If you purchased a painting, you would never question the piece being signed by the artist. In fact, greater value derives within the piece thanks to that signature… But as photographers? Should we sign our prints or not and if we do, how does one go about doing so.
I use to have a stronger opinion but I really don’t anymore. For some, I think that signing their work solidifies them as artists. Writing your signature on a beautiful canvas that you’re about to present to a client can feel a little like the finale of a wonderful opera. It’s a bit magical. Seeing your own signature can make you feel good, identifies that this is your masterpiece, and quite simply just make you feel happy. If you can relate to that then yes, you should absolutely sign it!
Others don’t care either way. They’re worried that their signature could take away from the image. That they won’t even do it right… Well then, leave your signature off. Simple as that.
For the sake of this article though, let’s say that you do want to sign your prints but you’re just not exactly confident putting the pen to the canvas, here are some ideas to help you master the art of signing your portraits.
- Sign your samples. Clients may be a little surprised to see your signature adorning their new canvas, but if you’ve made a point to sign your samples this will ensure that they know what to expect.
- Photoshop it. I like the finishing touch of a handwritten signature but you could also drop your signature in via photoshop before sending the print to lab.
- Don’t sign to scale. If the image is large that doesn’t mean your signature has to be. Keep it small and it will help enhance the perceived size of the print.
- Cluster or Groupings. Be aware that your signature over and over on a cluster of images may stand out and take away from the desired effect. In such a case it may be better to sign the back of the canvas.
- Make sure you use archival safe pens. It’s important that what you use does not effect the chemical properties of the image so you want to make sure you use acid free archival safe pens. (Found at any craft or art store).
- Keep your signature understated. When looking at a great painting, the signature is not evident but instead you think to look for it. The same should be the case for our photography as well.
- Signing the back. For smaller prints, it may be a good idea to sign the back of the print.
- Once you establish what you want your signature to be, stay consistent.
- If a print is going to be framed you need to be aware of where your signature is written. I remember years ago, the owner of a framing store telling me how photographers often sign to close to the edge and that it gets partially covered when being framed.
- Add the year. Adding the year to your signature will be very helpful years from now when the image becomes a part of family history.