Numbering prints : LUSENET : B&W Photo - Printing & Finishing : One Thread

I have several prints I would like to "attempt" to sell at some local art shows. If I decide to enlarge a print to an 11x14 and number it does that mean that they all have to be 11x14? Can I make some of them 8x10? What about if I wanted to make some greeting cards? Is there a common number to limit them to? What about a special pencil or is a No. 2 okay? Thank you in advance! :)

-- Christina Reilly (, June 17, 1998


It sounds as if you are trying to create a "limited edition", so a print could be labelled for example "3/20" meaning it was print 3 of a run of 20.

Of course, you would be morally obliged to destroy your negative after the print run. Why? Imagine if you bought a limited edition print, number 3 of 20, and subsequently discovered the artist had actually made thousands of prints. I think you would feel cheated.

Similarly, I don't think you should print different sizes.

What number to limit them to? It's you decision, probably based on the difficulty of making each one, the potential size of the market, and the price you can charge.

Mind you, I think the concept of a "limited edition" of photographic prints is really artificial. Some media, like lithographs, are limited naturally, because the plate wears out. Photographic negatives don't have this limitation, so you are creating an artificial, and arbitrary, limit.

-- Alan Gibson (, June 22, 1998.

Alan is right in one respect, if you decide to limit the number of prints you sell from one neg then you should not make them available after that number has been distributed. I have been selling one of my pieces for about two years and have sold 80 or so of 100, in all different sizes. After I sell the 100th I won't show it any longer. As far as destroying the neg, I think that is a bit extreme. Just don't produce any more prints for sale after your limit is reached.

-- Bob Sofford (, June 22, 1998.

#ing prints

There have been certain lines established concerning limited edition printing which are followed by most collectors and gallerys. The total number of prints from one negative have no limits but a medium number is around 40-50 at most. This is to insure a continued value for this image. Beyond 50 and the value rarely rises above the original price unless the image holds a exceptional historic value. There is also the issue of what is termed "vintage" prints. These are the prints that are made from the negative within the first one or two years after the image was created. These will normally hold more value after time than "recent" prints of the same image. Usually ,as an edition sells out, the value of the remaining images increase. - eg- an edition of 25 that opens at $1,000 per print might sell at $1,500 when the #s reach 15/25 and $2,000 from 20/25 through 25/25. It is also normal that the photographer holds the first 2 or so prints from the edition for their own achives as master prints. As ultimatly these will hold the highest value as the first approved prints from the printing. The printing of different size editions is something that is generaly looked down upon, unless it is for some special purpose. Such as a donation to an organization to raise funds, etc. Destroying the negative I find not only to be foolish but selfish. The pure historic value of all photographs I believe argue this point. And allowing future generations access to these do not in any way devalue the images printed by or under the supervision of the image maker. Postcards , note cards,etc. are another matter altogether. Have as many printed as you can afford and sell.

-- jim megargee (, June 22, 1998.

Did Weston number his prints or Man Ray. I work for a museum and we have a Weston pepper that was printed in the 80's by Brett Weston. Granted we didn't pay as much for the image as we would have if we had bought a so called "vintage" print but still it's a damn nice image printed in the same manner as Edward would have done it. Recently a photo collector bought several Man Rays (52 I think) and he believed they were vintage prints, paid 2 million for them, it turns out they were printed much later, they discovered this by looking at the type of paper that was used to print it on, some were printed in the 90's. The value on the photos dropped by more than half. What's the point, well we are talking photographs, they are made to be reproduced, if you are selling so many photographs that you need to worry about numbering your prints because you are sure you will make hundreds of other images that will sell as well, that's great, if not don't worry about it. Photographs are being sold for more now than ever before, many of them are not numbered, some we don't even know how many are out there. None of the photos in our collection are numbered and we have hundreds by many famous photographers. If you are looking to make more money off of the photographs don't worry about numbering but worry about archival quality. Selenium toned and hinged with rice paper on archival museum board with UV glass is a bigger sales pitch than only making a certian number. The only photographer that I know of who has truly worked out the way in which he can garuantee the number of prints made is Kim Weston, He does a print and then dry mounts the negative to the back of the matt the photo's on. Only one print per negative and the purchaser gets the neg. It seems extreme to me but his father burned many of his negatives before he died and this increased the value of the photo's out there. I would say don't number but before you die either cataloug everything that you have printed and sent out or destroy your negatives so no one else can make poor quality prints from your negs. I also say if when you die your negs are in great demand and people fight over your images then I am jealous. Good luck, worry about quality not quantity.

-- Kirk Eck (, June 23, 1998.

The practice of numbering prints (of 'limited editions) arises from gallery owners (and hence photographers) attempting to place artificial value on work by giving the illusion of rarity. Not only is this the thinking of dilettantes, it is, for photography, grossly dishonest! After all, they're just a photographs. We can always print more. As such, they are virtually valueless. (Uh oh, I sense I've offended some of you.) And thus, more people who admire our efforts can buy them.

Any value a photograph achieves is due to the quality of the image and the quality of the print, its archival processing, etc. Any artistic merit is bestowed by the viewer, and the viewer sets the value of the work in his mind. If the price the photographer has placed on his effort matches what the viewer decided he is willing to pay, then a sale will probably be made. (Unless the gentle photographer has made some blunt comment that unitentionally offended the viewer. Oops.)

At the present (through Aug 21, '98) I have two 16X20 framed prints in a show of Portraits. (At White Noise Gallery in Los Angeles, if any of you are interested.) The director of the show was surprised to find that 1) I do not make so-called limited editions, and 2) that I do not sell unframed prints. Why? she asked. 1) Limited edititions are dishonest (example: Arthur Tress'renaming sold out editions.) 2) Unframed prints are not finished. Not only does the frame place the print in the correct setting, it protects it from the elements, thus ensuring its archival quality. She asked, what if someone doesn't want to buy a framed print? Then he doesn't have to. If that person doesn't buy it, the next one will. It makes no difference to me.

Photography is not art. Phography is photography. As photographers, we must not take ourselves so seriously. We must resist the temptation to get involved with con games that will eventually come around to bite us. I don't attempt to live off of the sale of my work. I do it for love, for passion. If we make photographs with no expectations, we will be amazed how much better work we produce!

-- Michael D Fraser (, June 30, 1998.

photography is not art, but wow, what beautiful art you can create with it!

-- mark lindsey (, April 28, 1999.

I believe there are something like 800 copies of Ansel's Moonrise. Doesn't seem to have hurt the value!

I am a better printer today than I was 20 years ago. Not only am I a better printer, but the papers are better. Everytime I print I try to make it better than I have ever done before. Why should I deny myself the pleasure of printing my negatives with better skills and materials? Also,sometimes it may take 20 years to truly understand the possibilites a negative posesses.

If one buys an image out of love for the image, one never get taken financially. If the price is worth it to you, who care how many "copies" are out there. You only get taken when you buy for investment

-- James D. Steele (, April 28, 1999.

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