Monthly Archives: June 2008

PhotoDump 06-22-2008

More great stuff this week from the Epic Edits Flickr Pool! For any new readers out there with a Flickr account, you’re welcome to come join the group, submit your photos to the pool, and join the discussions. Each week, I choose my favorite photos from the pool and display them in a post such as this.

untitled 3 by javiyNatasha by Champloo20080620_4132 by mathias.pastwaWhen it rains... by EJP PhotoUntitled by javiyLove in the Sand by Chica-Xclose. beach. by mrpittmanOn my way to the Moon by A. MarquesLife on 6th Street - Austin, Texas by Marco From Houstonjump 1 by springtree roadlook into the eyes by chegsPluck! by thebusybrainSunset in Overpelt by Nele en JanBlue Vents - Haute Wheels 2008 by Digital Kloc PhotographyAdventures w/o Electricity (pt. 6) by Tasha || As The Picture FadesTrain Bridge by mcveja.coming up daisies... by ojoyous1Winter, complaining about not being held by vandyll.netDivision II by the_wolf_brigadeprovia and goldfish equals by lettertwelvePortrait Lighting Cheat Sheet Card by udijwfacing the sun by max.milionJackie G. - Rembrant by Digital Kloc PhotographyMelancholy by AIA GUY..Rwoodfenced 5 by xgrayWhat Lies Beyond by auer1816emanate by xysmas (Aaron)SviggumPicks-4 by MATTaddingtonDay 118: Yet another toy? Yashica baby! by vandyll.netAmongst the Giants by auer1816Wild Columbine. by Bernie KasperBubble battle warriors by rdstoker by | GW |Scared of bricks (161/366) by bryanvillarinPuffing Billy and Conductor by neilcreekDay 117: Look who we got our Hanes on now by vandyll.netsamuel by lifeographyMy Summer Vacation by mathias.pastwaThe 20's by AIA GUY..RwoodGreater Metropolitan Flower Area by crankyankeeAdventures w/o Electricity (pt. 8) by Tasha || As The Picture FadesSnow Peas Final (yellow tint B&W) by ChamplooZebra by querthdie, giant metal ball! by poopooramafamily portrait by ryan loucks photographyDay Lilly HBW by AIA GUY..RwoodRed Boats by funkyforkDecompression Stop by javiyDie Ringelblumen sind zurück! by felicity crewLittle Olya by fromBrandonYaron is beautiful by tcmmancurves by Phill Price | PhotographyDSC_9018 by newminaswildersMorant Point Lighthouse, Jamaica by CharleneCollinsJamaica

Link Roundup 06-21-2008

  • The Nuts and Bolts of off-camera flash – Part 1, Basics
    F/1.0
    Being a Strobist dunce I’m really looking forward to this series that talks about the nitty gritty down and dirty of flash mechanics. This article is an intro to the basic method of firing a flash unit and the common modes of the strobe.
  • 200+ Textures, Brushes, and Fonts: Ultimate Grunge Roundup
    Design Reviver
    If you’re into texturizing or just grunging up your photos, here is a pretty large list of goodies you might be interested in. It’s written primarily for web designers, but photographers can find some useful stuff in there too.
  • Baby Time: Photographing Babies Without Losing your Mind
    digital Photography School
    Six tips for photographing babies — which can be more difficult than it may seem!
  • Creative Commons WordPress Plugin
    Photopreneur
    A great WordPress plugin for you bloggers that allows you to find and publish Flickr photos licensed under the Creative Commons.
  • 5 Ways to Hold Your Viewer’s Attention
    Beyond Megapixels
    Good strong methods for grabbing attention in your photos and directing your viewer’s eyes in the direction you intend.
  • Blurb Photo Books Review
    PhotoWalkPro
    A very in-depth review of the POD book service called Blurb. Filled with lots of screenshots and lays out the basic flow of creating a book with them.
  • Portrait Lighting Cheat Sheet Card
    DIYPhotography.net
    This is a really neat thing to check out if you’re planning on using off-camera flash. Udi put together a cheat-sheet that shows the results of varying the strobe location and angle.

Your Guide to Buying Old Film Cameras

Linhof Mob
Creative Commons License photo credit: Voxphoto

With the boom in digital cameras, used film equipment has been dropping in price and increasing in availability. Many people switch over to digital and decide to get rid of their old film stuff that they’ll probably never use again. This is good news for anybody wanting to get into film — cameras and lenses are insanely cheap (though, not the ones shown in this first photo!).

