Pricing Digitals


CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
Feb 23, 2004
Kennebunk, Maine
For those of you who sell art in your shop, how do you price digital prints? Recently, I've had photographers and artists ask me for advice about how to price their work but I'm just not sure anymore when it comes to digitals. There's so much gray area about the longevity of the print and the value of limiting the editions, etc.

So what logic do some of you use? My instincts tell me to, first of all, consider the visual quality of the print and to know what printer printed it, with what ink and on what paper. I would naturally assume, the higher the quality, the higher the value. But how should that value compare to traditional printing?

Next, I hesitantly reason that lithos and traditionally printed photographs should be worth more than digitals because of the extra time and craftsmanship involved with those processes and the better longetvity of the prints... but then again, doesn't the expensive investment of digital technology need to be worked into the retail price of digital art? And besides, there are artists who just don't spit their stuff out on a printer... some use a lot of skill and have a lot of knowledge about the technology and use just as much craftsmanship as the guy in the print shop or darkroom... just in a different way... perhaps these things need to be considered when pricing digitals?

Any and all feedback is appreciated. Thanks!
So what logic do some of you use?
I would offer that logic has little to do with pricing art. If it did, would people pay $400 for a signed offset litho that's 1 of 30,000?

A properly printed digital photograph can outlast a traditional lab print. But, again, I think that has little bearing on the value.

I think this is the best possible example of "whatever the market will bear." I do think that most artists initially under-value their work, and customers will perceive a low price as work of little value.

That doesn't help a bit, does it?
It helps a little... your example of $400 for a 1/30,000 litho kind of makes me think I'm probably making a mountain out of a mole hill. Just as there has always been b&w photos that have faded, yellowed and cracked because of improper print development, there are going to be digitals that are going to fade under UV glass. I've read that lightfast digitals can still fade from chemical reactions... perhaps that's where AlphaRag will come in handy...

I'm just paranoid about selling a digital to someone and then they come back in 4 years peaved because their $150 print is fading. I guess if I'm going to be that worried about it, I should find out what inks and papers I have the most confidence in and help artists price only those per usual.

Look at that! You helped me answer my own question!
It sounds like the real questions might not be about pricing digital images, but about assessing their stability and permanence. You probably don't want to sell a print for even $20 if it's going to fade in a few months - especially if it's in a $200 frame package.

As framers, we are charged with doing everything possible to protect these images, short of storing them in the dark.

As someone interested in selling them, I understand your concern about their stability.

Take a look, when you have some time, at

They conduct independent tests on paper and ink combinations. When the Wilhelm Institute tells me that I can expect a particular Epson pigmented ink and paper combination to resist fading for 150 years, I'm more inclined to believe them than to believe Epson, for example.

I wonder if any of us have conducted our own accelerated fade tests. I haven't, but if I wanted to do this, I'd probably use one of those plant grow lights (I know some of you have those in your attics ;) ) and an assortment of image types. I'd probably cover 1/3 of each image with something opaque, another 1/3 with UV glass and leave another 1/3 exposed. Then I'd check them once-a-week.
I can understand the questions that photographers and artists pose to framers every day concerning the new technology of digital printing vs. the more traditional methods of processing. But that doesn't mean that we should always have the undisputed answers to these questions. Heck, it's hard enough to keep up with new technology in our own field let alone keep track of the qualities of artist's materials/procedures and those of commercial photographers. I realize that some of this technology overlaps from one field to another, but the photographers/artists have as much access to the answers to this new technology as we do.

They may not have access to the FACTS standards or the PPFA website or know about the Grumble but they do have their own professional organizations and websites that they can go to for advice. We, as professional framers, strive to keep ourselves up on the latest technology that we have at our disposal but we cannot take on the responsibility of knowing all there is to know about all the professions/crafts areas that are related to the framing field.

When you take on the responsibility of recommending the proper inks to use, the proper paper to print on, the kind of canvas that is best for a particular type of artistic endeavor, or anything else in someone else's field of expertise, you are also assuming the responsibility for backing up that information if something unforseen happens down the road. I don't think that it is a matter of legal importance so much as simply a matter of good business ethics. My idea of helping with questions such as you are being asked would be to guide these people to their own areas of information and give them your own personal opinion based on the scope of your knowledge of the answer to a particular question.

The American Institute of Conservation, the PMA, many of the larger artsit's guilds, or appropriate websites would be good leads to answer their questions. Whatever the question, the person must be prepared to do some of their own research including taking your information into consideration. If they are sincerely curious they will search until they find the answers that suit their needs.

There is simply too many variables in some of this new technology to ever understand the pros and cons of using methods that have yet to be completely tested and analyzed to determine the final answers to some of these questions. Look at the advances in the inks ande papers used in digital printing just in the last 5 years or so. How could anyone be an authority on any of this technology when the technology itself is in a state of growth and maturity and may never be proven to be of the quality and permanence that the craftsman expects or understands.

Thanks Ron for the website... that will be useful. But why in the world would anyone have a sophisticated agricultural lighting system in their attic... hmmmmm... ;)

And Framerguy, you made some fantastic points. Our knowledge of digitals should revolve around how to safely frame them and not how to place a value on them. Afterall, I don't ask an artist how much to sell my frames for, right?

Thanks for you time folks.