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Ashurst Emerging Art Prize talk at Genesis
Ashurst Emerging Art Prize talk at Genesis

This year we partnered with Fujifilm to support the Ashurst Emerging Artist Prize in launching their very first photography award. In addition to their awards they also offer free career development talks open to all artist – not just entrants – and recently we were pleased to host a talk for them looking at reproducing work as limited edition prints.

Led by the prize’s photography judges – our very own Creative Director Mark Foxwell and independent art advisor and photography expert Averil Curci – the talk guided attendees through how to format a digital file, select the materials and processes that will produce the best version of your work, discussed the importance of archival materials and look at best practice with editioning work, producing certificates of authenticity and presenting your work for sale. Read on to hear the expert’s top tips!

What are the main things artists and photographers need to consider before looking at producing prints of their work?

Mark: There are a few main points really:

  • Photographing your work: If you are an artist then capturing digital copies of your work well is really important. If you’re competent with a digital camera you could do this yourself but it may be advisable to work with a professional photographer to capture your work – there are people that specialise in this! This is a service we offer at Genesis too, so you can always ask if it’s possible for us to do this for your work. If you have work which has a lot of texture in it, it may be worth looking at getting the pieces scanned, using a Cruse Scanner (there are companies in London and further afield who offer this).
  • File preparation: If you are a photographer then you won’t need the above step, but both photographers and artists alike can benefit from prepping their file correctly for print. Your work will of course still need some formatting by specialised technicians, but the more we can improve the chances that what we print looks as much as you expect it. We therefore ask that clients do the following:

Add a border around the edges of the image if desired (sized appropriately)

Check the dimensions of the entire file (including a border if desired) are the same as the paper size you require your image to be produced on.

We recommend saving files as TIFFs – this avoids too much compression of the image – although we can also accept Jpegs, PDFs and other types of file. TIFF files need to be flattened and 8 bit.

To avoid compression, use a file transfer protocol such as Wetransfer rather than emailing files. You can also use the file upload capability on our website.

(There’s further support on the Genesis website here)

  • Materials and processes: It’s a good idea if you’re not sure which media to print on for you to book in and speak to a technician who will be able to take on board what you want to create and advise on the best materials and processes. Our most popular ones for editioned prints for photographers are Lambda C Type prints and for artists inkjet prints (also called giclée) but we offer a whole range of different options! We’ve even printed direct to medias such as aluminium or dibond, and more unusual things like slate or cow hide!
  • Testing: Make sure you ask for tests, and review them! You’ll be able to offer feedback to the technician on what needs adjusting to get your work looking exactly as you expect. We do these with every client initially. When we have approved test to work from, it’s easier for all!

How do you choose the best materials to print on?

Mark: Consider the purpose of those prints. For example, you may wish to explore more creative options for an exhibition like a wallpaper print for example, but for a limited edition print you want to sell to a client you may want to produce work more traditionally and present it as a c-type print in a standard museum-quality frame.

What does archival really mean and why is it important?

Mark: Just remember that the archival nature of finished print relies on the conditions the print is kept in. As soon as you add in elements like moisture or heat, direct sunlight (what if your collector puts the work above a radiator for example!), the life of the print is affected. Try not to worry too much about the archival properties, most fine-art level printing will be archival, and you can advise collectors on after-care.

Are some processes better than others for producing editions of work? How can I make sure every edition is the same if printed at different times?

Mark: Often editions are produced as traditional paper prints, but you’re not necessarily limited to this as fine art printing has advanced to include a range of non-paper options. Make sure to always keep an artist proof as reference of the outcome, so you always have a physical reference point for further prints. Don’t worry too much about prints looking slightly different from each other (within reason) – artists styles change over time so as a photographer it’s fine for your work to change also. The important thing is each time you are happy with the print.

How do you edition work correctly? How many? What if it sells out?

Averil: Editioning is a relatively new phenomenon in photography that only began being used on a wider scale in the 1960s and 70s. Prior to that, photographs were produced as open editions, sometimes numbered but not limited. Now the practice has been adopted enthusiastically by photographers. It is a way of limiting your work for sale, a kind of marketing tool used to give value and grow demand. It relies on the fact that scarcity is important.  My top tips on editioning are as follows:

  • There are no hard and fast rules but once a particular series has established a limited edition, it is immensely important you stick to it throughout that series. Editions typically range from 3 to 50.
  • Think carefully about the different sizes you wish to offer. I advise 1-3 different sizes overall. This breakdown is used by many photographers: 6 large, 10 medium and 20-25 small in each run.
  • Make sure to create an inventory of all your editions. Number, size, buyers’ locations, name and address, exhibition it’s appeared in, press received, awards, basically the most comprehensive record keeping you can. Consider backing this document up to the cloud so you’ll always have a back-up and can access from anywhere.