The cheap old film cameras are fun to use and great to experiment with. If you currently use a digital camera with all the bells and whistles, I’d suggest looking into a fully manual film camera from the 50′s, 60′s, or 70′s. There’s a huge selection of these cameras out there, and most of them are still in great working condition.

Here are some things to think about when looking for a new used camera. And for additional reading on the topic, check out Antonio Marques’ 5 Tips for Acquiring Old Cameras.

FIGURING OUT WHAT YOU WANT

Before you start looking for that old film camera, you should probably have an idea of what you’re looking for. There are so many cameras out there, and you could end up wandering aimlessly if you don’t have any notion of what you’re after. Here are three ways that you can use to help you define what you’re looking for.

The Minolta Collection
Creative Commons License photo credit: auer1816

One way to start refining your selection is to choose a type of camera. Maybe you want an SLR, or a rangefinder, or a TLR, or maybe a box camera. Find something that interests you and meets your needs. Be aware of camera types that require removable lenses, and be aware of the type of film they use. Some film formats are no longer offered, extremely hard to find, or very expensive.

Another way to narrow your search is by selecting a film format. Be sure you choose a film that you can actually buy or one that can be re-spooled from a standard film. You’ll have a wide selection of cameras if you stick with the 135 format, or 35mm film. But maybe you want to jump into medium format and find something that takes the common 120 format. If you want to know what’s readily available, visit your local camera shop or film store and see what they have.

And yet another method of refining your selection is by brand, or camera manufacturer. If you’re a brand loyalist like me (I love Minoltas), you’ll limit your searches and avoid comparing across brands. But beware, there are a ton of old camera manufacturers out there, so this may not be the best method of selection unless you feel very strongly about one in particular.

Oh, and one last thing… figure out what you’re willing to pay for the camera BEFORE you start looking at them. If you want to keep it under $50, keep it under $50. Going into a camera purchase without a budget is a bad idea no matter what kind of camera you’re buying.

DOING YOUR RESEARCH

Ideas
Creative Commons License photo credit: louder

Once you’ve figured out your direction, start looking around the web and do some research. Wikipedia and Camerapedia are good places to do general research on cameras. Look around on the sites that sell the cameras and get a feel for the price and condition of the cameras. During this process, you may end up selecting a particular model that you’re interested in, or you might even change your mind from your original intentions.

Search around for reviews, follow threads in forums, and basically dig up anything you can on your camera. The more you know about it, the better you’ll be able to interact with sellers. If you go into a camera purchase not knowing the basics of how it works or the features it has, you won’t know what to ask or what to look for.

THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Different cameras will have different things to watch out for, but some things are similar across all cameras. I’m talking about spotting problems and avoiding bad equipment and sellers. Ultimately, what you’re after is a working camera at a fair price. Here are some things to look out for while scoping your equipment.

Watch out for prices out of the ordinary. You ought to have a feel for the going price on your camera — if you see one that’s priced too high, you might want to keep looking. Likewise, if you see something that’s listed way too low, there’s a good chance that the seller isn’t trustworthy or there’s something wrong with the camera.

Make sure everything is in working order. Some sellers don’t know the camera as well as they should — I recently bought a rangefinder “in working condition” and it showed up with a broken rangefinder mechanism! That sort of thing is kind of important. You’ll also want to make sure that things like the shutter, aperture blades, and film winder are working properly. Try to get a feel for the condition of the glass, and ask about scratches, dust, and fungus. Old camera bodies are pretty tough and scratches won’t do any harm, but watch out for cameras that are terribly beat up.

When was the camera last used? If it was recent and the seller is stating that it’s in working condition, then it’s likely that the camera will be fine. If the camera hasn’t been used in decades or if the seller is selling for a friend or relative, I’d be cautious. Old cameras will keep working for quite a while as long as they’re maintained and used often. If they sit in the closet for too long, things will start to rust and stick.

Cameras are sold for parts. Make sure you read the description for the camera you’re buying — some cameras are sold with the statement that they do not work and they could be used for repair or replacement parts. Don’t assume that all cameras for sale are in working order.

WHERE TO FIND FILM CAMERAS

There are plenty of places out there to buy used cameras. Here are a few that I’ve come across.

