Join Tim Grey for an in-depth discussion in this video Designating a color space in RAW conversion, part of Photoshop CS6: Optimal Output.
If you're using the raw capture option in your digital camera, then when you open one of those raw photos in Photoshop, you'll be presented initially with the Adobe camera raw dialog. That enables you to adjust the raw conversion settings, in other words, to translate that original information as it was captured by the image sensor. While that information is being converted into pixel values. In this case, I've gone ahead and applied some adjustments to the settings for my raw conversion, but before I actually open the image in Photoshop, I want to think about my color settings in the context of that raw conversion. A raw capture doesn't actually have a color space. Again, it's really just information gathered by an image sensor and, in some respects, you could even say that that raw capture doesn't even contain color information exactly.
What that means essentially, is that there's not really a limit in terms of the overall range of colors or tonal values when we're converting a raw capture. Not that there is no limits at all, but that they're not strictly defined. And so we can do a little bit of interpretation and we can specify the color space in particular that we want to convert the image into. Generally speaking you'll want to use the same color space for your raw conversions that you're using as a working space in Photoshop. When you click that shortcut, you'll see the workflow options dialog where you can establish settings for that final conversion.
And the first setting there is the color space. In other words, what color space do you want to use for this photo? And once again, that generally should match what you're using in Photoshop as your working space. So you would generally choose between SRGB, Adobe RGB or Pro Photo RGB, those color spaces mentioned in the order of the size of their color gamut. So SRGB being the smallest of the color gamuts among those three, Adobe RGB being in the middle, and Pro Photo RGB being the largest. Since I've established Adobe RGB as my working space, it probably makes the most sense to use that for my raw conversions.
I'll go ahead and choose that option. I can also set the bit depth. And I always recommend working in the 16 bit per channel option. This makes a huge difference in terms of the total number of tonal and color values available in your image. It also helps prevent posterization. With the 8 bit per channel mode if you apply strong adjustments in the 8 bit per channel mode, then you can start to see some banding in the image, a loss of smooth gradations in terms of tonal value and color value changes in the photo. So whenever possible, I highly encourage the use of the 16 bit per channel option.
So I'll go ahead and set that. For the size option, I can establish whether I want to increase the size of my image or reduce the size of the image. I generally save the resizing option for later in my workflow, and so I'll always leave the size of the photo at its native resolution, the resolution at which it was originally captured. The resolution setting is purely a matter of convenience. This allows you to establish what value is set in the metadata for your photo, as the output resolution. It really makes no difference whatsoever, what value you type in this box.
It does not change the number of pixels in your image, the size of those pixels, the spacing of those pixels, the color of those pixels, it doesn't change anything about the pixels. This is purely a convenience setting which saves you from having to change this value later. So if you typically print to a photo ink jet printer, for example, you might want to use 360 pixels per inch. If you generally send your images off to offset press to be published in a book, for example, then you might want to use 300 pixels per inch. I'll go ahead and use 360, but again bear in mind that this is purely a convenience setting.
I don't sharpen, in my workflow options, and I also don't utilize the smart objects feature for a variety of reasons, but mostly because it can create some challenges in terms of a layer-based workflow in Photoshop. So with those settings established, I'll go ahead and click OK. And now I can go ahead and open my image. I'll click the Open Image button and my raw capture will be converted to actual pixel values. And it will be in the 16 bits per channel mode and converted to my Adobe RGB working space.
- Getting started with color management
- Early-workflow sharpening
- Output preparation
- When not to sharpen
- Advanced sharpening techniques
- Printing a photo