Certificate of Authenticity – how to create your own

Certificate how-to

Creating a certificate of Authenticity for your photographs you intend to sell can be daunting when you don’t know exactly what should be written on it.  When I started selling my photos, I understood that unlike a painting, a photograph is easy to reproduce as many times as you want and that if I was going to sell to a client that is paying good money for a limited edition print, they want some assurance that if you say there will only be 10 of these original signed photos available, then he won’t find in 5 years that he paid good money for something that you are now selling at Ikea for $30.00 including the frame and the mat.

So, how do you go about creating this trust and make your client feel that this will not happen? You make sure that your client both receives a photograph that is signed, has a recorded # on it, has what number the edition is at and has an signed Authenticity Certificate to match.

First things first; sign the photograph. The signature can be on the front or the back, can be
hidden by a mat if the client wishes, but definitely should be signed.

It should also include how big the edition is and which one of the edition this one is. If you intend on printing no more than 30, it should include exactly which one you are at. 1/30, 4/30 etc., It is important to keep good records on what edition you are at and to be very honest and not print more than you have stated you would.  Trust is not easily gained, but very quickly lost.

signed photograph with C.A. #

signed photograph with C.A. #

Next you need to give your images, a number. Yes, it sounds crazy, but it will be the easiest way to keep  your records straight. So, let’s say you decide to start selling your photographs, you should create a number for each photo and then advance from there. So, let’s say your first image will be an edition of 30; you could perhaps start with the number #0101 as the very first. (first photo, first one of the edition) Therefore, 0130, would be the last print you make of that image. The next one  you decide to print and sell would be #0201 and the last one would be #0230. This way you will always be aware of how many photos in your portfolio and which edition each one is on.

So, let’s get to it.. and create your Certificate of Authenticity. This certificate will include your full name and the title of your image. It will include the # of your image also. See how the number you put on your images works now? It ties that number to the Authenticity Certificate that you will also sign. Any image that is sold should include both.

So, here is what my certificate looks like:

Certificate of Authenticity Sample

Certificate of Authenticity Sample

Let’s work through it now:

  • A – The Certificate should be called that. You may put this at the top or bottom.
  • B -  Include text that says it certifies that the print is an original (in this case a giclée) or other type of print in a limited edition and guarantees the exactitude of anything mentioned in the description of it.
  • C – Artist: Well, your name of course!
  • D – Title: Whatever you are calling this photograph. It could be “Lovely Day in Paradise or untitled thingamagig 42; you get my drift.
  • E – Edition number. The number of editions this particular photo will be limited to. As you can see,  this particular photo is limited to 12.
  • F – Artist Proofs: you can include up to 3 that are not included in the edition, which are called Artist’s Editions or Artist Proofs. These are prints that you may keep that normally are not sold as they are practice runs to get colors right etc., These should be marked as Artist prints on the photograph as they sometimes are valuable (sometimes more than the limited edition prints). Okay, probably only if you become really famous, but hey, we all like to dream, right?
  • G – Total number of Editions: If you are including 3 artist proofs, then the true run will be 15 (if original run is 12) or 33, if original run is 30.
  • H – Number of this edition: Which edition is this one? if it is 4th, then 4/15 etc.,
  • I – Format: Here you will write the dimensions of the actual print and the size of the paper it is printed on.
  • J – Genre:  In our case, this would be Photography
  • K – Certificate of Authenticity #. Remember up above where I talked about what photo and which edition. This image would be the 83rd photo that I’m selling and the 3rd one of this edition. This same number is written on the actual photograph as C.A. # 8303 or whatever number you are at.
  • L – Year Taken.  Easy enough to understand. You can also include specific date and/or place it was taken if you wish.
  • M – Year of Print: This is different from when you took the photograph and as most people (myself included) only print another edition after a former one has been sold, may even be a few years apart.
  • N – Printer: If you have printed your own photograph,  you should include which printer you used. If you have not printed it,  you may include where you had it printed. If you are using a more traditional method of printing as some still do, then instead of PRINTER – add method of Printing and add appropriate information.
  • O – Ink: If you print your own photographs, here you should include the type of ink you used and any archival information you may have about it.
  • P – Paper: Again, if you print your own photographs, what type of paper you used.
  • Q – (not essential, but good practice as it shows your client that you care about your work and that it should be treated with care for it to last) N.B. remember that limited edition prints should be printed with high quality inks and papers. This does not mean that you need to use the most expensive ones, but that you are using inks and papers that are tested to continue to look good through the years and that will not fade or yellow.    Notes should be be added to the certificate with any information that you have to prolong the life of your prints.
  • R – It is important to specify that the copyright of your image stays with you, (add your name in the sentence) and that no reproduction of the work is allowed without the express permission, of you, the artist.
  • S – You must sign the certificate and add the date.
  • T – If you intend to ever create any products such as post-cards, or a book of your work it is important to add that the photographer reserves the right to reproduce the image in the form of greeting cards, promotional items or in a book. These reproductions ARE NOT considered to be originals but may AUGMENT the value of the originals. I actually think that even if you think you may not need this, add it anyway as oftentimes you may only sell one or two of an image in a year,  so many 2-3 years from now, you may want to create a book or publish the image somewhere besides the original print etc., and this way, you have covered that for future work.

What a certificate looks like says a lot about you and the quality of work you do, so it is important to use a nice quality and weight of paper for your certificate. If you are good at graphic design (many photographers are, as they have a good sense of proportion, design and balance) you should probably make your own. Keep the fonts classy (No Comic Sans, puleeeaase!) and always put the certificate in a nice envelope. I put mine in white envelopes that are letter size so I don’t have to fold the certificate. Once the image is framed, the certificate is affixed to the back, by the framer, so accessible.

For those of you without the proper tools to create your own certificate, a very kind and generous reader, Adi Levy (check out his work here:  Adilevyphotography.com has made both a .pdf  and a Illustrator .ai that you can download and
simply fill in the blanks with your own information.

Download the .pdf file here

Download the .ai file here

I hope this helps you create your own certificate and good luck with the sales of your images!


Creative Commons License
Certificate of Authenticity – how to create your own by Maggie Terlecki is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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