I am often asked questions about various aspects of my photography and the art business in general and like most participants, I have my own opinions.

1. Why are your fine art prints offered as an open edition when many other photographers offer closed editions?

The short answer is that I believe it is more honest to sell prints in an open edition because the customer is given all the information about the print when they purchase it. They will know the how many prints have been made, who the artist is and when it was signed. At any time in the future they may contact me and find out what the total number of prints of that image have been sold up to that date.

For a longer answer, one has to look into the past at the origins of print making. Originally prints were "contact prints" made by inking and pressing a sheet of paper/cloth/parchment to an  engraved plate or a carved stone surface. The number of prints that could be produced from this "master" was limited because it wore down with use, hence the term "limited edition". Also the early prints produced by this process were more detailed so prints numbered early in the edition were more valuable. When a certain number of prints had been made or when the master copy became too worn to continue making prints, the master copy destroyed, and that was the end of the edition. It was "limited" to the number produced and it was "closed" because no further prints could be made. The total number of prints was known before the artist sat down and began to sign and number them.

So the question then becomes "How relevant is the concept of limited edition fine art prints to modern digital photography?" my answer is: not very relevant. Why are limited edition photographic prints so common? Well, partly because it is expected or insisted on by many galleries. To many potential art purchasers, it validates the photograph as "art". A limited edition also implies a limited supply and possible future shortages which will support the price and increase it's value in the future, making the print a good investment.

So what is the reality today in fine art photography? Let's say a photographer has a favorite picture and plans to print a limited edition of 100 prints. It would be unusual to print 100 copies of a image before beginning to sell the prints, but rather its more common to print on demand and maybe have a float of several copies on hand so orders can be filled quickly. So what happens if the photographer dies and only 10 copies were printed? The copies already sold are numbered 1/100, 2/100, 3/100, etc. but this is incorrect. They should be numbered 1/10, 2/10, 3/10, etc. The prints are actually much scarcer than implied by the numbering, actually ten times scarcer.

What is the probable number of copies of a print that most photographers will actually sell? Most are pretty happy to sell several dozen copies of an image, far less than limited editions of hundreds (or even more) that are sometimes seen marked on prints. Commonly, the number chosen is large enough that it will never limit the sales of a print and yet will still have the "cachet" of a limited edition in the art business. There are of course, successful photographers who sell large numbers of prints through upscale galleries in prime locations and they do very well, but the reality for the average photographer is much different.

What happens to a popular image when the limited edition sells out? Is the image destroyed or archived? Most photographers are honest people and I believe it when they say that the image will be withdrawn. But what does that mean? If it is archived, can the photographer's heirs decide to print more copies, albeit unsigned ones in the future. Or does the end of an edition mean the end of prints produced on that particular paper or with those particular dimensions? Or is the image still available for advertising purposes? You don't really know.

I believe it is more honest to number each copy and to sign and date it shortly afterwards. All copies, regardless of changes in the type of paper or dimensions should be numbered in sequence. I reserve the right to use more advanced inks as they become available and I may decide after producing several copies that I would prefer to print on a different paper with say, better archival properties and so I will switch to it. I may also decide after a few years that I prefer an image to be a bit darker or lighter. If I was producing limited editions, would that mean that I would have to start a new edition?

My approach is no different that the approach that was commonly used in the past. Great masters of landscape photography such as Ansel Adams never produced their prints in limited editions. My comments about fine art prints produced from digital photography are equally relevant to other forms of reproduced art work, including limited edition Giclée prints and any other form of electronically reproduced and printed art.

My prints are produced in an open edition, and over time I will incorporate improvements in printing as the technology develops. However, there will certainly never be any mass production of my images, nor will any images that I sell as fine art prints be licensed for advertising purposes.  I endeavor to produce the highest quality prints that I possibly can and I will be very pleased with any image that sells more than a dozen copies. However having said this, it is my intention to limit the printing of any image to a maximum of 100 signed prints and when that number is reached, the image will be withdrawn and the edition closed.

2. What is the Customer Satisfaction Guarantee that you offer?

In my customer guarantee I state: "The fine art print is guaranteed against fading when displayed in appropriate conditions." This means that the fine art print must be framed behind glass and that the mat and backing must be conservation-grade and the print must not be displayed in direct sunlight. This guarantee is offered only to the original purchaser and only for prints purchased directly from JAY W PAGE PHOTOGRAPHY or galleries selling on behalf of JAY W PAGE PHOTOGRAPHY. To exercise this warranty the print must be returned and if the warranty claim is accepted, it will be exchanged for a similar print of the same size. The liability of JAY W PAGE PHOTOGRAPHY is limited solely to the replacement of the fine art print and no other liability is expressed or implied.

