Profile Essentials – the A, B, C’s

Summary – Profiles are a critical element in working with color. They allow cameras, scanners, monitors, and printers to communicate with one another – in a common language of color. This post presents the A, B. C’s of where profiles fit in your image processing workflow.


This post provides an overview of Profiles

What they do & where they’re used

Profiles are really!! important if you value your images

Even an overview is more than most people want to know

I could write reams on the topic – but  to what end???

It’s the type of subject where blog readership falls off a cliff


001_DSC4799_nx2 sepblog

Digital Infrared

Who needs color?

It’s highly over rated 😉


For a color space refresher to help understand the rest of the post

Go here a simplified background on color spaces

which are illustrated in figure 1

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Figure 1


Here’s all that you need to know about the role of profiles 😉

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 Figure 2

A profile is a language translator – the language of color

The simplified example of figure 2 illustrates –

Where profiles fit in your image processing workflow

Figure 1 shows that the color spaces used by

Different devices (camera & printer here)

are very different

Figure 1 illustrates how different devices may

See (and not see) colors not seen by other devices

Look closely at the spaces in figure 1 shown for

sRGB (which is figure 2’s example camera space) &

the  CMYK space shown for figure 2’s printer

They share colors AND have unique colors as well

and without profiles they lack a common language

to communicate their unique world of color

Without profiles

The camera’s colors would not be

Communicated correctly to the printer

(to say nothing of the likely intervening monitor)

That’s the end of this story about what profiles do

Future posts, e.g. monitor calibration, will say more


If you don’t deal explicitly with profiles

It is likely that your computer O/S and

A few industry standards will take care of you

“Sort of” 😦

Enter the ubiquitous sRGB color space

sRGB was developed in 1996

It is the standard default for low-end

Cameras, monitors, printers

This is what you rely upon (for the most part)

IF you don’t explicitly use Color Management

When you feel “Good is Good Enough

If Good is Good Enough, sRGB explains why it’s so

But – the rest  need a Color Managed Workflow

Take another look at figure 1

sRGB is the smallest color space (fewest colors)

Modern cameras, monitors, & printers

Are capable of generating far more colors

If you rely on sRGB (good enough) you are

Robbing your images of the colors that are

Vibrant & saturated

Left is Adobe RGB’s Green; right is sRGB’s

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Is dull & drab really good enough?

If not, you’ve got to start using

Profiles that match your devices (device-specific)

NOT the 1996 least-common-denominator, sRGB


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