Why do professional prints cost more?

Updated: Oct 18, 2019

In the day and age where we have convenience at our fingertips, we also have inkjet printers that can be purchased for around $100 (like this one) that can print surprisingly nice prints. So why are professionals who sell prints using equipment in the $1K - $4K range?


What?

It's not that these professional printers are cheaper to operate, but instead, the quality and durability of the final print is significantly better. The basics of print quality are pretty straight forward, but it's when we start to talk about print durability that many people are surprised.


Why?

Remember the "instant" polaroids of the 80's? Notice how badly they fade...this is a result of something called highly fugitive ink - ink that's on the run, fleeing the scene of the print. Technically, all ink can fade given enough UV exposure, but the cheap inkjet printers of today are essentially the polaroids of the 80's. Their inks are very vibrant, adding a professional-like wow factor to photos, but this comes at a cost: their inks are also highly fugitive.


How long?

How long are we talking? The dye-based inks found in a consumer inkjet may survive 6 months, 12 months, or maybe 3 years before noticeable and permanent degradation has occurred. On the other hand, professional machines use pigment-based inks, and these inks, on quality paper, are lasting 100 - 250+ years (they use industry-standardized, accelerated light testing procedures to arrive at these figures.)


So, what does it mean for the art buyer?

Simply put, your art is a multi-faceted investment. It represents your investment of time in selecting, purchasing, and framing. Next is the most prominent type of investment, the emotional investment; the underlying reason for selecting that particular print. Finally, even a $150 print from a dedicated artist has the ability to appreciate significantly over time, and can represent itself as part of an investment portfolio.


By purchasing professional prints should serve all three of these facets of investment.


"Electric Foxglove" - part of a limited edition print run of 20 images in 13x19.


© 2018 by Stephan Pawloski (Nature Photography)