These are some variables that determine the value of a photographic print:

  • RARITY: A negative is created that can theoretically allow one to print and endless number of prints. This process to make multiples is what makes photography unique from every other medium. Having said that, not all prints from the same negative are created equal. Some early photographic processes were very fragile and has limited the number that have survived. Some prints are "unique" or one-of-a-kind. Rarity in quality and quantity can often times increase the value of an artist's work. It is based on supply & demand.

  • EDITION: When a photographer creates a numbered edition of a print, they are in essence controlling the quantity that is available in the market, thus, creating limited inventory, or rarity. The limited edition concept is based on supply & demand, and provides an added bonus for the early collector. When a collector buys a print from the 1st price tier, say print 2/15 for $1000, they are awarded with the lower, more desired edition number and will pay the least amount for it. The collector who purchases later in the 2nd tier, say 7/15 for $1200 has bought the same image with a higher number and paid more for it. The bonus again for the early collector is that his $1000 print has just appreciated at least $200, and maybe more if it is edition #1 or 2. The limited edition concept came into popularity in the early 80s.

  • VINTAGE PRINT: This type of print is usually created around the same time as the negative, and is generally produced by the artist him/ herself. A vintage print is generally valued more than one that has been printed at a later date or after the photographer is deceased.

  • SIGNATURE & IDENTIFYING MARKS: Prior to 1980, many photographers only signed exhibition prints. Signing, titling and dating have become more popular as photography itself has become popular and its general value as a medium has increased. The collector should also look for identifying marks such as studio stamps which can be found on either side of a print. Distinguishing marks help increase the value of a print.

  • PROVENANCE: This is a record of who has owned the piece. Was it a part of an important collection or exhibition, if so, its value is enhanced.

  • CONDITION: A print that is in perfect condition is obviously more valuable that one with tears, scratches, scuffs, buckles or creases. Conservation can be done to repair a print and does not diminish the value of a print.

  • COLOR PERMANENCE: Many color photographs (C-prints) are inherently unstable. Processes like Cibachrome (Ilfochrome) and dye transfer were the only color permanent commercial processes. There is the Fresson process and 4 color pigment printing that are extremely stable for fine art printing, in addition to newer papers and inks (computer generated) that are relatively stable. All color photographs should be cared and stored properly.

  • PRINT QUALITY: Print quality is a subjective "judgment call." Does the print "touch" you? Does it "glow," or is it boring? Most of all, is it in keeping with the artist vision.

  • REPUTATION: A photograph by a well know artist will bear more than from one that is not as recognized.

  • MARKET & DEMAND: There are trends in collecting photography as is trends in other venues. The serious collector knows the trends and may or may not follow them. Artists, as well as genres will wax and wane in popularity. Many collectors always recommend buying what touches you emotionally.



  • HANDLING: AVOID touching a print with bare hands, as the oils and lotions can damage a print. Cotton gloves are recommended. Always handle a print with both hands, otherwise it may buckle or crease. If such damages occur, consult a professional conservator who is trained in such things. Avoid using tape or glue. Keep prints away from direct sunlight. UV rays are very damaging.

  • MATTING: Photographs must be matted and stored according to the highest archival standard (100% acid-free). There are 2 types of matting: 100% rag board (made from cotton) or less expensive conservation board (made from purified wood pulp). Though both are effective, 100% cotton rag is the preferred choice among conservation professionals.

  • FRAMING: When framing, always use an overmat with the print so that it does not touch the plexiglass. Yes, only use UV (ultra violet) protected plexiglass. Its much lighter in weight, will not shatter when shipping, and gives UV protection to prevent fading over time. Request non-destructive adhesives to be used and that the matting be constructed with acid-free corners or rice paper hinges, depending on the photograph.

  • STORAGE: Storage boxes that are constructed with acid-free materials are fine. They vary in size, shape and price. Prints that are stored in a case should be separated with an archival glassine tissue. Loose prints should be kept in an archival plastic bag made of polyethylene. Metal flat files are preferred over wood. The chemicals that are used it the production of lumber is harmful to photographic prints in the long term. Acid-free materials & products can be purchased by Light Impressions, Rochester, New York. (www.lightimpressionsdirect.com or 1-800-828.6216)

  • SHIPPING: When shipping, you want to keep the work dry and flat. Wrap the prints in snug-fitting polyethylene plastic bags and sandwich between 2 layers of heavy cardboard or 1/8" masonite board. The panels should be 2" larger than the prints. Tape the sandwiched prints tightly with packing tape and then wrap with bubble wrap. Always use a courier that tracks their packages like UPS, DHL or FedEx. Never use regular US mail, and always properly insure the prints.



  • Photographic paper expands and contracts with changes in temperature and humidity and therefore may not always be flat. Some waviness in the surface is to be expected. This is a special characteristic of art-on-paper that should be accepted and enjoyed.