Color management guide by Arnaud Frich

Generalites about colors Monitor calibration Printer calibration Manage colors with Photoshop Resources on Color Management

Updated on August 01, 2018

Color management with Lightroom

We will now see how to integrate color management to a Lightroom workflow and we'll see how much easier it is than in Photoshop. In fact, there are just a lot less options or possibilities but the choices made by Adobe are very coherent and wise...     


Key points if you're a beginner...

Here are the key points to remember about color management with Lightroom. The rest of this page is aimed at those who want to learn more. 

With or without color management activatedColor management in Lightroom is mostly about choosing your conversion space wisely when you want to export or save the photos because color management in Lightroom is almost entirely done automatically. For advanced color management, use Photoshop!

If you shoot in JPEG, the color space of your photos is your camera's. You can then choose from the classic sRGB, already plainly satisfying in numerous cases, and the broader Adobe RGB that you need to manipulate more carefully if you're not comfortable with color management.

If you shoot in RAW, the default color space in Lightroom is the very broad ProPhoto. This way, there's no risk of potential loss of colors. The photos' exportation space is chosen in the software preferences or at the time of saving. By default, you'll always have the classic sRGB, Adobe RGB 98 and ProPhoto. Please note that since Lightroom version 5, it is even possible to choose a lot more space and even profiles!

Next key points: Print with Lightroom suivre

Color management in Lightroom is very easy and reduced to the smallest share, even if it is still very efficient and of great quality since it is implemented not to potentially lose colors because of the sole use of a small color space: sRGB. The basis of color management in Lightroom is indeed the very broad ProPhoto. Let's see how it works.

I'll let you read the different pages of this guide to understand the notions of color space, workspace and also choose between sRGB, Adobe RGB 98 and ProPhoto better...




Color management at the opening of the photos

A new photo in Lightroom is either a photo in JPEG format coming directly from a camera, either a RAW file in most cases.

Important note! In fact, there's no proper color management menus in Lightroom. Lightroom assumes that all the images have a profile because they all come from a camera that worked in RAW or JPEG. If a photo doesn't have a profile, it will be displayed on the screen without the possibility to assign it the "right" profile. This will be Photoshop's private hunting. 

JPEG photos

Most common case. The images are displayed in their color space, hence sRGB or Adobe RGB 98 depending on the setting you made on your camera. I'll let you read my page color management on your camera to learn how to possibly modify this space. It is sRGB by default.

Photos shot in RAW format

As in Camera Raw, the "Development" tab works in ProPhoto 16 bits (the number of bits depends on your camera body thus varies between 12 and 16 real bits)! It is only at the moment of final exportation that you'll choose your color space.

Note! In RAW, it is possible to choose a new color space at each opening of RAW file without it being damaging for the original file, of course.



Color management for exportation in Lightroom

When you'll export the images to edit them in Photoshop or another program, you'll be able to choose your destination color space either in Lightroom's "Preferences", either at the moment of exportation::

1 - Lightroom's Preferences - Open the menu "Preferences" in Lightroom and click the tab "External edition":



You just have to choose the color space for your images once they're developed in the development tab of Lightroom and send to edition in Photoshop for instance.

- Choose a workspace for your images in Photoshop suivre
- sRGB, Adobe RGB 98 or ProPhoto? suivre

My recommendation! If you're not sure, choose sRGB while always keeping in mind that even if it's smaller than Adobe RGB and even smaller than ProPhoto, it is still sufficient in many cases. Never forget that Internet's "color space" is sRGB and that our printers' gamut is still very reduced. This is why I work in RAW, in particular, because I also work for tomorrow, when our monitors and printers will have improved their gamuts.

2 - At the time of exporting your images - When you'll choose "Export..." from the contextual menu in Lightroom, you'll open a new menu: 



It is in the "Settings" menu of the file that you'll choose the exportation color space for your image.


To be remembered!

Color management in Lightroom is very reduced but of good quality. 

If an image doesn't contain a profile, it is not possible to assign it one in Lightroom so it will be displayed according to your monitor's gamut. However, it is not soemthing that often happens to Lightroom users who are most likely photographers and in JPEG an image always contains the color space of the camera (sRGB or Adobe RGB 98) and there's no question about it in RAW. 

The only thing to choose is the color space of the files at the moment of exportation to an edition program like Photoshop.

It will either be done in the preferences/external editor, either at each exportation.




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