If you are planning on a long and exciting career as an artist then having a good solid record of all your work is important not only for yourself, but also to show your clients how you have progressed over the years. When you actually sit down and look at your entire body of work after a number of years it's amazing to see the progression of your style as well to see the few ground breaking pieces that took your art to the next level. Unfortunately for me I slacked somewhat early on and I probably have about 20 or so pieces that slipped through the cracks and the only record of them is the original hanging on a wall somewhere in the world.Getting a good photo of your work is now easier than ever. Back when the only option was a film camera you had to rinse an entire roll playing with exposure, lighting, angle, etc. just to make sure you had one usable shot for your records before you send the painting away. Sometimes you would get your roll back and notice a glare you didn't see before, but you allready sent the piece away with the new owner... bummer! Now with digital cameras you can do it all on spot and make sure you nail it in one sitting with no wait time and no uncertainty. If you are planning on shooting the art yourself you want to make sure you have a good camera. A cheap little point and shoot camera is good if you just want a record of your art but don't plan on doing anything else with the shot. But if you want to make reproductions or have a high res. file that you can send to companies for graphics, cards, posters and the like, you want to make sure you have at least a 12 megapixel camera. That is pretty stock standard these days so it's not a super expensive investment anymore. I would also recommend getting one that can shot in RAW format. This is uncompressed and gives you the largest and best file to work with.
When you are shooting your work it's important to make sure you don't end up with any glare on your piece. This can make the shot useless for any purpose other than your own records. To avoid this it's best to shoot your piece with either a soft box or diffuser on your lights, or my favorite is outside in natural sunlight on a slightly overcast day. If it's a sunny day you can shoot it early or later in the day, but avoid the middle of the day because the angle of the intense sun usually gives you a glare of hot spots. Something else you can do is shoot your piece slightly tilted to avoid the glare. Now in photoshop and other image programs you can warp or change the perspective without distorting your image. After you take a bunch of RAW shots zoom in on your camera and scan the whole piece to make sure it is all in focus and there are no little glares. Once you have the shot you can bring it into your program and convert the RAW file to a TIFF and viola... you have a great high res shot.
If you are planning on making giclee prints of your piece or even large format paper prints it is worthwhile paying to have it proffessionaly scanned. A good scan is usually around $200 if the piece is big, so you want to make sure you are happy with it and you feel the investment is worthwhile. You can always pose the question to your loyal fans in your social media network as well to get a second opinion.
There are many ways to get reproductions made these days, but the two best I have found are digital paper prints and canvas giclees. Paper prints are cheaper to produce so you can offer them to your clients at a lower price point which is a good thing. There are loads and loads of printers out there now that you can get this done at and most of the technology they are using is of a way higher quality than that of 10 years ago. Things you want to check with them on is that the paper they are using is acid free and that their ink is achival. If the paper isn't acid free it will yellow over time and then your client who spent $150 to frame the print will get upset that their piece didn't withstand a reasonable amount of time. Archival ink is made to not fade over time and this will keep your clients happy as well. So when you go to a printer get some price quotes for what you want to have done and make sure it's good paper and ink. You will want to develop a good relationship with your printer because you will need to take time with them to proof your pieces to make sure they are as accurate as possible and you will hopefully be ordering a lot of them from them so you might eventually get a discount for larger orders. It's also really good to stay with one printer so that they have all of your proofed files in their database so you don't have to go through the process everytime.
Giclee prints are a higer end canvas print that are totally awesome. If you find a good printer for them they can look extremely close to the original and you can offer those to your clients at a fraction of the price of the original. A lot of giclee printers will only work with files that they have scanned because they have calibrated their scanners to work with the colour profiles of their printer and it can be a daunting task to properly proof a file they just get emailed from you. So you probably want to think twice about each piece that you want to do this with. There are a number of online printing options that you can just send the files to and they send you the prints. I have seen the quality of a number of these and wasn't totally impressed. But that being said, it all depends on the style of art and the colours you use. Your work might be more than fine to go with this option, but it if it is more complexed in colour and form I would work directly with a printer that you can fine tune the process with. You also want to check and make sure that they do some sort of protective coating on the print. Most inks scuff or scratch really easily on canvas if they aren't treated. The best thing you can do is get a UV protective spray on them to ensure a longer life for the prints as well as protect them from scuffs. If the printer doesn't offer this service you can either do this yourself if you are confident in doing so, or just find another printer.
When you decide to make prints of a piece you need to choose to either make the run of prints Limited Edition or Open Edition. You can change your mind halfway through because that makes the Limited Edition side of things totally moot and that can really piss off your clients. So depending on what you are planning on doing with the prints, like let's say you sell them to Starbucks or you sell them all hand signed out of your studio only, will determine your decision. You don't want to do a Limited Edition if you are hand signing and personally taking care of each print if you plan on making huge amounts of them for mass consumption. If you are making an unlimited amount of the prints then you will be selling them at a lower price than if you made a Limited Edition run of the same piece. The more unique and finite the amount of prints there are the more they are worth... kind of like hockey cards and star wars figurines. When I started I was doing my editions limited to 33 prints. 33 is my favorite number and it is a good amount for you and not too many for the buyer. Now I am doing some runs up to 99. I have seen some artists do Editions of 500 and that to me seems a little excessive and not really 'limited'. It's all up to you though. Just decide when you make the first one if you want to have them all numbered or not. There is no turning back.
Ways you can save money in the process are by finding out all the costs for every option that the printers offer and figure out what you can do without or do yourself. Sometimes you can have them print them, back them and wrap them for you for an extra charge. This charge is often way to high in my eyes so you can source out supplies to do the same thing and do it by yourself. I have been doing the DIY method for 13 years and it just gets easier as you go. Sometimes when you are preparing for a big sale or big shipment it can be a little time consuming, but a bottle of wine and some good music is a great way to entice a friend to help out one afternoon. For gilee prints you want to double check with the printer what their fee is for stretching the prints. I have found at a number of places that the fee can be as much as $100 to stretch a fair sized print... that's BS!!! It is easy to do once you know the basics and stretcher bars would cost you maybe $10. This is something that you can cut costs with if the printer charges loads. If you find a good quality printer that you like to work with then maybe self stretching could be a good option for you. I will do a video blog later in the summer to show you how to stretch prints.
I hope this answers some of your questions to do with prints. I'm not sure what I will feel like covering next time... but I am sure it will be helpful :) Have a great day!!