A photograph is an image created by the exposure of light on a light-sensitive material at some stage during its making. It can be either a positive or negative image and made using one of many processes.
As with prints, photographic prints are often produced in a limited edition and each photographic print is signed and numbered.
Below is a list of the most common types of photographic prints.
C-type: Since the 1950s the C-type print has been a popular form of photography. A C-type is a chromogenic colour print which uses chromogenic materials and processes. The print can be produced from an original which is a colour negative, slide or digital image. The chromogenic film used contains many layers of silver emulsion which are sensitised to different coloured wavelengths of light. Typically red, green and blue are the colours used to build up the image.
Cibachrome: This type of print is a colour print made from a negative. Distinctively different from a C-type, this print is richer in colour and last longer as the dyes are incorporated into the emulsion rather than floating on top of the paper
Digital: This type print is computer-generated using a photographic image which is converted into a digital file. The file is then manipulated in programmes such as desktop publishing and in its final stage printed using a laser inkjet printer. Giclee prints are generally produced using Inkjet printing. Other forms of digital prints include Lambda or Light Jet. Lasers are used to print the digital image onto silver photographic materials, producing a very high quality of photographic print. Lambda prints are known for their sharpness, continuous tone and high impact colours.
Estate: This is a posthumous print that is normally commissioned by the photographer’s estate from the original negative. Prints of these kinds cannot hold the same value as prints created by an artist first-hand.
Photoetching (photogravure or heliogravure): The image is formed on an intaglio metal plate and coated with a light-sensitive, acid-resistant ground. The plate is then exposed to light to reproduce a photographic image.
Photogram: Here the image is created by placing an object onto photosensitive paper which is then briefly exposed to light, leaving the object’s imprint on the paper.
Photolithograph: Potassium bichromate is used to sensitise a stone or metal plate. The plate is brought into contact with a negative and exposed to light, meaning that the gelatin becomes insoluble to water. The remaining soluble elements are then removed by repeatedly using water. The plate is then inked which adheres to the gelatin and a print is created using a press.
Silver gelatin print: Paper is coated in gelatin and silver salts. It is then exposed to light to create a black and white photograph.
Vintage print: This kind of print is created at the same time as the negative (within 5 years is an accepted timeframe). This type of print is defined by chronology rather than by the materials used.
There’s a kind of power thing about the camera. I mean, everyone knows you’ve got some edge. You’re carrying some slight magic which does something to them. It fixes them in a way.
Diane Arbus – Artist
Owning Art: The Contemporary Art Collector’s Handbook by Louisa Buck and Judith Greer, Cultureshock Media, 2006