Becoming an Amateur Photography Collector

Becoming an Amateur Photography Collector

The Theme

When considering your collection, it is important to first choose a theme. For example, you could focus on landscapes, press or celebrity photography, or an era/style. We have a plethora of photos coming up in our Photographica sale, that will provide inspiration for selecting your own area of collecting.

Press photography is a good place to start if you are struggling to find your niche. Press photos have seen an increase in popularity as they tend to be cheaper than their original counterparts. For up to a couple of hundred pounds it is very possible to bag one of these photographic moments and therefore this makes them a good place to start.


Lot 66. Fernand Fonssagrives (1910-2003)

 How to find your first Photograph

Now that the theme is sorted, we need to start thinking about what qualities to recognise and look out for when searching for your collection. Identifying these qualities can mean the difference between finding a photograph that’s rare and of high value and finding something very ordinary.


1. Rarity

As you can imagine, if a photo is one of only a small number of prints then its likely that the value of your copy is going to be high. Do your due diligence and talk to a specialist about how to recognise markings.


2. Condition

Try to avoid creases and handling marks, fading and general damage. This can lower the price of the photo.


3. Original or Reprint?

Try to identify the date, to determine if the photo is an original or copy. The copies are still lovely to collect but are meant purely for decoration; if you are looking to make an investment on a piece, the originals hold the most value. It is also a joy for a collector to be the owner of the original. It’s the ultimate thrill of the search.

4. The reputation of the photographer

Having a famous photographer’s name attached to the photo adds immediate value. For example, the famous Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California from 1936, sold for $87,500 at Philips last year. If you are planning to collect press photography you should look out for the TIME, LIFE, MAGNUM and AP stamps for highly prized photos.


5. The Subject

If the subject is famous, have they signed the work? This can make the photo much more valuable. Note that signature can sometimes be copies made by assistants and not by the subject, this is often common in 30s and 40s photography of famous celebrities. An auction house will help you to identify the real ones from the forgeries.



Lot 44. Clarence Sinclair-Bull (1896-1979)Our final top tip is to familiarise yourself with the terminology associated with vintage photography. Read up about the main photographic processes from 19th century including ambrotype, tintype, daguerreotype, cabinet card and CDV, the famous press names and notable photographers including Henri Cartier-Bresson, Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams, Annie Leibovitz and Robert Capa.


And finally, it is time to start collecting. Peruse our online catalogue for great affordable works from our upcoming sale. If you have any questions are Head of Photographica Austin Farahar is happy to help.


Photographica sale, Monday, 30 March 11 am