  • EBAY
    Most of my film cameras came from eBay. The selection is great, prices are low, but the risk is slightly higher than other avenues. On eBay, it’s important to predefine your spending limit and don’t let yourself get caught up in bidding wars. It’s also important to fully read the product descriptions and ask the seller questions if anything is unclear.
    See eBay Film Cameras Under $50
  • B&H PHOTO VIDEO
    B&H is a great store to buy new photo equipment and they’re a highly trusted source in the industry. They also offer used equipment and they have a collection of old film cameras to browse through. The selection is smaller than that of eBay, but the equipment is tested and inspected by B&H before it’s offered for sale.
    Take a Look at the B&H Used Gear
  • ADORAMA
    Adorama is another highly trusted source of photography equipment, and they also offer used equipment for sale. Again, items listed can be trusted to work more than those coming from eBay. They also have a nice little article on bargain-hunting in the film camera department — a nice little guide to the different types of film cameras you can find there.
    Browse Through Adorama’s Used Cameras
  • GOOGLE PRODUCT SEARCH
    Google does it all… even shopping online. If you can’t find what you’re looking for at other specific sources, you might give this a try and see where it points you. The nice thing about it is that you can set a price range in your search criteria so you have less crud to weed out.
    See Film Cameras from Google Product Search
  • OZ CAMERA
    An avid film photographer I know turned me on to this site. John Cooper from Australia runs it as a hobbyist collector, but many of the cameras found there are also for sale. He’s got a very nice collection of some obscure cameras that you won’t readily find elsewhere. It’s best to go in there knowing which brand you’re after.
    See the Goods At OzCamera
  • BLACK MARKET ANTIQUES
    I just recently found this online antique shop which is based out of Pennsylvania (go figure). They also have some really interesting finds, and most of the stuff is quite old. The prices are ridiculously low, so it’s definitely worth a browse.
    Check Out the Oldies at Black Market Antiques
  • ANTIQUE SHOPS
    If you live in an area with antique shops, go check them out and see if they have any cameras. Ask them if they typically get cameras, and you might even have them give you a call when new stuff arrives.
  • SWAP MEETS
    If buying old cameras online isn’t your thing, check out the local swap meets and flea markets. Sometimes you’ll encounter people with massive collections of cameras, and sometimes you’ll find hidden gems amongst the other stuff. The nice thing about this method of buying is that you can tinker with the camera and try to determine if things are in working order.
  • FAMILY
    It seems like everybody who grew up in the film-era has at least one old film camera lying around. Sometimes you never know until you ask them! My dad gave me his old SLR, my grandfather pulled out a pristine Canon AE-1 and an old Polaroid camera the other day, and my Mother-in-Law still has her Kodak Instamatic 44. So ask around and you might be able to resurrect and old film camera at little or no cost!

GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR CAMERA


Creative Commons License photo credit: 油姬

Once you get your camera and you determine that everything works properly, go have some fun! Use it, and use it often. Take it out without bringing any digital cameras along. The best way to kill your film focus is to bring a digital camera along “just in case” you need it or something. Once you learn how to use it efficiently, you might even prefer it over your shiny new digital camera.

Keep it clean and store it in a place away from moisture or extreme temperatures. Letting these old metal cameras sit for too long can cause them to freeze up. Hi-tech materials weren’t as readily available in the 1950′s as they are today, so your camera parts will be more prone to damage and decay… which is probably why they’re built like tanks.

Experiment with different films. This is the great thing about film — you can totally change what your camera produces just by changing the film. There’s more to black & white film that just black & white. You get to play with things like differences in grain, contrast, and other features of appearance. Color films are great too — they all have a different look and feel, and different cameras will produce different results on the same films. Throw in some slide film and have it cross processed — you’ll get some really interesting results.

If you put the time and effort into selecting and buying your old film camera, you’ll be more than pleased with your choice. You could end up with a camera that’s much older than you are, and it will probably outlast your digital camera by many years.

Brushing Up on the Sunny 16 Rule

Wait .. Don't go !!
Creative Commons License photo credit: Kuw_Son

With digital cameras today, there’s almost never a need to “guess” or estimate exposure settings. Even so, you may eventually find yourself having to ignore your light meter and take the situation into your own hands. Or perhaps you’ll end up falling for film and buying an old camera without a light meter. Either way, having the ability to set exposure without the assistance of a meter is a good skill to acquire.

USING THE SUNNY 16 RULE

  1. Gauge Your Light
    For the Sunny 16 Rule to work, you’ll first need a sunny day. The rule can also work with other lighting situations such as cloudy and overcast — take a look at the next list for those.
  2. Set Your F-Number
    Set your f-number to f/16. If you don’t have strong sunlight, use the next list to determine your starting f-number.
  3. Set Your Shutter Speed
    Take note of your ISO or film speed (let’s call it “X”). Now set your shutter speed to 1/X. So at ISO 400, you’d use a shutter speed of 1/400 seconds.
  4. Adjust With Reciprocals
    You may want to use different shutter speeds or f-numbers. You can adjust one as long as you adjust the other accordingly. Opening up by one full f-number requires cutting your shutter speed in half (and visa versa).

