The Most Expensive Photo You Ever Bought

Tonight I was catching up on working my way through the collection of LensWork Podcast archives that I downloaded a few months back. I’m glad Brooks Jensen uploaded the entire collection of his podcasts to his website, I have found it interesting to listen to some if his earlier thoughts…i.e., 2-3 years ago…and see the commonalities to things that happened in the industry shortly after his recording.

Something about episode LW0075, The Fantasy Market for Photographs, that I found interesting. The correlation of what a photographer charges for a print of their work versus the most that they have every paid for a print themselves.

My philosophy here is that I would rather have people enjoy my work by buying a print at a reasonable price than feel that they have to save up for a print. This, coupled with my lack of an egocentrically view of my work, means that I price my prints in a range that allows me to make some money off of them but also places them in the disposable income range for most people. The most popular sizes of an 8×12 print sells for $20 while the 12×18 print sells for $35 and larger sizes for more based upon my cost.


Now, I admit that I use a photo printing lab to do the printing on archive quality photo paper and distribute the orders. That is why I refer to these prints as art prints. If I were to take extra time to print these images myself on art quality rag mat paper to my precise printing standards, I would have to charge more–but I would also limit the number of prints that I would make due to constraints on my time. I have a select set of images that I plan on doing this with in the near future. And I will appropriately refer to them as Limited Edition Fine Art Prints, but I still plan on keeping their price in a reasonable range. (The main reason I haven’t to date is the lack of ability to sell these via my current website.)

But, have I ever paid that much for a print that I bought from another photographer?

Yes. The sidebar My Photo Purchases lists the photographers that I own prints of. The majority of prints that I have bought fall in the same range of what I charge for my art prints and are what I would also refer to as art prints.

The interesting part is when you start to talk about the most that you, as a photographer, have ever paid or a print. Personally, I have paid almost $200 for an Ansel Adam Yosemite Special Edition Print that I appreciate every day on the wall of my office. (Half Dome, Merced River, Winter if your curious…) And I felt that it was an appropriate amount to pay for a print made from the original negative and printed by Alan Ross to Ansel Adam’s original specifications.

But I’m curious. All you fellow photographers out there, what is the most expensive photo you have ever purchased? (How does that compare to the prices you charge for your own work?)

3 thoughts

  1. Bret and I paid $800 for an 18×30 photo of Norway, that included the fancy matting and frame. I charge no where near that for my own prints; I don’t think I’d sell any at that price!

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  2. I think a photographer would be willing to pay a bit more for a print from another photographer that they like – just because of the appreciation/kinship connection.

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  3. Mark, good point. It would make sense that a photographer would respect the value of an image more than a non-photographer. That was part of the reason for my willingness to pay what I did for an original Ansel Adam’s print (just the print with a mat mind you, no frame).

    It still makes me wonder if those photographers who prince their work in the upper 3 to 4 digit range have ever paid that much for someone else’s work…

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