Considering Color in Digital Images of Works of Art

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This paper evaluates current practices in digital imaging of works of art and examines whether those practices result in colors that are as accurate as possible in relation to the original intention of the work. Currently, a standard color temperature is applied to digital images of works of art in order to facilitate consistent results among all users and mediums. This standard may not render the best color for individual works when compared to one that more accurately represents the conditions present when the work was created. This paper proposes that a set of color temperatures be defined that can be applied to general categories of art which will result in a more correct representation of the colors intended by the artist, when those intentions can be discovered or inferred. Determining the relevant data about the artist, materials used and conditions present when the work was created that affect the color temperature applied to the work should result in a digital image that can be considered a definitive image for archival and scholarly use but not necessarily a replacement for the current standard images used for web and print. In addition to the digital image, all documentation on how the illumination was determined and how the image was captured and manipulated should be saved with the image.