VARIATIONS ON SUNNY 16

  1. f/16 for Sunny
  2. f/11 for Slight Overcast
  3. f/8 for Overcast
  4. f/5.6 for Heavy Overcast
  5. f/4 for Sunset

F-STOP GUIDE

Since most cameras offer full stops, half stops, and third stops, you’ll need to have a handle on which ones are full stops so you can use the rule of reciprocals to change your f-number and shutter speed. Here’s a list of full f-stops.

f/1 – f/1.4 – f/2 – f/2.8 – f/4 – f/5.6 – f/8 – f/11 – f/16 – f/22 – f/32 – f/45

But you don’t need to memorize these numbers — there’s an easy little trick to them. You actually just need to remember two numbers: 1 and 1.4. These are the first two full stops in the list. Double them and you get the next two in the list. Double those and you get the next two numbers. Check it out:

1.0 – 2.0 – 4.0 – 8.0 – 16 – 32
– 1.4 – 2.8 – 5.6 – 11 – 22 – 45

You’ll notice that twice 5.6 isn’t exactly 11 and twice 22 isn’t 45. This is because the bigger numbers are rounded and the starting number isn’t exactly 1.4 — it’s 1.41421356… or the square root of 2.

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources having to do with Sunny 16 Rule and exposure.

The rule really works — if you don’t believe it, go try it out with any camera that has manual controls. I’ve been using the rule with my 1956 Minolta Autocord Twin Lens Reflex (no light meter) and it performs flawlessly.

Do You Take Photos or Make Photos?

Simple Idea Trick
Creative Commons License photo credit: vaXzine

In response to my previous post on “My Weakest Area of Photography“, one comment got me thinking about the topic of “taking photos” versus “making photos”. Travis Campbell said it well in his comment:

I’m getting to the point where I want to create scenes instead of just capturing ones already in play. And I’m realizing just how hard it is to come up with good ideas that look good on screen or in print. I’ve started writing some of these down and letting them percolate, adding new bits to each one when a brainstorm comes around. It’s a slow process, but I’m definitely getting a better feel for it.

So this made me curious as to how many of us “take photos” and how many “make photos”. Are you capturing the scene as you see it, possibly waiting for the right moment or best light? Or are you creating the scene, planning it, and executing the capture of a concept? Personally, I’m a “photo taker” — I work with what’s already there and try to find interesting scenes that exist without my intervention. But what about you?

{democracy:49}

And check out the poll results from last week asking “Print From Home or Print On Demand?” It looks like we have a whole mixture of answers, but the POD services (online and offline) seem to be favored 2 to 1 with online POD services having a 3 to 1 favor over offline POD.

My Weakest Area of Photography

My Weakest Link

In my “What Should I Write About” poll, Neil Creek asked me what my weakest area of photography is and how I plan to improve it. That’s a pretty deep question, and it really made me think about my photos and what I’m trying to convey.

Picking out your own strong points may be a difficult task, but picking out your own weak points is near impossible. I would expect people to fall into one of two camps on this: too self critical, or not critical enough. I’m actually having a hard time narrowing my weak spots down to one, so I’ll break this discussion into two parts: technical and artistic.

TECHNICAL WEAKNESS

This one is actually easy for me to identify because every time I encounter it I dread having to deal with it. I’m talking about the dreaded off camera artificial lighting (flashes, strobes, studio lights, etc). I’m very much a natural light photographer, but I encounter situations that could benefit from a better understanding of lighting techniques and equipment.

Part of what’s holding me back is the fact that off camera lighting requires equipment. Buying that equipment requires knowledge and understanding of how it works and what it can do. Using that equipment requires an even deeper understanding of how it works and how to control it.

HOW I PLAN TO IMPROVE

First of all, I need some equipment. Right now I have one slave flash, but I’d like to get something that offers a little more control and flexibility. I’d like to have a one or two light setup that can be taken out in the field if needed. I like the idea of things like soft boxes, umbrellas, reflectors, etc, but I’m not sure which ones would be most useful in a wider array of applications. I’m open to taking suggestions from those of you who know more about this stuff than I do.

While I save up some money for that equipment (which means I’ll have to stop buying new film cameras), I suppose I could brush up on my Strobist education. I’ve also been following Jim Talkington and his lighting videos lately, which are actually getting me more interested in the concept of off-camera lighting.

