What is gamut and why the gamut should you care?

Have you ever taken a great photo but when you had it printed it just did not look as great as it did on your computer or phone? Well this will help you understand what happened.


I will be honest for a long time I was not really sure I understood gamut and the colour spectrum but then while studying photography at university it became more relevant. You see the thing is that all light has a colour, and how we measure that and then reproduce it can greatly affect photography and how an image is reproduced or printed.


The basics of the light spectrum are that there is visible and invisible. At either end the invisible would be ultraviolet which as you know is the rays of the sun that cause sunburn, and at the other end you have infrared. This is all measured in nanometers. The visible spectrum is actually quite small and is only between 400 nm and 700nm, and as you can see from the diagram below that is just a snippet. This is what the human eye can see.

Examples of different colour of light are simply things like sodium lighting, florescent lighting, and with the advent of led lighting you can actually buy specific colour of bulbs. Our eyes are incredible and it reads the colour of light and our brains process it so if we are not trained to see the colour of the light we will simply not notice it. In photography our cameras have become smarter but they are still a way behind our brains.


How our digital cameras interpret the light depends on the sensor, the white balance. For the most part the idea being to get a true white, which is why sometimes your colours do not reproduce as you would expect.


The human eye can actually distinguish about 10 million different colours, the average digital camera can see about 30% less, and now our monitors and phones can see that too. The advantage to our monitors and phones is they are also back lit with light which gives us added brightness.


I have added a diagram of the colour gamut, and it shows where your camera and monitors are in the dynamic range as well as printers.


So where am I going with this? Bear with me!


The printers used to print our photographs have yet to really come on with technology, they reproduce even less of the colours in the spectrum than the screen or camera.


So, if you are going to make the investment in a good wedding or portrait photographer to capture you then it is well worth investing in purchasing prints from them. A professional photographer will use a professional printer. A professional printer uses the best technology and paper to create a print that not only is representative of you but will last a life time.


I also believe that by continuing to invest in printing photographs will mean the industry is able to invest in building the technology so that we will be able to reproduce even more colours.

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