BJP: The Numbers Game

British Journal of Photography
Author: Diane Smyth

Limited-edition prints are standard practice in art photography. But how should you number them, and how do you price them? Diane Smyth investigates:  It began in the 1970s, and only really got going in the UK in the late 80s, but editioning photographic prints has swiftly become the norm in the art market. However, while it may now be standard practice, there’s no standard for how you number limited editions, or any guide to what you can charge for them. Getting it right remains a matter of considered judgement.

“It really varies,” says Debra Klomp of New York’s Klompching Gallery. “I can only tell you about the things we consider.” One of the key tasks is deciding how to limit the edition, figuring out how many prints to make of each image. This is influenced by a number of factors, but one of the biggest is how well the image might sell, as it’s not advisable to end up with more prints than you can shift.

Most gallerists prefer to try and sell editions quickly, creating a buzz around an artist that will hopefully push up pricing for future editions. It’s a simple case of demand and supply says Richard Kalman of Crane Kalman gallery in Brighton, adding that collectors are not just buying what they like, they are making an investment, and therefore they need assurance that a photographer has a market. “You want prices to go up,” he says. “It’s good to be able to point to a catalogue from two years ago and show that prices have increased.” Many photographers now limit each edition to five prints, he adds, while anything beyond 30 is probably pushing your luck, unless you’re very well known. Some photographers create editions of one, but, of course, the smaller the edition, the more you’ll need to charge. If you aren’t very well known, you’ll probably need to sell more for less. “I heard about an MA student selling an edition of one for £50,000,” laughs Kalman. “That’s pretty bold! But it could work – if one person buys it, it will get him a lot of attention.” Read All.

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