The best (maybe only) reason to buy something is that you can’t imagine living without it. We hear a lot about contemporary art, but photography is the unsung hero slowly gathering pace. No-one paid much attention to photography until the late 20th century when serious collectors started to recognise it as an important artistic medium. Nowadays, you don’t need to have knee-deep pockets in order to appreciate photography.
So you want to buy a photographic print: Where do you start?
With taste, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, so when you’re looking to buy a photographic print think about what you like. You could make a moodboard or just scroll through Artfinder and have a browse. If you focus on what makes you happy, you can’t go wrong.
Maybe you like humorous things, so you look at Tim Knifton’s quirky prints of tiny toy figures trying to open bottle caps and pistachios. Or you want something that’s more subdued, so you look at Andrew Lever’s photograph of an old-timey carousel silhouetted against an orange sunset.
If you’re not sure what you want, the best thing to do is have a browse. Artfinder has a huge variety of photographic prints available and they range from the funny to the serious and the artistic. Take your time and have a good look through, because something will catch your eye.
As with everything, make sure you know what you’re buying. Say you’re scrolling through Artfinder and you see a photographic print that you like; before you click ‘Buy’ you should always read the artist’s description and the specifications. The specifications will include the size of the print, whether it’s signed, if it comes framed, how many prints are in the edition and what printing technique was used. These might be unfamiliar at first, but if you do a little research they won’t seem as daunting.
When we talk about editions, we are referring to how many prints of that image the photographer has printed in that size. If the description lists a print that comes from “a limited edition of 30” this means that there are only 30 prints of this specific image in this size and the photographer won’t have any more printed in that size when all 30 are sold. There’s no hard-and-fast rule to how many prints are in each edition, as it really depends on the photographer. In some cases, there may only be six prints in the edition, while some will print up to a maximum of 150. The price should then be reflective of the quantity available.
These days, photographs can be printed digitally or through using inks, and can be printed onto a variety of papers. The names of the printing methods and papers can be confusing, so a simple online search will clear things up.
For example, two common ways of printing photographic images are Giclee and C-Types. In a Giclee print, the image is sprayed on using a special inkjet printer. Whereas a C-Type print has been made digitally, using a laser. In both cases, the quality is usually archival, which means the print will be stable and the colours shouldn’t react to natural light. Remember the last time you left a book in direct sunlight? The colours got bleached. With these prints, it’s less likely to happen.
What happens next?
When your print arrives, take care of it. It’ll likely be sold unframed so you’ll want to get it framed to protect it against dust and scratches. If you visit a framing shop, they’ll be able to recommend the best style of frame, as well as the glass that goes with it. Good framing shops will offer museum quality glass that protects against UV rays from sunlight; if you’re going to put your print anywhere near a window, then it’s worth paying extra to make sure your print won’t be damaged. Generally, photographers prefer printing methods that protect their work, which means that Giclee and C-Type prints are more likely to resist light damage, but it doesn’t hurt to be cautious.
If you’re not sure, it’s always a good idea to ask. With Artfinder, you’re buying directly from the photographer, so if you’ve got a question then you can always get in touch. It’s important to do your homework when you’re thinking of buying art, so think about what you like, read up about anything if you’re unclear and try not to rush. Ultimately, it’s about what will make you happy. So buy with your head, but listen to your heart.
Words by Richard Kalman, Artfinder’s photography curator and founder of Crane Kalman Brighton
Cover image via Salvatore Matarazzo