Once I’ve done my research and acquired my equipment, it’s just a matter of practice practice practice.

ARTISTIC WEAKNESS

This one is a little harder to define for me. I think the biggest thing I’d like to improve upon is my ability to capture and convey the emotion of a scene. Do you ever come across those photos that strike you emotionally? You know, the stuff that really hits you, makes you ponder life, stirs your emotions, and conveys a message.

In looking back at my own work, I can see little bits and pieces of this sort of thing, but not on a consistent basis and not at full force. Many times, I attribute these types of shots to dumb luck. Often times, while viewing a particular scene, I can feel a certain emotion due to my surroundings. I have a mental vision of how I’d like to capture that scene, but I often fall short of telling the whole story the way I saw it with my eyes. Am I making any sense here?

HOW I PLAN TO IMPROVE

I think this sort of thing is something that comes with lots of time and even more practice. I’ve been heavy into photography for a relatively short time when compared to the old masters. I’m sure that their ability to convey emotion was something that had to develop over time. So I guess I’ll just keep shooting and see what happens.

One other thing I’ve noticed is that my photos of people seem to have a stronger emotional connection than those without. Not that it’s impossible to create a striking image without the presence of people, but I think we naturally have a stronger connection to people shots. Including people in my photos (whether it’s portraits, candids, or street photography) is something I’ve been trying to do more of lately. I’m at a stage where I’m getting comfortable with candids and street photography, but I’d like to progress to a point of getting a little more intimate with the subjects and making a connection with the camera.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

What is your weakest aspect of photography? Is it something technical? Or is it something more artistic? And what do you plan to do to improve yourself in this area? Please do share your thoughts on this one — I’m sure many of us have the same weaknesses and aspirations as photographers.

PhotoDump 06-15-2008

More great stuff this week from the Epic Edits Flickr Pool! You guys are getting to be so good that I’m having to be more selective with my picks so we don’t end up with a visual overload on these posts.

Blood Red Heart by Magical PlacesI won't be lonely any more by mustanirbe free by s-t-r-a-n-g-eforlorn by A Cognitive State of MindReady to Jack by bassqeeLeyland (cross-processed) by LightChaser: Luis CruzThe Arrow by From 10 to 300mmkashi and coffee by rickabboseparate by dawn m. armfieldseamus by lifeographyEuropa by Marcus LibäckBig White Boxes by auer1816Bucket of skulls by vandyll.netDivision by the_wolf_brigade"I stand alone" by pragnyanTime changes everything.  by the_wolf_brigadeBus Only by ndbutterme and my slides by mathias.pastwasunflower in the wind by xgrayOn the wall by Crashmaster007Metro Timetables by auer1816Light by javiy by rsplatpcPZO Warszawa - Krokus 44L Enlarger by mathias.pastwaForced in every sense of the word. by the_wolf_brigade-log by wasabifishDistorted Vision by Chica-Xthe rock dreams of being free by poopooramaImmortalis by rh89Count the Lines by auer1816What color is your house? by Tasha || As The Picture Fadesif we let him he will die ;-) by max.milion~ by ojoyous120080605_scan_0029 by mathias.pastwaboat by felicity crew0ooo. by lifeographyLady Boo Peep by cmiperseen better REFLECTION???? by robinn.clematis by Bernie KasperIt must be you by henrikjThe Eye by javiyWatching ones fate by Ryan Opaz

A Closer Look at “Limited Editions”

Self Portrait (Magnify)
Creative Commons License photo credit: Kapungo

Wow, I didn’t expect such a heated conversation to spring from the previous article titled “What Exactly is a Limited Edition Print?“. In that article, I pulled information from my own experiences and learnings to offer up a definition of “Limited Edition” as it pertains to fine art photography today.

Several of the readers offered up their own interpretations and some disputed my explanations. These comments and questions caused me to dig deeper and deeper until I came to the conclusion that a follow-up article was needed. So just as with the previous article, this article is an open discussion. Below you will find new information and perspectives on this topic of limited edition photography.

One commentator really got into the discussion and forced me to rethink some things. The entire discussion is worth a read on the previous article, but here are some key points made by Janne.

Any “Limited edition print” which isn’t actually _limited_ is basically fraud in my view. That includes doing more copies of the same image that aren’t signed; whether different size or not signed is beside the point; just call it “signed edition” or “signed print” if you want to be honest. And “limited” does imply a _small_ number of prints; below a thousand, certainly. Destroying the negative afterwards sounds like a good idea – that is the order of the day for other media that produce limited prints after all (stones are broken; copper plates repolished)

I mean, according to those definitions above there is actually nothing limiting any of you. You can run off numbered prints under your direct supervision in the millions; just rent some time on a newspaper press. And if that is not enough you seem to argue that a slight size difference, or a somewhat different crop, or just not put your signature on it makes it suddenly “not count”.

