Tag Archives: discussion

Link Roundup 07-17-2010

Before we get to the links, I apologize to anybody that visited the site recently and found it to be infected with a malicious redirect exploit. I became aware of the issue this morning (thanks to an email from a reader) and I had it fixed within an hour. These things happen from time to time, and I appreciate folks letting me know when something is wrong with the site. Now for some weekend reading!

Link Roundup 05-17-2010

Making Fine Art Prints: Signing

Making Fine Art Prints: Signing

Finally, we’re getting to the less discussed topic of producing fine art prints: signing. I’ve had a few people ask the same questions about where to sign, how to sign, what to sign with, etc. If there existed an official rule book, set of laws, or holy parchment that contained the answers I’d direct everybody to the web page. But I don’t think something like that exists, and I know the process of signing fine art is less than defined.

Even if these things aren’t defined in a strict technical fashion, there are some traditional ways of doing things. Tradition is fine and dandy, but there are also alternative methods to every aspect of signing prints. In this article, we’ll explore some of the options and discuss a few of the things you might think about while producing your fine art prints.

WHY SIGN A PRINT?

The biggest reason to sign a print is to show that you approve of it. Your signature is the thing that states “I made this print. It is of the highest quality, and it deserved to be viewed as fine art. I stand behind this print and I put my name on the line.” OK, so not everybody is quite so dramatic, but signing a print is a really big deal! It’s like signing a check — if you didn’t write the check, and you don’t have the funds to back it up, you wouldn’t sign it. Right? Same thing with prints — if you didn’t make the print, and you don’t have the confidence to back it up, don’t sign it! (Of course, “making the print” can mean many things. But basically, it means that you know who made it, how they made it, and you trust them — so this could be yourself or a third party.)

Another reason you might sign a print is to increase the value of the piece. Since the signature states that the print was truly produced and/or approved by the artist, it becomes more desirable to art collectors. Unsigned reproductions can work fine for decoration or personal admiration, but they won’t hold the same value as a signed print. Add in the option of limiting your work (which we’ll cover in a moment) and you introduce scarcity, which in turn produces a higher (perceived and/or real) value.

One more reason you should think about signing prints is to promote yourself as an artist. A signature is easily recognized by people viewing the print. Whether it’s legible or not, your name is still on the print and you’re promoting your brand. It doesn’t matter if the print is in a gallery, a private home, a bank, or a diner — the signature (brand) will be seen.

BEFORE YOU PRINT…

One thing you’ll want to think about is “extra room” when you print your photo. That means leaving a border around the actual print, whether it be white space or a printed color (including black). As you read through the rest of the article, this will make more sense. We’ll also talk about this idea of “extra room” in the next article when we cover mounting, matting, and framing.

WHAT TO SIGN WITH

Above all, if you decide to sign a print, the stuff you sign with should be of equal or greater archival quality to the print itself. There’s no point in producing a print to last 200 years, only to sign it with a Sharpie or something. Once you sign, that ink or paint becomes part of the print, and you want it to last. Art stores typically carry archival pens for signing various mediums. Some are ink and some are paint. Either way, make sure the contents of the pen are acid-free and archival quality.

I sign my prints with paint pens (archival of course). These things are easy to find at art stores, and they’re quite reliable. They lay down a good amount of liquid and the tips are quite gentile on the print surface. These things take a bit of getting used to, but they’re not impossible to use.

Another thing to think about is the color of your pen. Black is an obvious choice since it works for almost any situation, but it’s not the only option. I usually sign my black and white prints with a silver paint pen and my color prints with a black pen. Sometimes I’ll break that rule, depending on the situation and the particular print. The color you sign with can be as recognizeable as the signature itself, so find something that works for you and stick with it.

Pencil is also used by some artists, especially when signing on mats rather than print material. I don’t have much experience with this, but I can’t quite get into it because it seems so temporary compared to paint or ink — but to each their own. I’d be curious to hear the thoughts of pencil-signers in the comments below.

