How to start collecting fine art photography

Neeko Paluzzi installing “The Goldberg Variations”

By Carrie Colton

In a social-media image-saturated era, photography occupies a large space in our visual culture.

Photographs increasingly shape how we see and share our worlds. As a result some fear for the future of fine art photography. Personally, I am exhilarated by photography’s irrepressible presence in both everyday life (Facebook, Instagram etc…) and in the new and revitalized ways that professionally trained and considered fine art photographers are approaching their subjects and the technical possibilities of this ever changing medium.

“No amount of camera technology will turn a mediocre photographer into a great one, nor, in conceptual terms, will it transform a bad idea into a good one. For that, you would still need to possess a rare set of creative gifts that are to do with seeing, with deep looking.” (Sean O’Hagan, The Guardian, 2018).

“Ivory necklace in a glass bowl” from the “Trafficked” series by Christine Fitzgerald


We tend to think of a photograph as an image created using a camera. That isn’t always the case, and while iconic images are still being created in this way, many contemporary photographers are exploring new forms, techniques and processes. An example is artist Neeko Paluzzi who used a camera-less process to produce his series The Goldberg Variations, 32 photographs, each visualizing a single aria or variation from Bach’s score. In order to match the tonal range of a particular piece of music Paluzzi created a computer-generated algorithm to operate the aperture of the enlarger, using his darkroom equipment as a musical instrument. The results are moody, landscape-like visual vibrations.


Do your research! There are many excellent articles online by reputable sources such as “Artsy” and The Guardian that provide advice on the subject of collecting photography. I encourage you to attend fine art photography exhibitions and ask questions to the photographer, who will be pleased to talk about his/her work and processes. An art gallery associate will provide you with information on the artist, the subject the photographer is addressing, the physical print and explain editions to you. Also consider booking a consultation with an art dealer to help inform your decisions. Build your collection carefully, with an affordable budget for each year.


Look for photographers whose images represent subjects that in some way hold personal significance for you. Don’t be afraid to let your subconscious guide you to photographs that hold your attention and that you find yourself connecting with emotionally. These will be pieces that ,every time you revisit, will offer something new. I would advise that, if you can, see the work in the flesh first; online buying should come later, with more experience.


Most photographers produce several editions of a single work along with an additional copy known as an artist’s proof. The same image can have multiple editions in different sizes. Generally, the smaller the number of prints in an edition, the more expensive they will be. Ask about the total number of copies across sizes that will be offered and sold. Today, editions of even 25 prints are seen as relatively large, while editions of around three to five are seen as small, which means more valuable (you’re then paying for exclusivity). While there aren’t any laws preventing a photographer from simply printing more than the number in the limited edition, reputable photographers and art dealers won’t, so as not to damage their long-term reputation and careers, which are built on trust, ethics and relationships.


Contemporary commercial and public galleries

Fine art university programs, which often have exhibitions and graduate shows

Art fairs, which can be overwhelming or exciting, but will certainly offer a plethora of contemporary photography

Artists’ studio tours

I hope this provides some helpful information on the exciting prospect of buying fine art photography. Just remember, ultimately buy works that you love, that reflect your interests, aesthetic style and personality, and have fun!

For more information, you can reach me at 613 355 0359 or by email at

Carrie Colton is an art advisor and director of the Studio Sixty Six gallery.

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