For years, art museums, art dealers, art collectors and auction houses have published many books and catalogues to showcase their collections. As many people may not have the chance to view the original artworks, the images printed in these publications play an important role. To a certain extend, the quality of the reproduction will influence the reader’s perception of the artworks’ values.
However, accurate reproduction of the artworks is a very tough process. The quality is affected by quite a number of factors. The skill of the photographer, the digital image processing, the accuracy of film scanning (if the shooting is done using film), the settings of RGB to CMYK conversion, the consistency of proofing machine, the skill of the printer on matching the final printout to proof, etc.
DIW was contacted to help in an important publication to be published by Art Retreat, a private museum in Singapore. The catalogue would be launched in conjunction with the opening of a painting exhibition. It consists of about 400 images that were taken by the in-house photographer.
The areas that we assisted were
Use of Image
The first thing we discovered was that the digital images were created using the camera default settings. Secondly, the paintings were not photographed with a controlled process. Thirdly, editing of digital images was attempted on a uncalibrated monitor. Lastly, the viewing of paintings and inkjet printouts were done under a normal fluorescent lighting.
In order to have accurate colour reproduction in the catalogue, the source (digital images) have to be accurate in the first place!
Fortunately, most of the digital images were in RAW format and the photographic lighting was quite consistent, they could be reprocessed without re-shooting. However, more than one hundred over paintings were still required to be re-photographed.
With the help from DIW, the paintings were re-photographed by following certain guidelines and controlled process.
Without the use of colour management technology, it is quite impossible to achieve colour accuracy and consistency in the reproduction workflow.
By using various colour management tools, DIW helped calibrate the digital camera, monitor, inkjet printer at the museum’s photo studio, and the digital proofer at printer’s side. ICC colour profiles were created for each of these devices.
With all the devices being colour calibrated, colour accuracy of each digital image was automatically taken care of. The proof produced was very close to what we saw on the computer screen, and of course, was very close to the original painting.
This really saved up a lot of time because the proof was printed accurately at the first run.
At the same time, a new workflow was created in the studio such that the image colour would be maintained for subsequent processing, e.g. RGB to CMYK conversion, web image conversion, inkjet prinitng, etc.
To the surprise of many people, the colours of the proofs may change drastically when they are viewed under non-calibrated indoor light. Hence, DIW educated the various parties involved in this project that all proofs must be viewed under a calibrated proofing light.
Generally, photographer, graphic designer and printer have developed their own workflows for many years. Hence, when the image medium has changed from film to digital, they still use the same ways to work on the images. No one really understands the new reproduction workflow. There is no communication between each other. As a result, the chances that the digital images be altered are quite high. This is because when the images are opened and saved in their computers each time, due to their own software settings, the image colour might be changed.
To ensure that the image colour is consistent right from the photographer's monitor to the printer’s digital proof, DIW communicated with the various parties and ensured that they followed certain guidelines when handling the digital images.