Ultimate Autographs - 10 Things that Make a Signed Photo Perfect November 05 2021

Are You Interested in Purchasing and/or Collecting Original Autograph Photos?


Here is a guide to help you know what is best or most desirable for collectors and fans.


Based on our experience of well over a decade helping autograph photograph collectors find their desired item, we compiled a shortlist of features you will find in the ultimate autographs. These together will make a perfect signed photo, highly sought after.


Perfect does not mean expensive - rather, it refers to the best autograph photo of its kind, the one that would be preferred by the majority of those looking for a picture signed by a celebrity or artist they admire, whether alive or deceased.

Authenticity is of course before everything else. Sometimes celebrities used secretarial signatures or machine-made autographs using autopens, or the autograph was made by a third person with the purpose of vanity or a financial gain.


We will discuss financial value in a separate article because it is a completely different topic that requires a much more in-depth discussion.


So here are the top 10 characteristics that would make a signed photo to be perfect:




This is of course essential for any collectible autograph photo, though we have seen a few collectors who are interested in finding fake photographs to supplement their regular, authentic autograph collection. 

Authenticity is the most important factor in any autographed memorabilia.


Enrico Caruso As Canio

Enrico Caruso as Canio in Leoncavallo's Pagliacci - one of his iconic roles




Nobody wants a difficult-to-see signature on a photograph, if the celebrity signed the photograph in a dark area with a dark ink pen, you are in trouble, and unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to fix it - except perhaps framing the photograph and finding a location in your home where the light is good enough to compensate for the lack of contrast, or using artificial lighting.

Will Hutchins as Tom brewster

Actor Will Hutchins as Tom Brewster in the TV Series "Sugar Foot" - Stupendous contrast between the signature and inscription and the photograph



Giuseppina Broglia inscribed autograph

It is generally better to avoid inscribed photographs, that is, signed and written “to (name)”, because approximately one-third of autograph photo buyers avoid inscribed photos.


The exception is when the photograph is inscribed to someone identifiable, famous or not, who had a known relationship or connection with the signer. 


[Photo] Photograph signed and inscribed by the Italian mezzo-soprano Giuseppina Broglia to the Italian tenor Francesco Tamagno, dated in 1902.


A photograph signed by a celebrity and inscribed to a lover is a good example of this - it is an inscribed autograph with the addition of a name that makes it much more interesting and valuable. Another example would be a signed photo of a famous composer, inscribed to a fellow composer.



Johannes Brahms Signed Photo

This means the photo paper is free of creases, cracks, stains, silvering, and other common photo damage.


See our Glossary of Autograph Terms for definitions and examples of the most important types of damage, with photographs.


[Photo] Stunningly beautiful signed cabinet photo, an original by photographer Rudolf Krziwanek, Vienna, dated by photographer on verso in 1895, just two years before the composer´s death.


The ink can also have condition problems, it can fade, show cracks, scratches, smudges, mounting traces, and can even be detached from the paper, also known as loss of ink (when the ink dried, cracked, and parts or all of it came off the photo paper).



Anna Pavlova Larger Size PhotographRussian star ballerina Anna Pavlova, a beautiful larger size photograph shown in dancing pose, signed by her

Collectors prefer larger-sized photos, such as 8 x 10-inch signed photos, over smaller formats - such as 4 x 6 and 5 x 7-inch autograph photos. There is a limit to this because really large size (over 15 inches on any side) photos and signed posters tend to have a smaller market because they cost much more to frame and display and occupy larger spaces.



Levitzki, Mischa - Signed photograph

A professional photographer's stamp on a photograph can greatly increase its value, especially if the photographer is well-known. A photographer's stamp shows the photographer's name, and sometimes also information about the location of the photo studio and even contact information.


[Photo] Front and back view of a photograph of the Russian-born American pianist Mischa Levitzki signed by him and stamped on verso by the onboard photographer D. Bremen


The stamp could be an ink stamp on the back, or it could be an inkless stamp or blind stamp (usually a metal stamp without ink), that creates an indented mark on the paper, permanently altering the surface. 


Photographer stamps can appear on mass-produced photos such as photo postcards, so the presence of the stamp does not imply that the photograph was created manually by the photographer.




An image that has been widely published and is a famous image of the signer increases the photo´s desirability and price. 

Barack Obama in Situation RoomFamous photograph signed by Barack Obama shown in the Situation Room, following in real time a mission against the Talibans


A photo of George Bush in a school classroom in Florida, receiving the news about the September 11th attacks has much more appeal to collectors than a regular or casual photo of him that has not been widely reproduced. A photo of Marilyn Monroe with her dress being blown by air is much more desirable than a casual and mostly unknown image.


The greater interest in an iconic photo can dramatically increase the value of the photograph and make it historical.



Maria Callas as Norma Autograph

A photograph depicting a celebrity doing what he or she is or was famous for - is more desirable and thus more valuable than one with the artist doing something else.


[Photo] Star soprano Maria Callas as Norma in Bellini's opera -her signature role


Enrico Caruso, the superstar tenor, was well-known for his performance as Canio in the opera Pagliacci. Therefore, any signed or unsigned photograph of him in his most recognizable opera character will be more desirable to a large number of collectors, who will be willing to pay more for it than other images of him.


Funny, cute portraits also have a positive effect, especially if they represent a characteristic of the signer´s own personality. Remember that a photo can be a good reflection of someone's character and mood at that moment, which can significantly impact its value.




This has to do with where the signature is in the photo - an authentic signature made with permanent markers or dark ink on a dark area of the photo may be difficult to distinguish and may require an extra effort to even notice that it is there. If the same autograph was in white ink, it would have much more contrast and would be much easier to sell if you wanted to.

Brooke Shields AutographActress and model Brooke Shields as Violet in the film "Pretty Baby" (1978), beautifully signed and clearly inscribed by her.


Some artists dislike giving autographs but sometimes they can not say no - so they sometimes sign with black or darker color ink on top of dark areas of the photos - something that could have been avoided.


Contrast is not the only thing that could work against you, a difficult-to-read signature, or a scribble that no one understands can also be a negative factor when determining autograph value.



Barbara Daniels Autograph

Many people prefer photographs that are not mounted on (glued to) cardboard mats, the value may suffer if the photograph is mounted. This happens when the mat was added by the collector or a past owner.


[Photo] American soprano Barbara Daniels - Photograph mounted on soft cardboard


Now, it is a different story if the autograph photo is mounted on an original photo mat, created by the photographer who produced the photo - this will not reduce the price. This point is connected to our previous point (no. 6). There are many famous photographers, and having photographs on original photo mats with any famous photographer’s name will obviously make your autograph more desirable and valuable. There are many other cases where it will not matter too much - but in any case, it will not reduce the value of your item - rather the opposite.



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Autograph Framing Done Right: how to Frame Your Autographs Properly

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Photo Top Loaders - Safely Store your Collectible Autographs

Frame Shop Selection: Finding the Best Frame Shop for Your Autographs

Archival Framing: 10 Best Recommendations to Protect your Autographs

Picture Frame Glass Options for your Paper Collectibles

The Ultimate Guide on How To Store Autographed Photos


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