There’s two points to having a limited print: one is that the buyer knows there really is a _limited_ number of images out there. The other is the concept of the artist actually limiting themselves, and not selling all they could do, in preference of creating a smaller number of pieces with individuality.

(via email) Thinking about it one more time, what I’m really objecting to is simply the language. “limited print” has a pretty specific meaning in other graphical arts; what you want to do is completely legitimate and valuable, but uses a different term. It is needlessly confusing to appropiate a term in a neighbouring field and changing its intended meaning. People may legitimately become confused about what you mean, and feel they have been deceived as a result of this.

I’m really grateful for the discussions held with Janne, and I always enjoy academic arguments that cause me to learn new things a see new perspectives.

THE LEGAL PERSPECTIVE

Courtroom One Gavel
Creative Commons License photo credit: Joe Gratz

Niels Henriksen brought up the fact that there are several US states which have legal definitions of limited edition prints.

If I remember correctly within the USA there are legal rules to define what is constitutes and limited edition print. While I don’t have the ruling in front of me, I should try and dig it up again, Limited edition prints means that the artists will only produce x number of prints. They do not need to be signed or numbered, but this is ordinarily the practice. Therefore you would not able to sign and number x prints and then sell more unsigned if I am correct. There is provision when producing limited edition prints to have a very small number that will be used a promo pieces and they are identified as such. As a follow up, there are 14 states, I don’t know which ones that have legal definitions of limited edition prints.

I dug around a little more and I saw this reference to the 14 states with legal definitions, but the articles were outdated and links were broken. I have yet to see this actual source, but I’m sure something along these lines exists.

I’m no lawyer and I have a terrible time trying to navigate the law books. If there are any law savvy readers out there, I’m sure we’d all appreciate some clarification or reference to these things.

So bottom line: if you live in a state that clearly defines the term “Limited Edition” with regards to artistic prints, that’s going to be your guide. I’ll post more on this if I ever get my hands on the references to the state laws.

THE DEFINITION PERSPECTIVE

One thing that became apparent during the conversations in the previous post was that some of us were arguing about the language being used rather than the intent. So let’s take a look at the terms “limited” and “edition” in hopes that we can gain some insight.

LIMITED indicates something that is small in range or scope. This one is pretty straight forward, just meaning that there is a finite number of things in question.

EDITION refers to a collection of prints from the same original and usually printed at the same time. So if you print 50 images all at once, those 50 images are part of the same edition. If you print 30 more at a later time (and maybe at a different size or on a different medium) that would be considered another edition not part of the first edition. Wikipedia for more information.

So when we combine “Limited” and “Edition” it implies that a small set number of prints were made from the original at the same time and of the same size, implying that no further prints will be produced.

THE HISTORIC PERSPECTIVE

Untitled (Holocaust Child), Drypoint Plate
Creative Commons License photo credit: ratpat13

Limited editions are a byproduct of historic printmaking techniques. Prior to modern photography, artists were limited to a range of printmaking techniques to create multiple reproductions of an art piece. These techniques typically included a plate of some sort that was used to create impressions on the final medium (and most of these techniques are still used today for creating prints). These plates were physically incapable of lasting indefinitely and many were only capable of producing a small number of prints before deteriorating past a usable state. The prints derived from these plates were also usually created at the same time because of the process involved to do so — it just wasn’t as feasible to create one at a time based on demand.

And so limited editions were not a marketing ploy to impose scarcity or something that the artist chose to do. It was a burden of necessity based on the technology. The artist would make their prints, number them, and possibly sign them. And that was the end of that.

Here is just one type of printmaking that uses acid to etch a copper plate.

THE MODERN PERSPECTIVE

Is that a negative?
Creative Commons License photo credit: Stitch

As technology advanced, so did art. There came a point when printmaking techniques were no longer physically limiting on the number of prints that could be derived from an original — specifically with photography (especially with digital photography).

As the technology allowed for near infinite reproduction of prints, artists began to impose limits on their works as a means of creating scarcity and increasing value. Numbering the multiples provides an indication of scarcity and signatures have become a typical means of identifying the origin of the work while implying that the print is truly from the artist.

