Comments Off on Protecting fine art photography Permalink

Protecting fine art photography

There really is nothing like a large tangible print on the wall of your home or business. I see my digital images and those of many other artists all the time, and they can look great backlit on a screen, but there is something about standing in front of a well done print that is the center piece of a room and truly brings out the craftsmanship of a photographer. Fine art photographers go to great lengths preparing and printing images to make sure the buyer is not only getting a fantastic looking print but also an investment that is going to last. It is not only important that the photographer and printer do their jobs well in creating a piece that will stand the test of time, but it is also important that the buyer be informed on how to care for their investment once they hang it on the wall.

Wanting your print to stand out makes sense, and it is common to see artwork lit with spotlights of one sort or another in commercial environments, such as doctors’ offices and meeting rooms, but it is less common to see artwork lit in people’s homes. Lighting your print is a great way to bring attention to it and add drama to the environment, but is it important how you light your print and what kind of light you use? Having worked retail, I know the damage a large bank of spotlights can do to products in a fairly short amount of time, but I am curious if that same effect translates to spotlighting an archival print. I would also like to see if using different types of lights, such as LED and fluorescent are any less damaging, if at all, compared to halogen. I have my assumptions on how this may turn out but instead of bringing to the table what I think might happen, I have taken it upon myself to perform a test to discover the best way to light your print at home or in your business and make your fine art photography last as long as possible.

About the test.

Print Lighting

Please bear in mind that I am not a scientist, but I do expect to glean some good information from this. I have set up three different spotlights: one halogen, one LED, and one fluorescent, all of them similar in brightness (lumens).

Halogen LED Fluorescent

Watts 45 12 15

Lumens 640 700 750

The color temperature was not listed for the fluorescent or halogen lights, and I do not own a color temp. meter. Even though the LED light says 3000K, it seems to be much closer to sunlight than the other two, which appear much warmer and tend to emit a brown cast over the prints. Aesthetically speaking, the print lit with LED seems to “pop” much better for me, and I do not see any unwanted color casts. Also, the LED seems to have a narrower angle of focus than the halogen and fluorescent.

Lighting setup

The prints are 8×10 and were printed at the same time from the same printer on archival, light sensitive paper using a light jet printer. I have kept one print in a dark bag in drawer as a “control” to compare to the others over time. I suspect that I may start to see differences between the print kept in the dark and spotlit prints after about a month, so I will make that my first comparison and continue to do so each month after.

The lights are measured eighteen inches away from the 8×10 prints, which was about as far as I could manage while keeping the light from each box separated. Granted, this is much closer than I hope anyone would mount a spotlight away from their prints, I am sure this will speed up any potential effects from the spotlights. My goal is to replicate the commercial environment where lights may be directed at mounted prints for long periods of time, so I have the lights on a timer, providing ten hours of light a day.

Important note: Even though the prints are mounted archivally to mat boards, it is important to note that these prints are not protected with any UV coating or behind any UV safe glass. Therefore, whatever effects the spotlights may have on the prints should, in theory, be visible quicker than prints that are properly protected behind UV glass or coating.

The table is set, and the clock is running. I look forward to posting the continual results in hopes of providing customers and clients with information on how best to take care of their investment. Be sure to check back and see how things are going.


Related Posts