The color profile determines the color we take with the camera and is visible on the screen.It controls the color used and helps bring consistency between the devices.
Color is a rather complex subject when it comes to photography.Your eyes may see more colors than the camera can capture or the screen (or even a piece of printed paper) can show.This means that we need some way to determine the set of colors that the camera can capture and the screen can display.And we also need a way to keep colors consistent between the camera and the screen.A certain shade of red that the camera will look like red shades on the screen.Then we need color space and color profile.
How to display digital color
Although there are basically innumerable colors, camera and screen can not distinguish those colors together.Instead, they usethe RGB color model.They can represent any color just by combining different values of red, green and blue, hence the name RGB.
In the picture above, you can see that purple, turquoise, light red and yellow are created by combining different values of red, green and blue.In addition to professional use, most RGB colors are provided in 8-bit per channel format.This means that there are 256 color values (0 to 255) for each channel in red, green and blue, providing a total of 16,777,216 possible colors.
RGB is not the only color system, but it is one of the color systems used for digital applications.If you have a high-end printer, or work with designers, sometimes you also see CMYK color models (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Keyline).The color space of these two systems works the same, but CMYK is a four color combination.
What is a color profile?
With the RGB color model, we can display (or capture) 16.7 million colors.But the question is, what 16.7 million colors are used?That’s why we need color profiles.The screen still needs some development time to be able to display the full spectrum (although modern cameras are almost able to capture the full spectrum).
sRGB is the color profile used in 99% of the image you see.Most screens are designed to display this color profile.This is also the standard profile used on the web.In other words, unless you use a particular purpose, sRGB may be the only color profile you use.
Color profile DCI-P3 has been used by the film industry for decades and is beginning to appear in consumer products.The DCI-P3 has wider color gamut (meaning it can display more colors) than sRGB.The iPhone 7, 8, and X come with DCI-P3 color support.This is also the profile used in many 4K HDR TVs.
Color profile Adobe RGB is designed to display a wider spectrum of sRGB.It is mainly used by professional photographers and videographers.While most high-end cameras can capture Adobe RGB, only those expensive monitors can display a large portion of its color.
ProPhoto RGB is a wide color gamut.It contains more colors than Adobe RGB.However, ProPhoto RGB is limited to use for professional and scientific purposes.It’s so big that you need to use 16 bits per channel or 65,536 different values for each channel to work properly.
Color profiles are one of the things that work in the background and most people never have to think about it.However, it should be understood especially if you are interested in photography or videography.