5 Things To Remember Before Buying Photographs

  • by Cielo Serale

You'll be surprised how buying Photographs is much similar to buying any other types of art. Photographic prints are one of the most accessible mediums to collect; they're affordable and easier to acquire than works on canvas or three-dimensional works. As any expert would say, purchasing your first photographic print would need as much discretion as buying any other pieces for your collection. Here are a few tips you need to remember.

Cartellino Photographs
Daidō Moriyama, Photo courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery

1. Buy what you like and like for a long time

When you're starting a collection, the first thing you'd have to keep in mind when picking your first few pieces would be their aesthetic value. This isn't about what others think of it but what you think of a piece yourself. Do you like how it looks? To make sure it's a piece you won't regret buying, pick something that you know you'd appreciate for a very long time, something you know you won't easily get tired at looking. The same goes for photographs: pick photos that strike you and ones that keep striking you even after more than a few glances and stares. 

2. Know what you're looking for in a piece

If, more than aesthetic value, you're looking for other factors at a piece, better know what you're looking for before you make that purchase. A lot of collectors look into the artist's name, the date the photo was taken or printed, and—most importantly—its price point. If you have a clear preference regarding these, it should be easier for you to pick your first photographic print. If not, don't worry as research can help you find your preference along the way.

Cartellino Photographs
Photo courtesy of Unsplash

3. Editions in Photographs

As anyone would know, Photographs come from either a negative or a digital copy before being printed. The gallery and the artist should have a written contract or agreement on how many editions may be printed from a softcopy or negative of an image. Just like in any other works, provenance plays a huge role in photographs thus making signed pieces more expensive than unsigned ones.

“As any expert would say, purchasing your first photographic print would need as much discretion as buying any other pieces for your collection.”

4. Condition Matters

Just like any form of art, the condition of the photograph matters just as much. A lot of new prints should be void of any scratches. To keep a photograph from damage, the right frame also plays a role. It's never a bad idea to invest in UV resistant glasses and acid-free materials. It may not matter to a lot of people but having a photograph framed matters the most.

5. Is it vintage?

With condition comes with the idea that a photograph may be vintage. If you're set into collecting vintage works, it's best to understand what makes it vintage in the first place. Not all old photographs are vintage. They will only be considered as one if they're printed near the time the negative was made. Just because it was printed in the '80s doesn't mean it's vintage if its negative wasn't made around the same time frame. A lot of experts would say that there may be around a 5-year frame for vintage prints meaning prints made 5 years within the date the negative was created may still be considered vintage. Knowing the date the print or negative was made may help you a lot in identifying whether or not it's a vintage. Understand that vintage prints may have some damage such as scratches but most vintage collectors are more lenient on damages such as scratches or color changes.



Ai Weiwei, Anchor photo courtesy of Lens Culture