Fine Art Photography - What is a Fine Art Print

What is a Fine Art Photography Print?

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Look around the internet and you'll see many products all claiming to be fine art prints, and technically nobody is misleading, but there are 3 main types of fine art photography print, these are:


Fine Art Photography Lithographic Print

A lithographic print (not to be confused with a Lith print) is a mass produced, commercially printed document manufactured in the same way as a sales brochure or a clothing catalogue. Generally speaking the owner of the image will provide a printing company with a finished image (or in digital format) from which the printer will make plates which fit onto the printing machine. A typical printing run would not normally be under 1000 but in the main are around 5000 for short runs. The printer will then hang onto the plates for further runs. The ultra violet stability of the prints is questionable, unless the printer specifically uses uv stable inks.

Note: Litho prints should not be confused with Lith Prints - see introduction to lith printing


Fine Art Photography Digital Print

A digital print is produced from a digital file which is either originated digitally (perhaps by a digital camera or by photoshop) and can be reproduced by pressing the print button on a computer. Digital prints are generally produced on a one by one basis. A print can be produced on a variety of substrates but for commercial sale should be produced on 'Archival Paper' with Archival Inks, which does involve an investment in equipment and materials which does add to the cost. To get a real example of what a normal inkjet print will last like, print a picture on your own printer and put it in the window for a couple of weeks, this will simulate a couple of years in a normal household position.  


Fine Art Photography Photographic Print

A photographic print which requires any kind of darkroom manipulation has to be produced by hand. There are commercial companies which will produce them for photographers, but most photographers prefer to produce their own work. The prints are produced one at a time and the chances of getting two identical prints are fairly remote, but this should add to the character of the print. For archival permanence the print should be treated with chemicals such as selenium toner, gold toner or sepia toner. The life span of a correctly treated print should outlast the owner. Obviously the photographic print is far more expensive to produce than the other options.



All three of the print types are valid for their market, the lithographic printing process is great for posters and mass market products, the digital print is fabulous for producing prints to order without the expense of holding stock. Photographic prints are for people who want the real thing, but understand the costs involved.


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