Oh, the color correction debate! This is something I’ve been wanting to touch on for a while, since I deal with this problem everyday at work. The big question surrounds the digitization of archival photographs and whether they should be left “as is” or color corrected “as it should be?” Now, the real problem here is when you scan a color negative and say it’s “as is,” meaning that the scan you’ve got is a representation of what is on the negative, you’re wrong. Here’s why… Something I think archivists aren’t taking into account (especially if they are not scanning the images themselves), is the accuracy of the scanner to auto-detect color. If you are wanting a full frame image you have to crop it yourself. (Editorial note: The scanner I use at work is an EPSON V700 Photo Scanner). When you determine the area to be scanned, it automatically color corrects the image and selects true blacks and whites based on the crop. So if you crop in or out or leave in the black border around the image, you will end up with three totally different looking images. Case in point: the images below… The first was done before I started working at the LBJ Library. The second has been rescanned and edited based on a darkroom print of the same image hanging up in AV Archives (made before they went digital around 2002). Now, being that NARA’s definition for digitizing for public access includes “quality control of digital copies and metadata” and “providing public access to the material via online delivery of reliable and authentic copies.” I would say the image on the left is not reliable or authentic to the image on the negative; the water in Oregon is obviously not cyan. When rescanned and minimally edited, everyone looks peachy. I didn’t get the cyan color cast at all the second time. So which is the reliable and authentic image that should be delivered to the public as an accurate representation of this negative?
D782-9a. Photo by Robert Knudsen. Lady Bird Johnson on a trail in the Multnomah Falls National Scenic Area near Troutdale, Oregon on June 27, 1968.