Art Photography: How to Buy Art Photographs Online

How to Buy Art Photography Online?

Art photography has come into its own and is emerging as one of the hottest art forms for both art buyers and seasoned collectors. Recent auction sales have reached astronomical figures of seven figures for works by certain master photographers. While black-and-white photography, both traditional and with a contemporary take, continues to be popular, many artists and collectors are increasing open to color photography, as well.

Here are some things to consider when purchasing a photograph online:

Explore: Take your time when searching for the right photograph to collect. If you know what you're looking for, you can search by artist, style, size, price, etc., narrowing down an online selection to meet your needs. If you're not exactly sure what you want, you can start by browsing by technique, theme or special selections for specific rooms. When you find something you like, try looking for similar pieces or pieces by the same artist, until you find the photograph that suits your fancy.

A good gallery should have experienced art consultants who can help you in your search.

Budget: Decide how much you would like to spend. Medium to large sized photographs by emerging artists are available for less than $500 / EUR500. Of course, as the artist's reputation grows, so will the price. Photographs by master artists can easily reach five-figures, although you can often buy them for a lot less.

Discover: Before purchasing an art photograph, learn about the style (conceptual, figurative, abstract, etc.) and the technique (silver gelatin print, digital print, lambda print, etc.).

Most photographs are limited-editions, signed and numbered by the artist. Often, a photograph from smaller edition is more expensive than a photograph from a larger edition by the same artist-the logic being that the fewer the prints in an edition, the more valuable each one is. A print from an open edition (unlimited number of prints) may have a lower value and will often not be numbered, though it may still be signed and accompanied by a certificate of authenticity confirming its authorship.

Whether the artist is emerging or established, you can get a good sense of her career by looking at a list of her exhibitions. Has she participated in important group exhibitions? Does she have solo exhibitions listed? Does she have any artworks in museums or prominent private collections? Has she won any awards for her work?

Feel free to ask questions. The same art consultants who can help you with your selection will gladly provide you with as much information as possible about the artist and his artwork.

Experiment: Share the artwork - If you have viewed the artwork online, email the link to a friend or to a colleague or simply send an electronic greeting with the artwork. Alternatively, if you have seen the artwork in a gallery, view it with a friend. Get the opinion of someone you trust. Try it.

Ensure: Check if the artwork comes with a certificate of authenticity that you feel comfortable with. Keep in mind that some photographs are signed and numbered on the front, others on the back, and some not at all. In the last case, it's especially important to have a certificate of authenticity.

Once you're sure you've found just the right photograph, make sure you're buying from a trustworthy gallery. Read about the company and their website. Most credible websites provide detailed information about themselves. See if the website provides you with verified and secured online purchases. Read what their customers and the press have to say about them. Find out if the gallery has a reasonable returns policy. When you have done your due-diligence, buy the photograph and enjoy!

Resale: If you think that you may consider reselling the photograph at some time in the future,  it is important to ensure that the gallery you purchase the art from offers a resale assurance for artworks purchased from them. If so, it is important to be aware of the terms - as the commission rates vary. For example, major auction houses and galleries will typically charge a commission of 20% to 50%, while PicassoMio charges only 10%.  Further, if the gallery is local and sells only a few artworks each month, the resale assurance may not be worth a whole lot.