How long is this guarantee in effect? Well, it is in effect for as long as I can stand behind the guarantee. When I die or I am too old to do anything about it then it will no longer be in effect. It is unreasonable to expect my heirs to continue to carry this obligation when there is no benefit to them. I am a reasonable person with high ethical standards, if there is a problem with your print I will deal with it.

3. What type of papers do you use?

 I am presently using papers manufactured by Hahnemühle and by Moab (Legion Paper company). The Hahnemühle papers include the alpha cellulose papers (Fine Art Baryta and Fine Art Pearl) and the cotton rag papers (Photo Rag Baryta, Photo Rag Pearl and Photo Rag Satin), I also have some Hahnemühle Bamboo paper on hand which I have put away for a special project. The Moab paper that I use is Moab Entrada Rag Bright, a heavy-weight 100% cotton rag paper. All of these papers weigh between 275 gsm (grams per square metre) and 325 gsm. The type of paper used for each fine art print is stated in the print description. The inks used are archival pigment inks. Specifications for Hahnemühle papers can be found here. The paper profiles that I use are supplied by ImagePrint and are the best profiles currently available. If I am custom printing for a specific customer or for display in a specific location, adjustments can be made to compensate for the colour temperature of the light the print will be displayed under, such as: daylight, fluorescent lightening, incandescent lighting or mixed lighting.

Large-sized prints are printed by other parties. In the past I have used Lens & Shutter to print on Hahnemühle Fine Art Baryta paper, and I have also had Opus Art Supplies prepare large prints on their Hot Press Art Paper which is a 50:50 mixture of  cotton rag and alpha cellulose.

4. How long will the fine art prints last?

Research on longevity of colour pigment inks on Hahnemühle fine art papers by the Wilhelm Image Research institute using recognized standardized processes has shown that the prints can be expected to last 60 to 80 years without fading when framed under glass and over 200 years when in dark archival storage.  This far surpasses the longevity of many types of colour photographs produced by traditional “wet chemical” methods and is similar to the longevity of some pigments used in other media, such as in water colour or oil paintings.  The longevity of carbon pigments used in black & white prints are believed to be even longer than that of colour prints because of the inherent stability and inertness of carbon based inks and acid-free papers.  Images printed with pigment inks on archival papers such as those produced by Hahnemühle or Moab meets the standards set by many major museums and institutions for their photograph collections.

I think it is reasonable to say that virtually all visual art media, including oil paints, water colours, pastels, pigment ink jet prints and silver-based photographs will fade given enough time. And if a print is stored in complete darkness it will most probably fade less than if it is stored in sunlight. This is common sense. The only issue is what is a reasonable expectation for longevity?  Based on what I can determine from reading about this subject regularly, it is reasonable to expect that if an image is properly displayed, it will be at least 50 years before the colour fine art prints sold by JAY W PAGE PHOTOGRAPHY will show any discernible fading. Black and white prints are expected to last much longer, perhaps several centuries.

Another issue rarely brought up is the stability of the paper, particularly in regard to the brightness characteristics of the paper. This can be an issue in black and white photography since the "white" portions of an image are essentially unprinted exposures of the underlying paper. If the whiteness of the paper changes appearance over time, it can change the appearance of the print. Some papers use a coating of "whiteners", usually referred to as optical brightening agents or OBA's. These coatings are common in many photographic and fine art papers, both past and present. Over time the OBA's can fade, revealing the underlying "natural" colour of the paper. This is however, a fairly slow process and if the print is protected from ultra violet radiation (direct sunlight), it will take place slowly over a period of decades. In high quality fine art papers, the underlying whiteness of the paper is often only slightly less white than the paper coating. One might ask: "Why use these papers at all?" They are used because these papers can yield deeper blacks (higher Dmax value) and more intense saturated colours.

I carefully consider the OBA content of fine art papers when selecting papers to print on and do not use papers with a heavy load of OBA's. The Hahnemühle Fine Art series of papers such as Fine Art Baryta and Fine Art Pearl which I use for some prints contain moderate levels of optical brighteners, the other papers contain little or none.

Some fine art papers are resin coated and there are paper manufacturers, such as the Legion Paper company (Moab papers), who claim that these papers are "archival'. In the past resin papers were anything but archival, one only has to look at all the faded, colour shifted family snapshots from a few decades ago to see what I mean. It remains to be seen how "archival" the new papers are and until they have proven themselves, I do not plan to use them.

How durable are the fine art prints? The prints are chemically very stable, but they cannot be abused. The durability of inkjet prints is less than traditional silver-based photographs and they can be easily scratched or abraded. You must protect the prints by framing or storing them with a protective sleeve or covering. Likewise, they are not waterproof and they must be protected from moisture.

5. Do you do your own printing?

As of early 2014, I am printing all images up to 16" wide on my Epson Stylus Pro 3880. Larger-sized prints are outsourced to a third party, and the delivery times will vary according to the circumstances.