A Beginner's Guide to Buying Fine Art - Cramer Imaging - Quality Fine Art Photography
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A Beginner's Guide to Buying Fine Art

A Beginner's Guide to Buying Fine Art
You've determined that it's time to redecorate and that wall art has to go.  You want new and exciting images to display in your home.  You go onto Google and search for fine art you can purchase only to be overwhelmed by the number of listings and styles of fine art.  Then you realize that you have no idea what you are looking at or how to find what you want.  What do you do?  Fear not.  We have the answer for you.

Cramer Imaging's professional quality nature cloudscape photograph of a colorful sunset lighting up clouds in Tetonia, Fremont, Idaho
Shopping for fine art requires you to know a few basic things about the market in general.
When shopping for fine art, you will want to check on a few very important points before investing in a piece.  These are:

  • coordination with you existing decorations
  • the quality of materials used
  • the reputation of artist
  • the size and medium of piece
  • limited edition status
  • care and maintenance requirements for the piece (if any)

Coordination With Your Existing Decorations

Perhaps the most important point of shopping for quality fine art, other than your personal taste in the matter, is that this new fine art matches your already existing home decor and interior design.  There is no point in purchasing a beautiful piece of fine art only to have it clash in color and/or style with what you are already using.

Cramer Imaging's professional quality landscape nature photograph of black trees against very blue sky and snowy hills in Bannock, Idaho
This very moody blue and black photograph, despite it being beautiful, won't work with many different interior design schemes.  Double check that it will work with yours before you purchase.
This particular aspect should always be in your mind as you shop.  You don't want another knick-knack to gather dust in a storage shed someplace because it didn't work with your home decor.

Quality of Materials Used

Professional quality black and white nature photograph of a wild sunflower head in Pocatello, Bannock, Idaho by Cramer Imaging
For fine art photography, this means checking out the paper along with the matting and the frame that the image is displayed in.
Whenever possible, I strongly encourage you to check out the quality of the materials used to create a work of art whether it be a photograph, a sculpture, or a painting.  There are lots of good reasons for this.

First, checking material quality will help you sort out the real art from the fakes.  The market is full of knock-offs which range in quality from poor to better than the original.

Make sure that you know what you are looking at and you won't be fooled into spending way more than you should have on something that is not real.

Second, the quality of the materials will tell you something about how the piece will stand up over time.  No one will paint a masterpiece on cheap canvas because they want the painting to last.  Quality materials means quality work went into the creation of the art.

Third, if you find that a particular piece has a defect, that is a negotiating point you might use to lower the final price.  It may or may not work every time, but it's always worth trying.

When personal examination of the materials is not possible, I strongly recommend that you research the company(ies) which provided the materials if you can.  The reputation of those companies will also speak volumes.

Cramer Imaging's professional quality nature photograph of yellow little leaf linden leaves on tree branch in Pocatello, Bannock, Idaho
Don't be blind-sided by a pretty picture when shopping for fine art.  The internet is a valuable tool for checking into reputations.
Buying fine art from websites like Amazon.com and Ebay.com can be a real gamble.  You cannot examine the piece for yourself so you must accept what the seller has listed on the item and what photos are shown.  While it might pay off for some people, I would not dare purchase expensive fine art from someplace like those.

The Artist's Reputation

Some people have been in the field of art and have become popular enough that people know their names and what kind of art they produce.  Such individuals include Ansel Adams, Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, and many others.  You know who they are and you know their work is worth a lot.

Professional portrait of the photographer of Cramer Imaging taken in Pocatello, Bannock, Idaho
If you don't already know the artist's name and reputation, take a close look just in case.
Many others enter the field but don't become nearly as prominent.  In these cases, it would do you some good to check out the artist's reputation.  If he or she has quality attached to their artwork, then you may buy with some amount of security in your selection.

In the case of an artist with little to no reputation, any beginning artist starts out here, then you will need to make doubly sure that you do your homework in researching the individual out.

