A Glossary of Terms

artist’s proof (a/p)

A/Ps refer to prints that are made especially for the artist. They are not included in the regular limited edition print run but are of the same quality. Traditionally A/Ps were proofs that were used to check the quality of the print. Sometimes the photographer chooses to release their artist proofs once the print run of an edition runs out.


c print

This is a generic term used for all colour photographs, analogue and digital.


chromogenic print

This was the most common colour photographic process until recently. Chromogenic prints were printed in a darkroom using an analogue negative until approximately 2000 when the digital lab started to replace the analogue darkroom. Digital chromogenic prints are often called Lambda or Lightjet prints after the lab that was used to produce them. Analogue C-Type prints are still available and are often referred to as traditional C-Type prints.


digital print

This is a generic term used for a photograph made with a digital negative.


inkjet print

(can also be referred to as a Giclée print or an Iris print) Since 2010 inkjet printing
has slowly been replacing chromogenic prints. An inkjet print is made from a digital negative or file using fine droplets of water-based ink. A distinction is often made between inkjet dyes and inkjet pigment inks. The pigment inks are typically used by professional printers as they are considered more stable.


edition / limited edition

A maximum number of prints produced of an image in a certain size or with a certain printing method. The prints are numbered with the chronological number of the print followed by the size of the edition. For example, 2/20 signifies print number two from an edition limited to 20.


modern / later print

A print produced some time after the photograph was taken. For example, a photograph printed in 1998 from a negative made in 1939 would be considered a modern print. These are sometimes also called later prints.
(See Vintage print, below).



Traditionally, a negative is an image in which the photographed subject is reversed, i.e. dark areas appear lightest and light areas darkest. From the negative the actual photographic print is made in the darkroom. Some of the earliest negatives were made on paper or glass. (Colour) plastic film and transparencies were developed later. Today, prints can also be made from digital ‘negatives’.



A photogram is made without a camera by laying objects directly onto photosensitised paper and then exposing it to light. This technique is as old as photography itself. It became quite popular during the 1920s and was championed by Man-Ray and László Moholy-Nagy.


posthumous print / estate print
A print produced posthumously, after the photographer has died, from the original negative. Estate prints are usually authenticated by a family member.


signature label / certificate

If a print is mounted to aluminium or another substrate on the reverse, the artist’s signature may be obscured. Your gallerist should offer you a signature certificate or label that will work in the same way as a signature on the print itself. This is a form of authentication that is important to keep safe along with your print.


signed verso / recto

A signature on the back of the print is denoted verso, and on the front recto.


silver gelatin print

A traditional black and white photograph produced in a darkroom on paper with a light sensitive silver compound adhered with a gelatin glue. Even though developed in the 1870’s silver gelatin prints remain the standard black and white print type.


vintage print

A print made at the same time that the negative was made. In practice, this usually means within one to five years of the negative date. For example, a photograph taken in 1951 and printed in 1952 would be considered a vintage print.



further reading:

Collecting Photography, Gerry Badger, Mitchell Beazley, 2003.

The Art of Collecting Photography, Laura Noble, AVA Publishing, 2006.

Collect contemporary photography, Jocelyn Phillips, Thames & Hudson, 2012.

A guide to early photographic processes, Brian Coe, Mark Haworth-Booth, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1983.

The History of Photography: From 1839 to the Present, Beaumont Newhall, The Museum of Modern Art, New York; 5th edition, 1984.

Looking at Photographs: A Guide to Technical Terms, Revised Edition, Gordon Baldwin and Martin Jürgens, Getty Publications, 2009.

February 20, 2020