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Collecting Fine Art Photography: Why, How and What to Look For

Collecting Fine Art Photography: Why, How and What to Look For

. 6 min read

Fine art photography is relatively new to the world of art. When you compare it to sculpture or paintings, it's nascent. You can get lost while trying to figure out what to look for if you opt to start a collection. Nonetheless, among collectors, fine art photography is managing to win a popularity contest. Still, the saturation of imagery in photography is leading enthusiasts astray. You look everywhere and you see 'art', whether it's hanging in a gallery or on Instagram. The modern medium of fine art photography needs deeper analysis to decipher true meaning for a collector.

So, how do you go about selecting the right fine art photographs to add to your collection? Here’s a detailed guide to help out.

The 'Why' of Fine Art Photography

As artworks go, photographs are more approachable and accessible, given that they can be reproduced several times. Prices of photographs are affordable, though if you want to buy a Helmut Newton original, you have to shell out hundreds of thousands! You'd be surprised at the skill and craftsmanship that goes into producing a great photograph. In the final photograph, you may not have an 'eye' to notice this, much like you can the brushstrokes in a Rembrandt painting. Yet you should know photographers have knowledge about types of film, camera quality, composition and post-processing mechanisms. It takes a lot to create a unique photograph, making it a worthwhile endeavor to dig deeper and uncover the real fine art photography your collection needs.

©HELMUT NEWTON - Two pairs of legs in black stockings, 1981

How to Gauge Fine Art Photography

With the digital age upon us, anyone can collect fine art photography, with direct access to photographers and photographs online. Nonetheless, with so many options at your fingertips, just a click away, how do you know what to buy and what should be left to admire at a distance? You need to determine what works are worth buying. There are some key aspects to make your decision easier and gauge what will be of potential value in your collection. What follows are some handy tips to guide you through artworks in the photography world.

Look for Limited Editions

In anything that you buy, when you hear or see the term, 'limited edition', you know it’s something that is worth possessing. The very term implies a scarcity of such items. A smaller amount of prints of a photograph will typically increase its value over time. A photograph’s worth is determined by how many are in circulation. After all, if there are only a few copies in the whole world, it would become a rarity soon and people would be willing to pay a premium for it. Prices for a single image can vary, based on whether it's a first edition, or any that follow thereafter as well.

Good choice would be to consider buying a high-quality limited edition art photograph. You can purchase it from special platforms for selling art, art institutions or galleries because the specialists have already sifted the quality photography in which it is worth investing from the mass photography that floods us. So the choice you have to make is reduced to pre-selected options from art specialists.

Often, photographs in open editions hold high value when created by photographers with a serious background and already established names. Very often such photographs have been exhibited many times over the years and they can be found in different formats according to the way they were presented. Here it is important to know that in both limited and open editions the most valuable is the photographic image that is signed or stamped by the author. Thus its value increases many times over.

What distinguishes art photography and photography for investment and collections from the possession of mass photographs and prints is that buying a photograph from an art institution, you receive a certificate of authenticity and quality, which document remains as evidence in the subsequent sale of photography on the secondary art market.

Telling a Story

When images tell a story, they have more meaning. The photographer has deliberately included features within the frame to tell a particular narrative. You may feel a 'connection' to a photograph, and this should instinctively make you want to buy it. Additionally, you should also explore the photographer's story. This may be able to offer you more depth with regard to the photograph in question.

A good choice for purchase are photographic artworks that have been published in printed publications, magazines and catalogues. This means that these works have undergone a preliminary professional editorial evaluation, as these photographs are sifted by many and only the best are selected. For example, Monochrome Hub Gallery presents in its portfolio a number of photographs published in prestigious international publications such as Esquire, Playboy, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, Normal, Elegance, Maxim.

Photographic Artistry

This involves some hands-on research on your part. You must check the details of the photograph as well as the handiwork of the photographer. When you research a photographer, dive deep into their craftsmanship, the calibre of equipment used, and their biography. An artist with a long list of collectors has likely made valuable photographs before.

The most important thing for an author is to be discovered and noticed by experts in the art world. Proof of this would be any type of presentation of the photographer into society, an example of which are exhibitions or publication in a magazine.

In recent years, with the increasing popularity of art photography and its demand, more and more galleries and art scouts are looking for, selecting and presenting young authors whose works are distinguished by their quality, way of researching photography and its presentation. Therefore, the investment and acquisition of photography by new, emerging names presented by various art institutions offer the best possible price-quality ratio for investment purposes.

A new photographer who is on the rise is a good candidate for a collector. You can grab a new photographer’s work early, as value for these will only grow as photographers gain fame.

With these advices, your collection will be one that is meaningful to you and actually valuable in terms the art depicts.

Make sure that you know how to properly display art in your home. Here are 5 tips that can help you out.

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