So in the most strict sense of the term “Limited Edition” as it applies to fine art photography, prints would need to be produced as an edition (all at once) and no further prints would be produced. To ensure this limit is maintained, the original should probably be destroyed.

Digital technology only clouds the topic because exact replicas of the original can be produced with very little effort. Even scaled digital reproductions of the original bring question as to whether a print derived from that image can truly be called a limited edition. If I print a 3×5 from one of my Flickr photos that was run as a limited edition, did I just create a second edition? And does that break the promise of the first edition?

MY PERSPECTIVE

Brian Auer
Creative Commons License photo credit: auer1816

I truly don’t care if what I’m producing is called a “Limited Edition”, a “Signed Print”, a “Limited Signed Print”, a “Special Edition”, etc. The implications of the formal terminology aren’t what interests me, so much as the intent of the works I’m creating. Niels Henriksen also made a statement to this that really makes sense to me.

I believe as an artist, unless there are legal definitions within your jurisdiction, it is important to clearly define your use of limited editions and any other prints runs you might be making for different sizes, posts cards, unsigned etc.

In order to avoid confusion or disputes with potential buyers, I’ll have to be more careful about the terminology I used to describe my artwork. Clearly, in the digital age things are not so cut and dry as they once were. Again, Janne provided some useful insights to this.

(via email) In a larger context, of course, the whole idea of a “limited print” is a rather bad fit for this medium, as you point out in a later reply.
Doing a limited print run is simply trying to create an artificial scarcity, and it’s not clear that anybody at all stands to benefit. I have seen the idea floated of an “artistic back catalogue”, where visual artists simply keep their images available, running new prints according to demand, in much the same way as musicians today can keep their entire back catalogue available for the occasional buyer, and as we can (though regrettably still do not) keep books similarly available on a permanent basis.

Trying to go the “expensive and rare” route with copyable media greatly risks backlash, with many potential customers electing to either do an illegal copy, or just search the net for a free image of the subject they’re interested in. Most buyers of prints are after all as interested in the subject matter as in that specific image and composition, and there isn’t a notable spot on the planet today not well represented by photographs of every caliber, many legally available for free.

YOUR PERSPECTIVE

Once again, I call on the rest of you to offer up your thoughts on this topic. I’m particularly interested in continuing the discussion about “Limited Editions”, but I’m also curious about how modern photographic printmaking should be handled by today’s artists and how they should label their work. And yet again, I use the words from Janne to get this discussion started.

(via email) It may simply be that regardless of any definition of “limited”, the viable business approach for most photographers is the same as for musicians, graphical designers and other such groups: If you can’t vault into superstardom, your best bet is to create a full body of work and make it available easily and inexpensively. Then rely on the accumulated orders over the entire catalogue and on the secondary services you can offer to create a steady income; rather than trying to create a few breakaway hits.

What Exactly is a “Limited Edition” Print?

And Gone....
Creative Commons License photo credit: SuLeS

UPDATE: As a result of the discussions from this post, I’ve written a follow-up article that addresses more perspectives on this topic. Please visit A Closer Look at Limited Editions for further reading.

A few posts back, I mentioned that I put one of my “limited edition” prints up for auction on eBay. In the comments of this post, Stephen Gray asked a very good question:

One thing that always confuses me, however, is the use of the term “limited” or “limited edition” in the digital age. There’s really no actual limiting factor when dealing with digital photos and printing. I mean, even a good negative can be scanned and then reproduced in large numbers. So how do we as photographers define this? What are our responsibilities or requirements when using such terms? (I’ll be honest, not understand this–along with a severe lack of time due to a show I’m currently working on–was a big factor that kept me from submitting to the recent Fine Art Photoblog call for entries.)

As a consumer, if I’m buying something that’s touted as “limited”, then it comes with the expectation that what I’m buying will remain scarce. After 30, you’ll not sell this photo again or is there some other caveat involved?

To be honest, I was asking the same types of questions only a few months ago. Lucky for me, I work with highly talented individuals on the Fine Art Photoblog who could lend me some pointers on the topic. And to be perfectly clear, the material in this article is based on opinion and personal experience. I don’t believe there exists an official handbook or set of rules for “limited edition” photos. Take it with a grain of salt and offer up your own thoughts if your opinion is different.

And no, the photos shown on this post aren’t necessarily limited edition prints — they’re just “prints” of some sort.

WIKIPEDIA’S DEFINITION

Frosty Triptych
Creative Commons License photo credit: kiddharma

Let’s start with the formal source and see what the Wikipedia has to say about the topic of Limited Editions. Here’s an excerpt from the topic of the Special Edition as it relates to the artistic medium.

