Sometimes the color really matters. At least to me.

Andrew Wyeth, Braids

Like a kid on Christmas morning, I opened a box with a book that has Andrew Wyeth’s Helga images. He is one of my favorite painters. I wanted to share my excitement with some friends on Facebook who also love Wyeth’s work.

The book is Andrew Wyeth: The Helga Pictures, text by John Wilmerding, published by Harry N. Abrams, 1987.

I opened the book to one of Wyeth’s classic paintings of his neighbor Helga Testorf, and took a quick iPhone snapshot of the two page spread. I made a comment and posted it to Facebook, but I set the privacy to “Only me”. 

Smartphones do an average job of white balance, exposure, and, color intensity, but the whole world isn’t average. Smartphones make light subjects too dark and dark subjects too light. They regularly mess up the white balance. Color intensity (Vibrance) is all over the place. I usually use an app on my phone to correct for the major deficiencies, but this Wyeth painting is different. I wanted to get as close as I possibly could to the original painting, using the book as a reference. The publisher of this book has a reputation for getting things right.

I downloaded the image from FB to my computer. (I could have emailed it from my phone to my computer, but doing it via Facebook was faster than logging on to my email account with both my phone and my desktop computer).

Andrew Wyeth, “Braids”, before (top) and after ACR adjustments.

I opened the image with Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) and clicked on the white page border (which my phone had rendered as a slight bluish tone due to the light source) to restore it to white. That gave me the correct white balance. Because of all the white on the pages, the image was underexposed by my phone, so I lightened it. Using the image in the book as a reference, I adjusted the Vibrance. The whole process of correction took less than 30 seconds. Then I replaced the image on Facebook with the corrected image, changed the privacy setting to Friends, and tagged some people I know who love Wyeth’s work.

I know from past experience that books rarely give you a truly exact representation of an artist’s work, be it paintings or photographs, but some publishers have a reputation for doing a much better job than others.

Andrew Wyeth, ‘Braids”.

Online, color and white balance can be all over the place. I found this greenish version of “Braids” at a popular online reference site. This is not what Andrew Wyeth had in mind.


Andrew Wyeth Gallery