Checking the quality of the work being sold is a must.  You may be able to skip this step with a reputable artist but not one of this status.  After all, bad artists have little to no reputation as well.

If you like the art, then you can decide to trust or not trust the small artist.  It's completely your choice and there's no general right or wrong answer in this case.  It might be worth it for you to take a leap of faith here.

The Size and Medium of the Piece

Two of the most important pieces of information you need about a piece of fine art are how big it is and what it is made out of.  These will tell you so much practical information about the piece you are considering purchasing.

You will know if it will fit where you plan on displaying it.  You will know if you have picked the right place for display (sun fading is a big issue for wall art).  You will know if the floor can hold up your sculpture of choice in that particular scenario.

Cramer Imaging's professional quality nature photograph of pine branches and needles covered with snow in Pocatello, Bannock, Idaho
Fine art photography often comes in multiple sizes but other pictures like oil and watercolor paintings come in one size only.
You will also get a good idea of what kind of care and maintenance your new fine art will require.  Even if it isn't as obvious as an occasional dusting, you have the information you need to look it up online.

Limited Edition Status

For the kinds of art which lend themselves to multiple copies, you will also want to find out if the piece you are eyeing is a member of a limited edition set or not.

 Cramer Imaging's professional quality fine art photograph of the Idaho Falls Temple spire at sunset in Idaho Falls, Bonneville, Idaho
Artists like to do limited editions for lots of reasons and for lots of works of art.
Certain kinds of wall art (like photographs and other prints) and castings can easily be reproduced.  So artists like to create limited editions where they make only a certain number of those pieces of art and never make them again.  Means of ensuring it have involved destroying negatives and molds.

If a piece of fine art is a member of a limited edition, it will often be numbered and could even be signed.  To find this information, it is often on the bottom of a sculpture or the bottom corner or the back of a printed work.

With there being only so many copies of the artwork made ever, this means that the price goes up.

Another thing to look for with limited editions is what number the piece is in the edition.  Lower numbers are considered more valuable by the art market.

Care and Maintenance of the Art Piece

Let's face it.  You don't buy quality fine art for it to last a few days or weeks.  You want it to last for years and even generations.  That requires proper care and maintenance.

Cramer Imaging's professional quality fine art nature photograph of a single blooming pink tulip flower in Pocatello, Bannock, Idaho
Fine art photography is on the list of low maintenance fine art available.
While there are established norms for taking care of many kinds of artwork, it still would be good to revisit those procedures before committing lots of money to a piece you might not want to invest so much time into.

Each type of art medium is susceptible to the ravages of time but they all display it differently and at different stages of their life.

Are you prepared to handle the alligatoring of an oil painting or would you rather deal with the sun fade and discoloration of a photograph?  There is no right or wrong answer here.

You also never know about new art mediums either.  You really need to research out what to do with something different or unusual so that you don't waste your money on something of a fad or something deceptively fragile.

As with anything you are about to sink a bunch of money into, it is wise to know, as best as possible, what you are getting yourself into long term.


Entering the fine art marketplace can be an intimidating or an empowering experience depending on whether or not you know what to look for.  Remembering what you have decorated your house with will make sure that you don't waste money on something that won't work.

If you do your homework with discovering the quality of materials used, the artists reputation, the size and medium of the piece, the piece's limited edition status, and the care and maintenance requirements, then you will find the waters of fine art shopping to be much easier to navigate.

A few final thoughts: Make sure that you take the time to be satisfied with what you purchase but don't look at so much that you can't decide.  Be sure of your purchase before you make it so you don't suffer from buyer's remorse when you can't return the art for a refund.  There is no kind of right or wrong art for you except what you decide.  Choose something that speaks to you.

Are you on a budget but still want to buy fine art?  Check out next week's article on creating a budget for buying fine art.

Since you are in the market to buy fine art, make sure to drop by our online store where your can buy fine art photography from us.  Many of the images you see here are for sale there.  Enjoy the process and enjoy your beautiful new fine art.