Artist Proofs – 1 -2 prints, 2 more standard, definitely the norm. Originally it was a proof the artist kept to match any other prints made.

Should I mark the prints with the number, if yes where and how:

Averil: There are some fairly standard practices around this:

  • Every print you produce should be signed and editioned either the on the front or back side of the print. Mostly due to framing and often the need for mounting, it is usually advised to sign and edition a label that is stuck to the back of the piece. Include title, date, edition number and signature.
  • Make sure to use an archival pen – there are certain brands that will be marked archival or use a pencil. Make sure to use the same materials and layouts for all of the editions. If using a label, it looks very professional to have a branded header.

How can I begin to work out pricing of my editions:

Averil: Firstly really do your research and see where the industry is at also consider:

  •  Tier the edition. If you have an edition of 20 break it up into 5s with 4 different price levels, that increase as the edition sells. Clients can find this a draw as it means getting in early assures them a more attractive price. Inversely towards the end of the edition, there are very few works available which makes them more precious.
  •  Look at your costs. Look at the amount of time the work has taken, overheads, production costs of materials and framing if relevant. Also look at what the edition run as a total will generate revenue-wise if it sells.
  • If you’re in the position to seek advice from galleries on pricing do, they can help advise from their experience of sales. See what the peers you’d like to sit alongside are charging as a market guide.
  •  Avoid going down in price but aim to increase the price as an edition sells. Don’t worry about starting with lower prices, they can grow with you and it can be helpful to start lower while you build your profile. As your career and market grow, you can always consider raising your prices.
  • Usually your Artist Proof prints will sell for the highest amount and are the last prints to sell.
  • Make sure you are very transparent from the beginning, if you intend to do 3 different sizes and 30 editions overall make this clear so your buyers know how limited their work is. Avoid announcing new sizes later down the line, it’s not good practice.

Mark also adds: Artists who I work with often multiple their production costs by 3 to work out what to charge and remember if you’re selling through a gallery to add their percentage on top of what you would like to make.

Wait, what is an Artist Proof print?

Averil: An Artist Proof was traditionally the first 1-2 prints to come off of a run and be correct to the artist’s desire and act as a reference when making further prints. Nowadays it’s a slightly more collectable edition that the artist may still use as reference or may keep to sell off last at the highest prices.

General things to consider with your Artist Proofs:

  • Generally, you’ll do 1-2 per print run.
  • If you’re worried you can keep an artist proof so you have as a physical reference point if you don’t print your whole edition in one go, but remember you’re not going to show two of the same works next to each other and developments in printing mean there will be slight differences to printings each time, try not to worry too much about this.
  • When editioning the artwork either on print, label or certificate, always list the APs, for example 1/10 + 2 APs. Be transparent from the beginning.

I’ve started to sell a few of my editions, anything I should consider?

Averil: For particularly significant and popular works I strongly advise to hold back 2 or 3 editions from a run, potentially both an edition and an AP. In this way if down the road you are approached by a museum or important collector, you can have access to the work. If collaborating as a duo, both artists should sign the work.

Do my editions need a certificate of authenticity and what information should I put on that?

Averil: A certificate of authenticity is not a legal requirement but it does give buyers confidence and helps with establishing provenance. It provides another way for you to be as transparent as possible with what you are offering. The certificate is an A4 document on headed paper that include as much as possible. Name, title of work, year of production, (year print was made if applicable), medium, size, edition size and APs. If framed it can be helpful to list framing specs. Last but not least your signature.

It can be helpful to add some care instructions to remind the collector to keep work away from heat, direct sunlight, humidity etc. This will help you guide your collector as best you can on how to make sure their photograph lasts. Also try to add a small jpeg of the artwork. Often times, once you are represented by a gallery, they might want to take care of this aspect.

What should I consider with presentation of my work?

Averil: Once the artwork is created it is integral to also consider that it must become a whole object. It’s an important part of the artwork itself:

  • Work hard to find what works for your pieces. Research by going to galleries, fairs and exhibitions, speak to places like Genesis and ask for advice – take note of what you like.
  • Make test prints to help understand what size may best suit your work, live with these a bit and see how you feel looking at them over time.
  • If you can, use archival framing, UV glasses etc to fully protect the work. Make sure you weigh up what you are charging for the work versus how high end the presentation is.
  • You can sell unframed prints but it’s nice to have some control over the archival nature of the finishing and make sure that it’s framed properly. The final piece is an extension of your practice and it must represent you fairly.