What is an Artist Proof?

Artist proofs traditionally were test prints that photographers made when trying to make the perfect print. Older print processes like Cibachrome and black and white darkroom printing have a manual component to the process which inevitably leads to a lot of variance from print to print. In the digital era, that is largely an irrelevant concept with the advent of monitor calibration and color profiling.

Artist Proof Prints these days generally serve a different purpose. A/P Prints are sometimes withheld from sales and kept as part of the photographer’s personal collection. “Artist-Proof Editions” are generally a marketing strategy to charge more for a print particularly if the print is identical to the non-Artist Proof Edition prints. There is also a benefit to having higher-priced items even if they never sell; it makes everything else look like a bargain by comparison.

Let’s answer some questions here:

  1. Should I buy an Artist Proof Edition print? Speaking for myself, I have a collection of prints that I never intend to sell. These prints were truly test prints and not up to the standard of what I would normally offer for sale on my websites. I might have been testing a new paper or struggling to work out some shadow details and needed to see how it would print before making a decision on how to proceed. I have real Artist Proof Prints. I just won’t be selling them. Maybe you’ll find them at my estate sale someday.
  2. If Artist Proof Edition prints are identical to Limited Edition Prints then what makes them special? Other than sounding more exclusive there is nothing particularly special. There is a lot of smoke and mirrors when it comes to the art world. If I were to offer an Artist Proof Edition someday I would process a special version of the photo and make it an edition of 1 rather than make up bogus carbon-copy edition prints.
  3. Do Artist Proof Editions cost more than standard print editions? Generally, yes. I believe that’s the point. The purpose is to increase the perceived value of the print. Whether or not there is real added value is up for debate.

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Fine art photography prints by Richard Wong. This online gallery features my photography from the past two decades. In addition to showcasing my fine art prints, fineartphotographyprints.com was created as an educational resource to answer common questions for prospective art collectors. I mainly specialize in landscape, nature and travel photography. My photography has been published worldwide and I have publishing credits in many different publications. My fine art photography prints have sold to private collectors, art consultants and business owners. Exclusive limited-edition prints and premium open-edition prints are available for purchase. Please reach out to me via phone or email if I can assist you with your art installation project.