WHAT TO SIGN

We have a lot of choices on what we write when signing a print. The most obvious thing would be your signature or autograph (or whatever you want to call it). This is the part that really matters — it’s your “seal of approval” and only you can put it on the print. Some people like to sign their real name, while others like to sign a pseudonym. Some like to sign in cursive, some with a crazy autograph, and others in plain text. How you do it is completely up to you — there’s no rule saying you must do it a certain way. I’d only suggest that you keep it consistent as much as you can.

fountain pen
Creative Commons License photo credit: [phil h]

Another common item found on a signed print might be the title of the print and the year it was taken. This goes beyond the “seal of approval” and is more of an artistic preference. A title is often important to the meaning of the print and if you feel your titles are important, by all means, put it on the print! Year of capture is another preference item — usually just adding a little extra context to the photo.

If you decide to offer your print as a limited edition or an otherwise limited print, an edition number is something you’ll want to show. If you have a predetermined number of prints that will be (or have been) produced, it’s a good idea to show the number of the print in relation to the limit number — so “5 of 40″ or “5/40″ might be a feasible option. Some artists also have open editions (so no limit), but still like to number their prints. This is totally okay too! Just be consistent.

There are other things you could include in the signed portion of the print, but it’s usually best to keep them to a minimum to avoid clutter. But as the artist, you can decide what is important to you. Things like date of printing, location, copyright symbols, camera used, etc. I don’t know… whatever you want to include on the print. Like I said, it’s totally up to you.

I choose to sign the title of the photo, the date taken, the print number and limit number, and my name. I’ll get into where I put those things in the next section.

HOW AND WHERE TO SIGN

The most common question that new artists have about signing prints is probably where to sign the darn thing. I think there’s some kind of misconception that there exists a book of rules and regulations for fine art photos. There’s not (as far as I know). Like the content that you sign to the print, the location of signature is totally up to the artist. Many people have strong opinions on this topic, but just remember that the signature is part of the art and you can do what you want — you’re the artist.

If I could give one piece of advice about signing prints, it would be this: PRACTICE! Use the actual pen or marker on the actual paper (but not the final print) and pretend like you’re in 6th grade again. Find your signature and write it over and over and over and over again. I go through this ritual before I sign each print because I don’t want to mess up the real one.

Back to the topic at hand… the most popular place to sign a photographic print will be below the print, outside of the actual print border. This is usually done on a section of white space and is clearly visible to the viewer. From what I’ve seen, this is a traditional method used by many artists. You’ll find many “old school” photographers condemning the act of signing directly on the print, and this is the method that they’ll likely suggest. The only thing about this method is that you have to allot extra space below the print — no 1/8″ borders will allow you to sign the print this way. I’d say that an extra 3/4″ to 1″ of space should be sufficient (depending on your personal style of signing). Here’s an example of this method — click to see the signed portion larger. Print by Joseph Szymanski

Sign on the paper, below the image

Another feasible method of signing is directly on the print. This allows you to frame or mat the print right over the edge of the photo without requiring extra white space or border. Like I said, some artists condemn this method, but that’s their own opinion. The upside to this method is that you don’t have to use a border if you don’t want one. The downside is that the signature is typically much more difficult to see. Black ink will work well on light prints, silver or white ink will work well on dark prints, but midtone prints and busy scenes will hide a signature quite well. Here’s an example of this method — click to see the signed portion larger. Print by Bryan Villarin

Sign on the print, over the image

The previous two options involve signing directly on the print material. Yet another feasible option is to sign on the mat if you happen to be producing a print with a mat included. This method allows you to sign below the print without producing and displaying an extra border or extra white space. It can be more aesthetically pleasing, but there are a few things to keep in mind if going this route. The mat is generally not a permanent addition to the print, so your signature may not mean much if the two become separated. Also, permanent adhesion of the mat to the print or the print to a mount will likely lower the value of the print in the eyes of a collector, so be careful how you do these things. Here’s an example of this method — click to see the signed portion larger. Print by Tom Webb

Sign on the mat

One final method that I’ve come across for signing prints is less visible. Writing on the back offers a way to be less obtrusive to the final display while also stating your approval of the print. Some collectors might like to have clean prints with no visible signatures, but I’m guessing that most would like to have it visible as part of the display (I know I do). Then again, not all collectors or exhibits will want or allow a signature on the front of the print, so this may be your only option for these situations.

