sRGB

When I take a photo of a red fire truck, process and share that photo, generally I want people to look at their screen and see the same truck that I pointed my lens at. Sometimes I go overboard with the post-processing but usually I take the challenge onto myself to show, if not the exact picture, at least the perceived picture of what took place that day.

This chain has a lot of weak links. Not only am I only human, but everything else is only what it is. Light is captured by the sensor, calculated by the internal processor, saved on a less-than-perfect medium in a less-than-perfect format. I downgrade that file further to make it smaller and easy to share, after I’ve changed a number of things about it. If I put it up on Facebook, the colors are simplified even more and the resolution butchered.

But none of that frustrates me more than the conversion to the sRGB color scheme.

It all comes down to the quality of your monitor. It has a limited range and capacity of displaying colors fully saturated: Especially the reds will fall short. We are so used to this that we don’t see it anymore, but if you take a picture of something red near you and put it up on your monitor, you’ll see that they don’t actually match.

“So why try to display colors that people’s hardware can’t manage”, engineers must have thought, because the whole internet seems designed for sRGB. I can’t imagine why else, because I don’t think AdobeRGB (which is a much richer range) actually takes up more memory. The color information of the photo is the same, the so-called “color space” of the program used (like a browser) determines the interpretation of those numbers. If the photo says “red”, the program determines what “red” looks like.

I paid a small fortune for my screen and another for customs as it flew over the ocean. I had to buy an adaptor to fit it into our European power net, all so it would display colors properly. If I edit photos, I want them to look like they actually are, so I don’t compensate for faults in my monitor by changing the photo. I know perfectly well that other people’s screens will change the result, but I want to strike some middle ground between monitors world-wide, let’s say. And if I want to print a picture, I want it to look right.

So my monitor, unlike many, can display AdobeRGB colors. Naturally, after some experimentation, I determined that using AdobeRGB as the basis for my photos shows colors much more accurately, and chose to work with it. Except, when I look at them with a browser or popular image viewing program, the reds in particular are absolutely destroyed. Why? Because these programs work with a sRGB color space.

In the end, I am forced to work with a sub-par color scheme because the consumer at the very end of the line has a shitty monitor. The whole world decided to use sRGB so that some dweebs wouldn’t feel left out. And on my fancy-shmancy screen I can watch how my photos get destroyed before I send them off to the client.

Already, I can imagine the response from music producers throwing their hands up, “Do you really want to hear the story of how the mp3 utterly nuked the music industry?” The answer is no, I know that story already and let it be known, I feel your pain.

The consumer, in all their ignorance, doesn’t care about color schemes or frequency range. They prefer quantity over quality, marveling at anything that sticks out from the ordinary but dumbing down anything that might require an effort on their part. Can’t blame them: with the vast amount of information out there, if everything worth wile required effort, we’d be at the end of our energy (not to mention cash) quite fast.

So if you make any kind of push to excel, regardless if you are successful, you better learn to compensate for that attempt at the end of it, lest the result would be too qualitatively excellent for consumer standards.

Or, prepare to make art just for yourself and a select few, who are neither your friends or family.

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