Art world

What Makes a Photographic Print Valuable ?

9 Lessons Easy

About this course

The more prints of yours are ​in the possession of various people, the less valuable they become (all other things being equal). If your artist brand is perceived as high luxury, you'll be able to print as much as you can buy ink and paper and still command high prices. Just like those brand t-shirts made in a basement for 3 dollars and sold at 100 in the local mall. But building a brand like this requires a huge amount of work and money. And: is that really who you want to be?

Phr photography collection monk lamp

Monk lamp (c) Pascal Jappy

It is far more interesting and useful to work the other way around, by limiting series to a minimum and being very strict in your curation process. It's far more ​valuable to sell one print for 1000$ than 100 for 10$.

​And it's a question of mindset.

A mindset of scarcity that can be mutually beneficial to artists and collectors or hurt both.

Fear of missing out (FOMO) is one of the biggest forces in modern marketing. Ever found yourself facing an advert in which an 'incredibly good deal' expires in 3h 14 min and 26 sec? Tic toc tic toc. Do not miss out on this once in a lifetime opportunity! Yeah, right. Go back to the website the following day / month and, guess what ?

Social media hinges on FOMO. Unplug for one second and you'll miss that friend's story and will never feel good about yourself ever again.

FOMO also makes us number our prints in unrealistic fashion. How many 1/50 prints have you sold? How many 48/50? The ​fear is ​we might miss out on potential sales by chosing low edition numbers. The reality is that a series of 10 is far more attractive than a series of 150. So, with a series of 10 you might actually sell out the 10. With the series of 150, you may never start the counter.

phr photo collection headless angel

​Headless angel (c) Pascal Jappy

​Positive scarcity, however, can be a powerful ally.

​Say you have 10 good photographs in editions of 10. The best ones start selling a bit. The very best gets sold out after a few months and this puts pressure on the others, the 'only remaining ones'. Eventually, you may actually sell 100 prints. How nice would that feel?

For the collector, it's a sweet deal as well. You may not be famous, yet, but she likes your work. And she's getting something pretty rare and high quality (an unspoken requirement for all Phr prints). That still doesn't necessarily make your prints a good ​investment ​ but it gives them pyschological value .

While the first 100 are slowly selling, you can take your time to think about and get started on a new series. By the time you have enough of it to start selling it, quite a few people will have cared enough about your work to actually collect it. They will be following you. You will have a relationship with them. Those first low-number editions help you get the ball rolling.   ​​​

Menacing clouds over a cliff in Provence

Stormy clouds (c) Pascal Jappy

If you're on the fence, knowing your photographs are in some demand, there is a way to use scarcity to increase the financial valuation of your prints: incremental price increases as the series gets closer to the end.

​For example, you could price #1 & 2 at 200$, ​then add 10% every subsequent print. So, #3 would be priced 220%. #4, 240$. #5, 270​$. #6, 290$. #7, 320$. #8, 350$. #9 & #10, 390$. By offering a cheap #1, you're creating a strong incentive to buy the first edition, which often release a mental block for the rest. Particularly knowing the resale price might ​increase ​if people are buying the rest of the series at higher prices. A cheap #1 is also a way of thanking the first people to trust you and acquire your work. And, as the edition gets scarcer, the interest generated in other people's minds by the first sales can overcome the price increase. ​Ideally, everyone want to get in before it's too late.

Should you use this? That's for you to decide, ask other members what they think as well. It's a more aggressive approach to generating first sales. It's a win for first-movers. There are no hard rules for this, you have to feel happy with it. And you don't have to use it for all your series. For instance, you can have a cheap series where you apply this principle and a more limited run of more expensive work at a constant price?

Storm clouds over Provence - Sony A7r and Zeiss C-Sonnar 50/1.5 ZM

​Perfect storm (c) Pascal Jappy

Both this incremental pricing and limited editions work on the same level of scarcity. And both have much more pronounced effects when you are already famous. Most of the highest-priced photographs ever reach those auction peaks because only 2 or 3 are left in the market and the author is very highly sought after. But you can still use both at the beginning of a carreer.

This one is subjective, try to be honest with yourself. Give yourself a low score if you do nothing to increase your fame but multiply availability, and a higher score if you try to spread the word about your work but keep it limited in numbers.

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Course Structure


Why this matters, a lot. Where the information is coming from. Why you should believe me, at least a bit.

Print process, size and quality

The perceived quality of a print largely determines a viewer's appreciation for it. The selected print process can play a major role in this, and also conditions the archival quality of the final object.

Your Artist Statement (Oi, come back here!)

Companies with strong brands are more highly valued by customers and investors. Artists with great brands are more desirable to collectors. Your artist statement is the first component in your brand. It helps others understand you and connect with you more deeply. Far from the pfaff you can occasionally read, it can be short, simple and to the point. But, however you want to write it, you need one.

Harsh curation

Be unique, be consistent. Culling and curation are your best friends when it comes to assembling a desirable portfolio.

Limited Editions

You collect photograph like you used to collect marbles at school. The rarest were always the most valuable.

Sacrity matters

The largest work of an artist is rarely the best, but it's almost always the most expensive, in the primary market. Should you follow that rule of thumb?


If John Lennon had 12 of your photographs on his walls, Gagosian represents you and the MOMA is fighting with the V&A for the last of your Artist proofs, chances are your prices are higher than uncle Joe's. Here's how that works, here's what to do about it!

Tying it all Together

It's a simple formula: how much value does your print create in the mind of your buyer ?

Fighting your ego

Stick the plan. Don't let subjective considerations derail you.

  • Sean says:

    Refreshing insight so far, Pascal. Could what you’re on about here lead to an ‘Ah ha’ moment. Meaning, this process, assists in making it clearer in what we come to know as those instants which drive ones photographic craft, and also lets those instants guide and inform in furthering ones compositional competencies – not blindly complying to a rules based mantra, and or purloining another’s technique.

  • Pen