Many cultural heritage institutions are currently spending significant resources photographing their works of art for a variety of applications with distinctly different requirements. To create reproductions of their artwork, cultural heritage institutions employ a range of technology and a variety of workflows. A similar variety is used to publish these images in a number of output media. This project was undertaken to explore these workflows and the image quality of the reproductions they generate. The objectives of this project were to: (1) determine the optimal reproduction processes in use in cultural heritage institutions today, (2) document the image quality inherent in current workflows in print and online, (3) define key quality criteria based on objective and subjective metrics, and (4) use this information to develop a framework to serve as a guideline for museums to follow when reproducing fine art. To work towards these objectives, a series of experiments were developed to evaluate the image quality attainable with the current reproduction workflows.Key findings of the project included that (1) achieving accurate tone reproduction at capture is crucial, (2) acceptable reproductions are achievable using a digital press, (3) following standardized workflows, ISO printing standards, and viewing standards substantially reduces the need for manual post-processing, (4) camera make, lighting, and file format had little impact on the ranking results, (5) internet-based experiments may be successfully used when evaluating image preference and, (6) while workflows still vary considerably, some commonalities were found for workflows producing images that were generally ranked highly across the experiments. These workflows were used as a basis for the development of the recommended guidelines, which included the following recommendations and considerations:• Workflows covering the whole image interchange cycle should be documented in detail. No undocumented processing should be performed along the image interchange cycle.• ICC profile-based color management should be used to achieve best results.• The use of targets to ensure a proper capture setup is recommended.• Defining imaging goals and talking to users is indispensable to help set expectations.• Guide prints did not prove useful in these experiments and are not recommended as proofs (though more testing may be needed). They could, however, be used for a visual ‘reality check’ on press• Closing the communication loop in the image interchange cycle is of the utmost importance.The three-year project was financially supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Detailed information on this project, including the final report, can be found at www.artimaging.rit.edu.
Susan Farnand, Jun Jiang, Franziska Frey, "Current Practices in Fine Art Reproduction: Project Summary" in Proc. IS&T Archiving 2013, 2013, pp 48 - 53, https://doi.org/10.2352/issn.2168-3204.2013.10.1.art00011