Caring for your Fine Art Photographic Prints

The other day I was talking to my teenage son about the portrait photography industry and how it has evolved throughout the years. We were discussing the business of doing business and how people assign value to emotional objects such as photographs. As we talked about creating pricing structures for the products that a photographer may carry, he said, "Well, of course they are not paying you for the paper! They are paying you for what you put on it!" I must say that, as his mother and a photographer, my heart sort of skipped a beat when I heard him "get it" without even a hint from me. As I mentioned last week, there are real reasons that we ought to remember the importance of printed portraits. But the value of professionally designed portraits is not contained in paper and ink. It is in the image itself. Your photographer is going to most certainly charge more than what a blank piece of fancy paper costs because they are not selling you a blank piece of fancy paper. The photographer brings the only element that truly imbues that piece of paper with any kind of meaningful value. The image.

Princeton, New Jersey Portrait & Wedding Photography | caring for fine art prints

Think about it. Reams of paper and drums of even the finest pigments will never ever on their own be referred to by a mother as "priceless" the way that a family portrait will. Why? Because we do not pay photographers for ink and paper. We pay them for the images they capture. Some call it art. And for the photographer who has spent years studying photography, yes it is her business but it is also her art. It's a piece of herself because she has invested so much of her life into her ability to capture the light and shadows, the movement, the emotion.

While the value of printed portraits is not in the raw materials alone, my clients understand that I pour myself into my work and that I won't rest until I have placed a beautiful finished product in their hands. They know that I will not deliver a piece that isn't made excellently and designed to last a lifetime (and longer because portraits are not just for us!) This is why I only sell archival quality fine art prints. 

100% cotton fine art prints from Nan Doud Photography

Why archival prints?

There are numerous types of tree based papers on which your portrait designer can opt to print your images. Wood based papers though are often laced with substantial concentrations of acid, which causes deterioration and yellowing over time. Cotton based papers, on the other hand, are highly resistant to fading, discoloration and deterioration. My fine art prints are made on 100% cotton fiber or (depending on the finish you select) sometimes non-cotton Alpha Cellulose based papers sourced from a company that has been the premier provider of museum quality papers for more than 400 years. Printed on highly calibrated wide gamut precision printers, the inks used can combine to create millions of color variations, many more than your standard large format printers, which accounts for the depth, richness and clarity of colors in fine art prints.

While renowned for holding their color and clarity for many decades, Fine Art Prints are not impervious to environmental stressors. One still must be careful to treat them well in order to keep them looking their best. The fact is, for all photographic prints, archival included, the safest environment is a dark, climate controlled one. Not many of us invest in family and wedding portraits in order to hide them away. That you will display them is largely unquestioned. Here are some quick tips for caring for your portraits in a way that will best preserve their integrity while being enjoyed.

Two different types of archival print paper

Fine Art Portrait Care Tips

  • Avoid touching the ink. Whether you use cotton gloves when handling them or not, is up to you. At the very least, wash your hands with soap and dry them well before handling your prints. I have begun to include a pair of cotton gloves when I deliver your prints so that you can handle them appropriately.
  • Avoid tapes. If tapes must be used to secure the portrait to a mat, be sure that the tape is an acid-free archival tape. These can be found at local arts & crafts stores.
  • If possible hang them out of direct sunlight.
  • No direct contact with glass. Archival acid-free mats should always be used. Portraits that are pressed straight up against glass will bond with the glass over time, making it impossible to ever remove the portrait from the frame without significant damage. As for the type of glass used, it is largely up to personal preference. Acrylic glazing with a UV protectant can be purchased at almost any custom framer's shop. It is unbreakable, lightweight, easy to clean with normal household cleaners, reduces condensation and comes in an anti-glare variety as well. This is what many museums use to protect their works of art. 

(The images above were shot for Jacqueline Patton Photography at two different weddings in Liberty State Park. One took place at the beautiful Maritime Parc and the other at Liberty House.) 

Fine Art Portrait Photography

What is The Real Value of Photography?

The other day I went to an antique store with my husband and was admiring some old daguerreotype prints for sale. $75 for a little tiny wallet-sized photo of someone that no one really knows or remembers anymore. But yet there is clearly value in this tiny portrait. Who could imagine just throwing it away? Why? Because it's clear that by virtue of having been set, in this case, in metal, a certain kind of reverence for that person, that moment, that life represented, this person and hence their visage was a treasure. That captures the true essence of why I am a photographer.

I will tell you that in my early years as a mom I valued photography. I bought a quality SLR film camera after I had my first baby and I had a lot of film developed. I paid for beautiful portraits of him. But then digital photography came around, the harried pace of life with a lot of little ones took over and my other children have far fewer photos of themselves in print. A serious failing on my part! But life gets busy and overwhelming and before you know it, printing photos that old seems kind of strange (not to mention a lot of work!).... but we still feel the lack of them. The photos that I did trouble myself to order prints of are treasures because every day as I see them, my connection with that moment and that person in that time in life deepens. It accentuates our history together. It reminds me of how long I have loved these people, how dear they are to me. It's no surprise to me that studies have shown how psychologically beneficial it is to be surrounded in your home by tangible photographs of family

As an artist though, there are other reasons that I believe in delivering heirloom prints and albums. Design matters, not only with respect to my creative eye, which cannot be found anywhere else... it's unique to me, but in the caliber of people that I partner with to bring you the heirloom prints and products you are looking for. You are not paying me for the raw materials used to make a picture print, though quality most definitely matters. Just as when you go to a gourmet meal, you are not paying for the raw ingredients, but rather for the genius chef at the stove whose work it is to create something that you could not replicate on your own, a creative process and understanding of his craft that is unique to him. 

The creation process of each piece holds as much importance to the end result as the moment I frame a photo and hit that shutter release. For me to take myself out of the equation of the creative process once I have pressed the button would be a huge disservice to my clients. So seeing the whole photography process through from planning to creation to the selection process to hand delivery, is how I am able to ensure that you are getting the best that I can offer. All of those steps are not only a real service to my clients but they are integral parts of the creative process itself. I am, after all, presenting art to you. I am not providing you with a commodity or something you can recreate in a photo booth or at the mall. I am listening to you. The process, unlike a big box experience, is fluid and unique to you because we work together to create something truly beautiful to be treasured. 

Fine art photography is really all about the final product. It's about your end goal. It's not about sheer volume. After all, what is the point of hiring a skilled professional photographer if you are going to get your photos printed at Walmart or Walgreens? I believe the work I do demands better than what you can get from a big box store in terms of print quality and color accuracy, not to mention over all client experience. As the products that I deliver to you are going to express my work in greater detail and more permanently than any other medium, it is important to me that my artistic integrity is maintained by not leaving the results up to non-professionals and imprecise printing solutions with no way for me to ensure a quality result for my clients. I invest a great deal into my business and client relationships so to leave the results, for their sakes and for mine, to so many variables would be unwise. 

Just as when you reach a certain level of accomplishment in your performing arts, you invest more and more into those things and ways of showcasing it which are worthy of the level of skill achieved, so I have developed my own creativity, knowledge of photography, the printing process and client experience to a degree that demands I invest in the best representation of that skill possible.

That is what I offer to my clients. My best. It's not cheap, because my time and my work are valuable to me. Nor is it accessible to anyone who wants a photographer. But I gladly serve those who value the authenticity and bespoke nature of the creative process that is owned each step of the way by the creator as well as the provenance, uniqueness and exceptional quality of the end results which will be treasured for a lifetime.