Ask A Gallery Owner | Should I Sign my Photographic Prints on the Front?

Hello,

I am a photographer in Miami, Florida and am on your mailing list.

I hope you don’t mind but I am reaching out to you for advice. I have a series of photos that will be shown soon. At a previous gallery, I was advised by the gallery owner not to sign the front of the pieces and only sign the back. This didn’t make much sense to me since most art pieces I’ve seen have some signature and/or title visible on the front. Being a novice at this, I went with his advice. However, since that showing, a number of people have asked me why I didn’t sign the front and expressed concern.

My question to you is, should I sign these pieces (on the matting of course, not the actual print) before this next showing? If so, should I include any additional information on the front, like title, sequence/edition number (I’m limiting them to 7 prints), date, etc?  I understand this could just be a personal decision, but what do buyers/collectors look for and expect in regards to signatures?

Any information is greatly appreciated. I have searched the internet for info and have not come up with anything solid.

Thanks in advance.

E.

 

My Response

E,

Thank you for the email – and good question. I’ve heard both sides of this argument, but I definitely fall on the side of signing on the front. As you say – people expect it and wonder where the signature is if they don’t see it. You can keep it subtle, and can also include the edition. I’m not a fan of dates,but that’s a personal decision. I can tell from your email that you want to sign the front, so, for what it’s worth, I completely agree with you. Give your buyers what they want. A gallery can advise you on something like this, but ultimately the decision is yours.

All my best,
Thank you so much for getting back to me and for your input.  I went ahead and signed the front, but included only the signature.  I wrote  other information on the back such as edition, title and website info.  With the signature on the front now, they just seem more “finished” in a way.

Thanks again,

E.

What do You Think?

Where do you feel the signature belongs? Do you agree with the advice I gave, or do you have different ideas about where the signature belongs? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.

18 Comments

  1. I think your advice was right on, but I don’t know about signing the mat. I love to see photos printed with borders, signed in the border and the mat around the whole, much as other kinds of art prints…

  2. It depends on how I am matting my prints as to whether I sign the front or not. For my prints that are smaller than 20×30 I double mat with 4 ply board and weight the matting so I have a 3/4″ border between the mats on the bottom of the photo. This way I have room to wirte the title and my initials. For prints that are 20×30 and larger I use a 6 or 8 ply mat and single mat the image that is weighted on the bottom of the image. On these I don’t write anything on the front as I want to maintain a clean presentation. On all my images I do two things: one, I always place a label on the back of the foam core mount board giving the title, catalog number, description, and contact information. There is a second label that also goes on the back of the dust cover if I frame the image as well; two, every print is made with a 1/2″ border around it. This border contains my logo, business name, e-mail address, title, catalog number, and signature facsimile. If a customer wants the print signed I place my actual signature in the border instead of the facsimile. I also mount my prints so they can be re-mounted if something happens to the mount board or the window matting.

  3. I agree. I sign the backs of my photographs with signature, title and any edition information and then I add the title and edition number on the mat to the lower left and the signature on the mat on the lower right. In this way, the buyer gets the title and signature visible yet the identifying information remains should the piece be re-framed or re-matted in the future. My follow-up question is what is the best option to use when signing the back of the photograph? Pencil can be erased or altered but ink may bleed through over time.

    Thanks,
    Dan.

  4. I totally agree on this one. All the paintings I see are signed on the front. I can’t help but wonder why photographers are slow to embrace that tradition with fine art pieces. I am partial to creating extra space around the image and sign there, because ultimately, it needs to be done in a fashion that I am aesthetically happy with.

    Since I print my giclee fine art prints on loose canvas and have it mounted on board from there, I have gone with a artist’s dark pencil that is used for drawing. It doesn’t erase easily because of the crevices from the canvas and because of how dark the pencil is. I have tried archival pens but I get very frustrated with them. I can only sign one or two pieces before the ink appears to run out. I may be able to get a few more pieces signed with it if I let the pen rest for a day or so. I have had the same problem with cheaper and more expensive pens.

  5. I sign my giclee prints on the right bottom of the mat, the limited edition number on left bottom, and title in middle. In case the collector remats, I also put this info and signature on the back of the print, in pencil. Thanks for your thoughts, Jason. On originals, there can’t be anything written on mats if it is entered into juried shows. I paint my signature on each original, and put title on back.

    1. Judy, I have been looking far and wide to find out what to do with my giclee prints of my original watercolor paintings and have wanted to ask other artists. My prints are scanned with my signature on them and my printing company has given me a few options as to what I should do. I’d love to hear your thoughts…
      – He can digitally remove my signature so that I can sign each one myself
      – Or leave the signature on the print and I sign it a second time.
      *My thought is to keep the scanned signature, sign the bottom right with a pencil, add the edition number to the bottom left, and include a certificate of authenticity with each print.

      What do you think? Jason and or ANYONE else, I’d love to hear your opinions because I can’t decide.

      Thanks!
      Maggi

  6. I make my paper prints with a conservation border for matting and leave a larger opening at the bottom where I write the title and edition number on the left and my signature on the right of the print border. I put a label on the back with additional info. However, for canvas wraps and aluminum prints, I do not want to write on the image itself. For the canvas, I title, number and sign on the bottom edge of the wrap, and on aluminum I do this on the back. Clients for both the canvas wraps and aluminum have been fine with this.

  7. Dear Jason
    I am very new to this field and would be grateful if you could give me any advice. I am organising an online, juried art and photography contest to raise money for a non-profit organization. The contest is to interpret the word ENDANGERED. Do you have any suggestions as to how to reach out to artists and photographers to encourage them to enter the contest? Is approaching galleries likely to yield any response? Thank you for considering this.

    Lindsey

    1. Hi Lindsey,

      Sounds like an interesting venture. You could reach out to galleries, but most probably aren’t going to be interested in spreading the word (what’s in it for them?). I believe you’ll find the best way to get the word out to the community is to get some active photographers who believe in what you’re doing to spread the word. It also helps if you provide something of value up front to the community – an article that photographers find interesting or helpful, for example.

  8. As a traditional darkroom photographer, I have always signed and titled on the back of the photograph and signed on the front of the photograph…usually in the small border just outside the image. I want people to know who created the work. Now when I do my digital work, I do also sign on the front. Often on the lower left corner of the actual print.

  9. Dear Jason,

    I have come across this discussion as I was browsing the internet in search for the answer to my question and I would greatly appreciate if you could provide any guidance. I am a photographer living in France. At this moment I am at the process of negotiating an agreement on making/sale of photographic prints with a US based gallery/print shop. When it comes to limited edition prints, signature is a problem as I won’t physically be there to put it (and the whole point of the arrangement is to avoid shipping prints back and forth). Would a facsimile signature on a limited edition print be acceptable for collectors?

    Many thanks,
    Kate

  10. A signature on the from can detract from the image. Signing on the back removes this issue. This is why many painters from the mid-20thcentury, particularly abstract-expressionists, signed on the back.

  11. So many opinions and so many variables. How about a photo with no border, permanently dry mounted with a window on top and the edges of the print covered by the window? Since the print is permanently fixed to the backboard I sign the backboard just below the print, and depending on the client’s wishes I may or may not sign the front of the window on the front just below the print. My “official” signature on artwork is two initials and a number so it’s fairly discrete, and truth be known I’m not competing with the masters for eternal recognition.

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