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"Editioning" is the phrase that pays.
If you are a fine-art photographer and wish to support your art by selling physical prints, here are several tips to help you increase their value in the fine-art market.
The "starving artist" thing got old a long time ago. Fine-art photographers, especially in the digital age, need money to invest in the proper gear to turn their artistic vision into finished artwork. The conundrum is that digital, by its nature, is not one-of-a-kind. However, there are several things you can do to increase the value (and sale price) of your prints as you put them on the fine-art market, while making them attractive to collectors.
It all comes down to this: The more exclusive each print can be, the more it will be worth. Here are some steps you can take to assure your potential buyers of the exclusivity of your digital work.
Photo courtesy Hahnemühle
1. Create limited edition prints. This is very basic; since digital image files can be printed an infinite number of times, their value, by nature, is low. Make a limited number of prints of your digital image, with each print getting a its own number in the run. As the print number in the edition gets higher, the cost per print goes up. The smaller the edition the more valuable each print. It's called "Editioning" and it is a standard practice for fine-art photographers that has been used successfully ever since Ansel Adams made his first Editioned prints in the 1960s.
2. Sign your prints. Again, fairly basic concept. Artwork that's signed by the artist on the front is worth more than unsigned prints. Actually sign the work; don't simply create a digital file of your signature and add that to an image. But make sure to use the right kind of writing tool for signing a digital print. A pencil is recommended for matte prints. A pigment ink-based pen such as the Sakura Pigma Micron 05 is recommended for glossy surfaces. (In fact, pigment-based prints are recommended in general since they are supposed to last longer without fading). Don't use Sharpies—they aren't archival, and your signature could fade before the image does.
Holographic Label provided by Hahnemühle for Certificate of Authenticity
3. Create a Certificate Of Authenticity (COA). A COA has been a standard way of increasing the value of prints since the pre-digital days, and reduces the risk of forgeries. The certificate should be printed on premium deckle edged paper. In its Premium Edition Photo Rag 308 paper, which recently became available in the United States and can be ordered at Adorama, Hahnemühle includes uniquely-coded holographic labels that are affixed to the back of your print. Print the Certificate of Authenticity separately from the artwork on a high-quality surface with a stippled edge, such as Hahnemhule William Turner 100% rag. An 8.5x11" sheet should be fine.
Each COA should consist of:
- Artist's name
- Image title
- Certificate number (from the label)
- Media type
- Which Printer You Used
- Ink type (inkjet or pigment-based ink)
- Description of the image
- You may also want to include the date the image was printed and of course how many prints were made.
Print with Certificate of Authenticity and matching holographic labels. We recommend placing the label on the back of the print. Photo courtesy Hahnemühle.
4. Register your unique copies and limited editions at myartregistry.com, a web site set up by Hahnemuhle so with their backing there's a better chance this site will be around for a long time. Registration is required, but the service is free.
5. Keep good records. Even if you register your prints and editions online, keep physical records for yourself or for a gallery if you end up being represented by one. It is important to have a physical back-up.
The final step is finding the kind of audience that would be willing to buy/invest in your work. That's the subject of another article, for another time.
KEEP THE CONVERSATION GOING! How are you maximizing what you charge for your fine-art prints? Leave a comment below!