SOME THOUGHTS ON “EDITIONS” AND “LIMITS”

We’ve talked before on the topic of limited editions here on the blog (and we even had a follow-up article), so I won’t get too much into this discussion. This terminology is defined by law, so just be aware of that if you decide to offer your prints as limited edition.

hidden despair
Creative Commons License photo credit: *MarS

If you don’t want to get tangled up in the legal stuff, you might think about offering your prints as “limited signed prints” rather than a true “edition”. This method seems to suit digital photography better because of the technology associated with making a print. In my case, I like to offer these limited signed prints which I can produce one at a time as needed. Whatever limit I choose for a particular print will be the maximum number of signatures that image can have — so if it says “37 of 50″, that implies only 50 prints of this image will have a signature on them, and this is the 37th one produced.

An even simpler solution is to offer “open editions” where there is no limit to the number of prints, signed or not. This method doesn’t produce the same scarcity that a limited set does, but at least it shows that the artist produced the image and they approve of its quality.

“Unsigned prints” have their place too, but one concept of fine art (photography or otherwise) is that the work has been produced by the artist and the artist approves of the final output. Without that signature, you can’t lay claim to these statements. I also offer unsigned prints of my work, but for decoration and enjoyment rather than collection or investment. I know this is also a heated topic among artists — do unsigned reproductions devalue the signed works? I tend to think not (and I’d use Ansel Adam’s photos as an example), but others will strongly disagree on this point. To each their own!

NOW YOU GO

I’ve covered quite a bit of stuff here, some of it probably long-winded and unnecessary. If you’re still questioning any of the topics on this subject, do ask! Also, if I skipped something that you wanted to know about, bring it up in the comments.

In addition to questions, I’d like to hear from the rest of you “print signers” how you do it. What method do you use? What type of pen or marker? Where do you sign? How do you sign? What do you sign? You get the idea… let’s hear it.

FOLLOW THIS SERIES OF ARTICLES!
BACK — PRINTING
NEXT — FRAMING

Orphan Works Panel Discussion

Jim Goldstein has recently published a panel discussion on Orphan Works with professional photographers Chase Jarvis, Dan Heller and John Harrington. With view points that span the spectrum from support to opposition of the Orphan Works legislation, it is Jim’s hope that the information and viewpoints within this discussion help you form your opinions on the topic.

The audio podcast is nearly 2 hours in length, but well worth a listen. This panel of prominent photographers discuss important questions such as “What is the Significance of the Orphan Works Legislation (OWL)“, “What are the Risks With OWL“, “Is This Equitable Legislation?“, “Does The Lack of DB Technology Required Put Photographers at Greater Risk?“, and much more. If you’re still fuzzy on the Orphan Works thing, definitely give this a listen.

EXIF and Beyond: Orphan Works Panel Discussion

Defining Fine Art Photography

Waiting for a moment
Creative Commons License photo credit: ^riza^

In the previous poll, I asked “What is Fine Art Photography?” as an open-ended question. We had some really awesome responses, and those who offered up their thoughts definitely put some effort into it. Since we had so many great comments, I had a hard time picking out any that stood above the rest. So rather than feature a few comments, here are some excerpts from all the comments:

Neil Creek

… My rule of thumb definition would be “if I’d be happy to hang it on my wall” it’s fine art. But that’s probably too broad a definition for most. I think the key thing is that “fine art” is completely subjective. No one will agree what is fine art, but it might be easier to get consensus about what isn’t… read more

Niels Henriksen

… The adjective I think is Fine-art, one word and this has an understanding in the artistic and commercial world. This nomenclature is restricted to certain forms of works of art such as painting, sculpture, printmaking, theatre and architecture. Notice how photography is not fine-art just by itself, but shows up when we actually produce prints. It is the actual output or visual art that becomes the fine art… Fine art is also being used to describe a level of quality and sophistication about one’s work… I will also wholly control the output process… read more

