are using:

Because we dream in color. We see in color. Everything that we do is done in color, which is why we use a color model.

What the heck is a color model? 

According to dpbestflow.org:

At its core, digital photography works by turning colors into numbers. There are a number of different ways of doing so. Some use the physics of light waves, some rely on the way the eye perceives color, and some are built around the way ink creates colors. Each of these color models is useful in different ways. In order to understand how to preserve color as you change from one model to another, it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of what a color model is: a way to turn colors into numbers with a mathematical formula.

RGB is a color model that uses the three primary (red, green, blue) additive colors, which can be mixed to make all other colors. RGB builds its model on different colors of light added together, where the mixture of all three colors produces white light.

CMYK is a color model based on subtracting light – the cyan, magenta, yellow and black inks used in most commercial color printing (books, magazines, etc.) Inks absorb colored light, which is why the model is called a subtractive one. CMYK is commonly referred to as process color, and there are many individual color spaces that use the CMYK color model.

Okay, that was a nice lesson. But I still don’t know what the heck is  a color space is?

A color space is a specific implementation of a color model. There are many RGB and CMYK color spaces. The video below shows a three-dimensional representation of several color spaces and how they relate to each other.

What does all of this have to do with a color profile? 

Everything! A color profile is a numerical model of a color space. Operating systems and programs need to have access to a profile that describes the meaning of the color values in order to interpret the color correctly. Proper color management requires all image files to have an embedded profile.

Now that I know what all of this is, why should I care about it? 

Because the moment you use the wrong color space in camera, and they you try to import the video into a non-linear video editing program that also uses a color space that doesn’t match your video settings, your product is going to look crappy. Very crappy. The same thing goes for photographers using Photoshop. Take it from someone who has been there and done that. I can’t tell you how embarrassing it is to ruin the integrity of a product because you didn’t understand the difference between printing in CMYK and RGB.

Take a look at the video below. Dave actually switches color space profiles during this short explanation of the concept.

You can also look at “Fake Bill Nye” explaining color space here too. Yeah, it will feel like you’re in 10th grade science class. But if you’re interested in photography, you have to know it.

Source: Youtbe and dpbestflow.com

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