Limited editions have been standard in printmaking from the nineteenth century onwards. There is a genuine need for the concept here, as many traditional printmaking techniques can only produce a limited number of top-quality impressions, as copies of prints are known. This can be as few as ten or twenty for a technique like drypoint, but more commonly would be in the hundreds or thousands. But here as in other fields, the use of the concept has become largely driven by marketing imperatives, and has been misused in parts of the market. In particular, lithographic, photogravure, rotogravure, and computer reproductions of prints, derived from photographs of an original print, which are most unlikely to have any investment value, are often issued in limited editions implying that they will have such value. These need to be distinguished from the original artist’s print, carefully produced directly from his work in whatever the printmaking medium is, and printed under his supervision.

So to sum that up: driven by marketing imperatives, produced directly from the artist’s work (film or digital file), and produced under the supervision of the artist or directly by the artist.

CODY REDMON’S DEFINITION

Fingerprint 3
Creative Commons License photo credit: Mr Jaded

Cody offered up his definition of Limited Editions to me first when I posed the question. You can catch Cody at the Fine Art Photoblog or on his personal photography blog.

I treat mine differently than some people, but there’s no definitive way to do this. I sell my prints at whatever size the customer wants and it counts as 1-of-X in the edition length…as long as it’s signed and numbered. I don’t usually go below 12×18″ for mine, but it’s up to you. Anything purchased that does not have my signature is not considered part of the limited edition, but some folks believe that only producing a set number is what creates the value of the print. Ansel Adams’ estate would argue against this point, though, as you can go buy poster prints of his work for a couple hundred dollars, but his originals or prints from his negatives usually start about $10K. So, I sell ‘art’ pieces, and I sell ‘signed’ pieces…the signed ones are what matter to me…the others are for hobbyists and over-the-couchers.

So to sum that up: any size counts as part of the limited edition, must be signed and numbered, and reproductions are okay too and don’t detract from the value of the limited edition.

JOSEPH SZYMANSKI’S DEFINITION

080220_1041
Creative Commons License photo credit: taivasalla

Joseph followed up comments with some of his own thoughts on the topic. You can catch Joseph at the Fine Art Photoblog or at his personal photography blog.

Again, like Cody said, there are a lot of interpretations of this. I’ve known a lot of people that do editions in one size only and that’s all they print, others that do a limited edition in one size and print others indefinitely, and those that do editions in all sizes, as in 50 in 11×14, 50 in 16×20 and so on. There is also a school of thought that believes that after the edition is printed the negative (or the digital file as it were) should be destroyed. If you ask me, thats ludicrous.

So to sum that up: there are a lot of interpretations of this topic and many are acceptable, and destroying the original negative or digital file after the limited edition is over is not necessary.

BRIAN AUER’S DEFINITION

screen printed greeting cards
Creative Commons License photo credit: ‘smil

Since doing my original research on this topic, I’ve come to define the idea of Limited Editions to suit my own needs. You can also catch me at the Fine Art Photoblog or at the PhotoNetCast.

I think I have to agree with both Cody and Joe in their thoughts on this. I consider a limited edition print to require a signature and number at a minimum. The print should be produced directly by the artist, or under direct supervision of the artist (such as working with a professional print maker). Any size is okay with me (but no smaller than 12″ at the longest dimension), and any size counts as part of the same limited edition. Reprints, such as those from ImageKind, are perfectly fine during or after the limited edition and they shouldn’t devalue the signed prints. Limited edition prints are collectible pieces of art and their value should increase over time.

So to sum that up: need a signature and number, produced by the artist, sizes don’t matter much, and reprints are okay.

SO TO SUM THAT UP…

Like I said before, there are no hard set rules on this topic. But after doing a little research and talking with some experienced photographers/artists, I think we can say the following about Limited Edition prints:

  • Produced directly from the artist’s original work (film or file).
  • Produced directly by the artist or under direct supervision.
  • Limited to some pre-defined number of prints.
  • Signed and numbered (X of N) by the artist.
  • Sizing of prints is up to the artist.
  • Unsigned reprints are acceptable and don’t devalue the limited edition.
  • The original work doesn’t need to be destroyed at the end.
  • WHAT ELSE?

What other rules or guidelines do you have for Limited Edition prints? Do you disagree with anything here? Have you found other resources that address this topic? Leave some comments and discuss!

UPDATE: As a result of the discussions from this post, I’ve written a follow-up article that addresses more perspectives on this topic. Please visit A Closer Look at Limited Editions for further reading.