Monday, July 21, 2008

Color Correction

Last Sunday a photograph of mine ran in the New York Times Magazine. I was surprised when I flipped to the page to see the image had been color corrected and had lost its florescent green hue. I wonder if this was an intentional correction or a unknowing mistake. Its so hard to know exactly how an image is suppose to look. We have so many versions available to us: the online version; the in print version; and then the physical photograph itself. Sometimes the reproduction of an image can vary in color, saturation and contrast drastically altering the interpretation of the photograph. While most people probably didn't look at my image of the empty gynecological exam room and think WOW that's the wrong color I did. I doubt I would have had such a strong reaction to the color correction if the photograph was just a stock image of mine. However since the image is part of a larger project about cancer, women's illnesses and the relationship we have to specific medical spaces, for me the color shift alters the original intention of the piece.

So how do I prevent this from happening in the future. Do I need to send a color proof? Should I send an email stating the image is suppose to be a little green? Or does the publication have the "right" to alter the image or the color to best suit their needs? I know when I've worked in the past as a photo editor we were very careful not to change anything about the original image. Rather than crop an image to fit a layout we might build the layout around the image or find an image that worked better. I also had to color correct and remove dust and scratches from images. This makes me wonder–Did I ever accidentally change the meaning of someones image. I never heard any complaints from when I worked at Time and Texas Monthly but does that mean it never happened?