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All artists should consider quality capture for reproduction an essential part of their workflow.
Reproductions can be the difference between making a living at art or forever being a hobbyist. Obviously, you can only sell your original works once - and we all know how long good works take to make!
It's imperative to have good quality digital files prepared before you sell your original works.
It should become the final part of your process every time you make a new piece - the digital files you have prepared can then be used for endless things - but most notably marketing and selling reproduction prints. This can open whole new markets for your work - only a small percentage of the population ever buy expensive original works, but a vast number of people will pay a more modest sum for a high quality reproduction print from the artist.
This can make a substantial difference to your ability to earn a good living as a practicing artist as it opens up new income streams - indeed it can make the difference between commercial success and failure. It is critical you master this process as early as possible in your artistic career and make it a fundamental part of your workflow.
As a rule, you as the originating artist of an artwork hold the
exclusive legal copyright to that work unless you explicitly sign that
copyright over to someone else.
(Note, there are some exceptions to this - notably for commissioned work. In general, if work is produced for commercial purposes by comission, then the commissioner owns the copyright - so in this situation you should explicitly have a clause in your commercial contract stating that you retain ownership of the copyright. (This is a mistake that beginning wedding and portrait photographers often make - it really is worth reviewing this stuff and making sure you have proper legal contracts worked up for all commissioned work - there is some excellent information on this at the Arts Law website).
When someone buys an artwork from you, they are buying just that physical object to own and enjoy - but copyright to the actual image/object and the reproduction rights remain with the original artist. You absolutely have the right to use the image for marketing purposes, and also for reproduction & print sales purposes.
What can we do as artists to make this clearer to buyers? Add a copyright notice to the back of the painting (© Year Name) and include this copyright information in your certificate of authenticity or sale.
It's a common misconception that reproduction prints may reduce the value of the original works. This in actually entirely wrong - indeed the opposite is generally true - the more a work is reproduced (and thus the more a work is known in the art buying world) - the greater the value of the one true original.
In fact, some of the most valuable art pieces in the world - Van Gogh Starry Night, Munch's The Scream, Ansel Adams 'Moonlight Over Hernandez' etc. - are some of the most heavily reproduced images of all time.
Reproductions are an excellent way of developing your market of buyers - they make your work more accessible to beginning collectors. People would love to own your originals, but the reality is many people simply can't afford them. If you only sell into this rarefied market, you are not cultivating the future generations of collectors who will buy your works later in your career.
Read our article on Approaches to Edition Prints for more information regarding edition printing!