Norbert

Fine art is a field in which the photographer makes the image. Those who just shoot to shoot really do not qualify to be called fine artist. As one who works extremely hard to create I can say that it is the insight and eye that creates the art. I may not come back with what I initially thought I was going to shoot but that is due to the change of the elements and this change also is the process of creating art… read more

Scott Ward

I believe fine art encompasses two things…
1. The photograph should be a “good” photograph. It should be well composed, sharp, evoke an emotional response, etc. This can also be very subjective and market-driven…
2. The media makes a difference. If I am looking to invest in a fine art photograph, I don’t want one that will begin to show noticeable fading in 25 years. I want a print that will last a lifetime and beyond if possible. I believe that fine art is an investment that will raise in value over the years, but it will not if the actual print will not give it time to accrue value…
A fine art photographer would be one, then, to create such works… read more

Dawn

I think that this is completely subjective. It can range from photojournalistic photography to completely Photoshopped photography that doesn’t even resemble photography anymore. However, it is going to be upscaled photography that definitely pays attention to the canons of photography: lighting, composition, focus, etc… If someone is willing to pay for the photography and they want it hanging on their walls, then they probably consider it fine art… read more

Chica

For me it’s simplicity with a punch. Something that when you look at it, you just know that it is something more. You cannot wrap my mind around it, your awed, and inspired at the same time. I rarely come across photos like these. There are many kinds of art photographs that I consider amazing, but rarely something I’d label “fine”. You inspired me to look through Wikipedia for the answer, and really there isn’t an answer… Who’s to say what fine art is? It can be generalized, but not defined… read more

John P Sercel

I tend to agree with Niels, in that Fine Art is the image (in this case) that the artist creates – art for beauty’s sake – and is completely separate from the media it is finally transferred to. It is a kind of dangerous definition, I suppose, to say that the artists designates his own work as fine art, but then I don’t know of any absolute metric that can be used… read more

Chris Lohman

It’s funny that this topic came up. Just the other day I posted a pic on a “Critique My Photo” blog for Fotki. The pic was my attempt at Fine Art Photography. The title of the post was simply “Fine Art?”. I received a wide variety of responses and not alot on my pic. Rather the debate was about what is “Fine Art” …??? One of the best post was the following… read more

Alessandro Rosa

When I thought about your question of what fine art photography is, the word crafted came to mind. The dictionary definition for crafted (v.) helps explain my viewpoint: “To make or construct (something) in a manner suggesting great care or ingenuity.” So I would say that to be considered a fine art photograph, the image needs to be crafted by the artist, or to restate it I would say that my definition of a fine art photograph is an image that is made in a manner suggesting great care, ingenuity and skill. So subject, lighting, composition and idea are well thought out, display a mastery of the craft of photography and are executed to produce an image of superior quality. Unfortunately, I don’t think that there is anything that can really quantify what the quality is, it is one of those “I’ll know it when I see it things.” Such is art… read more

Pixie

I believe that fine art photography is less about product, and more about the artist’s vision- a commentary of sorts. Yes, the photographer needs skill, in lighting, composition, exposure etc. but not as much for the purpose of creating a “good” photograph but because to be an artist one must have the skill to effectively communicate one’s vision… I have to completely disagree with those who say that it is about what sells — that may be essential in stock photography for example, but I believe that the artist that is solely producing work because it is what the consumer wants to see has lost sight of their own artistic vision… read more

Harley Pebley

I don’t have anything to add regarding the definition, but do have a recent conversation to relate that I thought was interesting. A friend and I were leaving an annual arts festival featuring local painters and sculptors; all sorts of styles and skill levels. One of these things where you pay a fee and you’re in. I commented on the lack of photographers and suggested it might be interesting for us to try to put something together for next year. I was told we wouldn’t be allowed since photography isn’t fine art… read more

One reader even took things a step further and posted his thoughts on his own blog.

