5 Essential Tips For Purchasing Your First Photograph

  • Home
  • How To
  • 5 Essential Tips For Purchasing Your First Photograph

If you are interested in purchasing a photograph but are scared to make the first move, Collectionair has you covered. We have put together a list of five essential tips you should keep in mind when embarking on the journey towards acquiring your first print.

TIP #1

Rohingya, Artur Gutowski, 2012.


Before planning any gallery visits, heading to any auctions houses or making a list of the best online art-selling platforms, you need to set a budget. One of the many perks of collecting photography is that it is a relatively affordable medium. This is linked to two factors. First, unlike painting or sculpture, photography is the product of mechanized reproduction, meaning that a photograph can be printed multiple times. Because identical versions of a single image can exist on the market simultaneously, a photographic work is often less “rare” and, consequently, more wallet-friendly. Second, photographic techniques and tools have drastically evolved since the early days of the daguerreotype and large-format cameras in the 1800s, making the medium more accessible to larger group of people. One no longer has to master silver-based chemical reactions and purchase complex and expensive equipment to experiment with photography. The medium’s democratization has allowed individuals from various backgrounds to use photography as a visual language for documentation and storytelling. To sum things up, there are many photographers taking many photographs that often exist in many copies. Result: there is a huge pool of prints to choose from, which can be both exciting and overwhelming for new collectors.

In order to avoid getting caught up in a whirlwind of photos, the best thing to do before starting your research is to figure out what you can and can’t afford. Establishing a fixed price-range will help you narrow down your selection and guide you towards the online and offline platforms that best meet your financial criteria. If you are on a tight budget, or even a very tight budget, do not fret. When is comes to purchasing photography, there really is something for everyone, you just have to know where to look.

TIP #2

Cactus #1, Inhotim, Bruno Freitas de Oliveira, 2016.


If you are planning on acquiring a print but are unsure of whose work to purchase, looking into emerging photographers is a good starting point. Before becoming major players in the art world, all-star photographers such as William Eggleston, Jeff Wall, Andreas Gursky and Cindy Sherman were just anonymous students and autodidacts working in the dark for years at a time to develop their craft. It is probably safe to say that the collectors who purchased work from these photographers in their early days for a fragment of their current market value are pretty pleased about having taken a chance on a new comer. Beyond affordability, investing in early-career photographers gives you the exciting opportunity to be part of their professional journey, a journey that could lead to high places in the long-term. You can discover hidden gems by attending art school graduate shows, such as the annual FreshFaced+WildEyed exhibition organized by the Photographers’ Gallery in London, or by browsing works on emerging art platforms – such as Collectionair – from the comfort of your laptop.

TIP #3

Sketchbook N.6 “Mr. Sonoda, His Glass of Water, My Screen and I” (Detail 3), Karl Isakson, 2016.


If a photograph has caught your eye and you are getting ready to make the move towards purchasing the piece, make sure to get specific information about the print. A few questions you should ask:

  • Who made the print? In this day and age, with all the digital tools at our fingertips, it is important to remember that images can easily be produced and reproduced without the author’s consent. If the seller is not able to provide you with details on who made the print and when, you should start getting suspicious.
  • Is it signed? The presence of the photographer’s signature on the back of the print is a generally a solid confirmation that the print is an original, meaning it was either made by the author or with the author’s consent. Try to always purchase signed prints, especially if the photographer is still alive.
  • How many are there? As mentioned in the first tip, multiple copies of the same photograph can be on the market at the same time. The number of prints of a photograph is referred to as an “edition”. If you are purchasing an original print, it should be numbered on the back (Ex: “45/100” means it is the 45th print out of an edition of 100).
  • How was it printed and on what type of support? Traditional analog photography almost always uses silver gelatin for black and white prints and chromogenic for color. Digital printing consists of spraying ink on the paper to create the image. While you used to only be able to print on certain kinds of heavyweight photosensitive paper, nowadays you can print on almost anything (glass, aluminum, canvas, acrylic, etc.). It is crucial to know what type of support the photograph has been printed on and how so as to ensure that the print will last long if properly conserved according to its material specificities.

TIP #4

Gulu Real Art Studio #47, Martina Bacigalupo, 2013.


So you have found the perfect photograph, purchased it and now want to show it off in your house. Exciting! However, before framing the print and hanging it on your wall, make sure you are aware of the room’s lighting conditions. If you are too eager about exhibiting your recent acquisition in your living room and did not think about the amount of sunlight coming in through the windows, you might end up with a print that has faded or altered colors. In order to avoid such situations, get to know your print (see tip #4) and the space in which you want to hang it in. If the room is bathing in natural light, you can use UV Plexiglas to frame the photograph and protect it from excessive sun exposure. You should also make sure the room is not too humid (moisture can cause irreversible damage to printing paper).

TIP #5

Check Mate, New Orleans, Quentin Crestinu, 2013.


Last but not least, as with any work of art, you absolutely must purchase something you love! If a photograph makes your heart skip when you see it for the first time, do not let it slip away. Whether a print is worth 50$ or 5000$, if you feel good about having it in your possession and believe it is an accurate reflection of your artistic sensibilities, then trust your gut instinct and make it yours.


Using our network of curators and curatorial committee we bring you exhibitions every month from new and exciting art scenes. You can easily buy, rent and swap works with other members of our art sharing community. Enjoy an interactive art world, and we’ll take care of everything else.