Which color space is best for DSLR video and can you even change it?

I was listening to an excellent version of PhotoFocus podcast EP.53 with Scott Bourne and Scott Kelby and they talked about color space.

Adobe RGB 1998 vs. sRGB.

Basically Scott Kelby talked about the following points:

  • If you are shooting in RAW your camera ignores the color space (it is applied later with whatever you are using like Lightroom)
  • A color space only matters for JPG or TIFF (and I would say video which Scott did not mention)
  • Adobe RGB 1998 is generally a preferred color space for photographers. If you are going to shoot JPG then shoot in Adobe RGB 1998 because it is a wider color space.
  • You can always switch to sRGB later and it will throw out the extra data, but if you shoot in sRGB you just can’t switch the other way to add it back in.
  • Why would you want to shoot in sRGB? Because of the printing shops want it in that color space for printing.
  • *** If you not printing your files and you are shooting for the web only (like video) then stay in sRGB because that is the color space for the web.
  • My note: the Canon manual also recommends you stay in the sRGB color space.

The results of my test

I noticed a difference, but it seemed like a lighting change, and I am pretty sure the lighting didn’t not change at all. Does anyone know the answer to this? I looked around on the web but could find anything.

Answer to my question:

Steve in the comments below found the answer!

the 550d shoots video in sRGB only. Look at the 550d manual page 211.


  • Hey Dave, Just a quick improvement tip for your videos; when you compare color space, picture styles or any other adjustments, please do it side by side in the same frame. For an example see the following pictures styles comparison: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZWpPxDCKdI

    I think it will really help watchers compare the look of the video output.

    Thanks for all you great video’s and tips!

    Greetz from Holland,


  • @Jos thanks for the suggestion. I do these videos very quickly so I guess I need to slow down a little and edit them better.

  • I want to suggest to test the color spaces with an object(s) that ranges in color. Maybe with that it will show the difference.

  • Hi Dave,

    Loved all your tutorials and videos and waiting for all your future assaignments.
    One Question please;
    I tried to open file sequence from T2i files edited on lightroom 3 files in Quicktime pro, but would open only one file. Any answers?
    Have tried to find answers but to no avail

  • It is my understanding that video does not use RGB, but works with the luminance and
    color channels separate, and sampled with a variety of ratios. Video is working in YUV.
    I hope I am not to far off the track. This is one very deep subject that goes back to the
    early years of video transmission and needs an engineer to grasp properly.

    Thanks for you good work in exploring the learning process.


  • Hi Dave, thank you for making this particular video. It saved me a lot of time from having to do it myself! I simply slid the slider back and forth at the time when your video switches from sRGB to Adobe…back and forth, back and forth… I could see the apparent lighting change and study different areas of the picture to see which parts were most affected, etc. What I noticed most was an affect I’ve seen when taking a raw image through Raw and using the clarify: when you over-clarify an image, it will create a sort of shadowy effect along edges in the image. “Clarify” (to my limited understanding of it) replicates pixels to increase the depth of the color information in Raw. It seemed to me that when the Adobe displayed, it had that same sort of effect as what happens when an image is over-clarified.

    It makes me wonder…

  • I certainly don’t know the answer as to which color space is best. Heck, I’m a total newbie in this stuff.

    But Shane Hurlbut, in his new series for B&H, recommends shooting DSLR video in the Adobe RGB color space because, he says, it yields more natural skin tones.

    Mr. Hurlbut ought to know. He’s a big-time Hollywood guy.

    See Episode 1 in the series at http://www.hdslrhub.com/ — At about the 1:50 mark, he briefly discusses color space.

  • Hi Dave,
    The reason why ‘Adobe RGB (1998)’ looks flatter is because it is shot at ‘Adobe RGB (1998)’ but all video files are assigned and read as being sRGB. So if you’re more into Photoshop and Color profiles & spaces you know that this causes the color shift. Some editing software (like After Effects) can be set to this Color space, but the only use of shooting in ‘Adobe RGB (1998)’ would be really when you could deliver in this method. Keep in mind that ALL videos and images on the web are sRGB color! So no use of shooting video for Vimeo and Youtube with ‘Adobe RGB (1998)’, altough, when viewing on your computer it could have better colors when viewing properly, with the right program.

  • Hi Dave,
    How did you record that video with adobe RGB I have a 60d not sure how to do it in the camera?


  • I’m sorry but I have to disagree with the following two statements:

    If you are going to shoot JPG then shoot in Adobe RGB 1998 because it is a wider color space.

    You can always switch to sRGB later and it will throw out the extra data, but if you shoot in sRGB you just can’t switch the other way to add it back in.

    Being a “wider” colorspace DOES NOT make it a “better” colorspace. ESPECIALLY when dealing with 8 bit file formats.

    There is NO EXTRA DATA in Adobe RGB vs sRGB – this is a common misconception. The “amount” of data in a file is related to the BIT DEPTH and NOT the color profile.

    An 8-bit sRGB file and an 8-bit Adobe RGB file both have the SAME amount of data. The only difference is that in Adobe RGB, the DISTANCE between colors is GREATER. In 8 bit this means the delta E errors are larger in Adobe RGB than in sRGB.

    The end result is that if you shoot in 8-bit in Adobe RGB and then convert to sRGB you will be introducing greater delta-E errors into the image.

    And here’s the thing: if you are not clipping color channels in sRGB, then there is NO BENEFIT to using a larger color space like Adobe RGB, regardless of bit depth. You want to use larger color spaces when you are clipping (running out of “room”) in the color space you are working in.

    If you shoot 8 bit in Adobe RGB then convert, you are not “throwing away extra data”, you are damaging color accuracy.

    Gamma encoded sRGB and Rec709 work well with 8 bit files. Adobe RGB less so because it is larger, and thus introduced greater delta E errors. ProPhoto is USELESS in 8 bit, and should be used only with 16 bit or greater file types. IMO, Adobe RGB should also only be used with 16 bit or greater file types.


    Use sRGB. sRGB matches the primaries in Rec709, and Rec709 is the standard for HD.

    IF you have specific shots where you are clipping specific color channels, AND you are going to record out to actual film or go to DCI/P3, then Adobe RGB *may* be an appropriate choice.

    But Adobe RGB is the wrong choice for the vast majority of video work, and especially video that is in 8-bit, and more especially for video that is heavily compressed 420 or 422 and not 444. (dSLRs are 420).

    The reality is that if you want to be working in a “wide gamut” space, then shooting video on a dSLR is not a good choice to begin with. You want a camera that can shoot at 10 bit minimum, and either to RAW or LOG encoded files such as RED or ALEXA.

    To get the best results in a dSLR, use the SMALLEST colorspace that fully encloses your subject, control scene contrast, and keep the image within the limited latitude of 8 bit video.


    If you don’t have a wide gamut monitor that can cover the Adobe RGB gamut, then you will not be able to see that additional color information accurately, either.

    Most monitors are sRGB (or even smaller gamut). HD monitors are set for Rec709, the same primaries as sRGB. When you watch a BluRay on your nifty HDTV, you are watching Rec709. sRGB is the *same size* – it uses the same primaries. (only the gamma curve is different).


    Andrew Somers
    VFX Supervisor

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