Damien Franco

… Conceptualizing an image from the moment of capture to print should, perhaps, maintain an integrity consistent with evoking feeling… I believe, however, that you can label yourself as a Fine Art Photographer or produce work that is Fine Art Photography if you are placing yourself at the mercy of those who may be more qualified to validate your work… The funny thing is that after you have successfully been deemed, by those in the industry, as a tried and true “Fine Artist” every work you have done prior to the acclaimed label is now acceptable as “Fine Art”. If you’re lucky you won’t already be dead when this happens…. read more

I also posed the question to a few of the others at the Fine Art Photoblog. Neil (shown above as the first comment) answered the question here on the blog before I even had a chance to announce it to the whole group. So here are some additional thoughts from Andrew and Myself.

Andrew Gibson

For me, Fine Art Photography is something that is beautiful. Art is about creating objects of beauty, uplifting the spirit and celebrating the amazing world we live in. Sometimes, though, art is ugly or threatening and disturbing and brings things to our attention that we’d rather not know about or acknowledge. War photography is a great example of this. Take for example the photos of Zoriah, a photojournalist embedded in Iraq who Brian featured recently on this blog. Is it Fine Art? The intention of the photographer isn’t to make art, I’m sure, but to tell the story of the Iraq war from his perspective. But the photos have a strange beauty. It’s art, but it’s disturbing, in your face and deals with issues we’d rather not acknowledge or think about.

Brian Auer

I believe Fine Art Photography certainly falls within the bounds of the encompassing realm of Fine Art. To me, Fine Art Photography has to do more with mastery of the process than the actual photo. This process would include things like choosing the camera, capturing the image, processing, printing, etc. Since the process is typically a lengthy endeavor, the artist will usually form a strong emotional connection with the piece of art they have created. When others see that artwork, they might also connect with that photo in some way, but not necessarily in the same way as the artist. So can we label ourselves as Fine Art Photographers? Absolutely. Nobody knows your work and the process behind it better than you do. Whether or not your work is liked by others is an entirely different question.

PhotoNetCast Episode 6 is Available

PhotoNetCast

The sixth episode of the PhotoNetCast is ready to go! This one is a great discussion about the film vs digital topic. The four of us have very different backgrounds and experiences with each medium, and this resulted in a good array of thoughts on the subject. We tried to cover the ups and downs of each medium along with our personal experiences.

In addition to the main topic (just the one this time), we offer up a few links to some interesting things we found over the last few weeks. In total, this one is nearly 70 minutes long, but we didn’t want to cut off the film/digital discussion because it was such a lively discussion.

Listen to PhotoNetCast Episode 6

Come Hang Out With Me at photophlow

photophlow badge

Here’s an announcement for anybody interested in having a little social gathering this Saturday (01-12-2008). I’ve been messing with photophlow for a little while now, and I think that it’s the perfect place to get together and interact.

More specifically, I was thinking about using photophlow to go through our Flickr group images in the pool as I make my selections for the weekly PhotoDump. The interface is perfect for wading through lots of photos, so I figure I’ll give it a try. I’m inviting anybody out there with access to photophlow to join me as I go through the photos, add my favorites, make my selections, and leave my comments. As I go through the photos, I encourage others to make comments or chat about them too. So here’s what I’m thinking:

7PM PST (GMT-8), SATURDAY JANUARY 12

I’ll probably show up to our group room about 15-30 minutes early to chat about whatever with whoever else shows up early. But at 7:00, I’m going to start running through the images. We usually have quite a few images each week, so it takes some time to go through them all. You can stay as long as you’d like, or you can leave early — it’s up to you.

For those who don’t know what photophlow is, you can read up on it at the following links.

This get-together is extremely experimental on my part and I’m slightly hesitant about it. I don’t want to hear any belly-aching if I don’t pick your photo or add a star to it! You guys need to understand that I’ve got upwards of probably 150-200 images to sort through and reduce down to 30 or 40. So try not to give me too much of a hard time about my selection process, otherwise I’ll go back to doing it solo!

Other than that little tidbit, I hope to see many of you in the room with me and I look forward to some fun and insightful discussions! If things go well, maybe we can do this every week or every other week. We might even shift the times around so the same people aren’t left out each week due to time differences.