Learn how Peter Lik's prints are made and how you can own limited-edition fine art photography prints for less.
Recently I was speaking to a good friend who mentioned that he had seen some Peter Lik photographs and exclaimed how 'awesome' they were and that the 'mount' looked incredible. He was impressed by the larger-sized pieces in the collection, and it occurred to me that although my friend knows that I am also a landscape and nature photographer, he had never seen my fine art prints in person, which are similar in style.
His story is familiar and not the first I have heard in regard to someone's first impression after wandering into one of Peter's galleries and how impressed they were by the sheer size, bold colors and museum-quality presentation of his photographs. There also seems to be a subset of potential art buyers who love his print style but seem to be under the impression that Lik is the only photographer that produces or sells such works. But in reality, nothing could be further from the truth.
To shed some light on photographer Peter Lik, his print style, galleries, and resulting net worth it may be helpful to provide some background and insight into his controversial marketing strategy in the context of fine art and it's perceived value.
Australian Peter Lik first visited the United States in 1984 and was introduced to the large-format film medium while exploring in Alaska. He returned home for a few years and worked for the Queensland Tourist and Travel Corporation while honing his new approach to photography into the signature panoramic style for which he is widely known today. He mainly uses a Linhof 617 Technorama camera with Fuji film, as well as Phase One and Nikon digital cameras. In 1989, he returned to the U.S. and traveled across the country in an attempt to shoot beautiful landscapes in all 50 states. He later compiled many of those photographs into a book titled Spirit of America in 2003.
In the mid-1990s, he moved to Las Vegas and opened a facility to print and frame his work, as well as publish coffee table books, postcards, and calendars. Lik opened his first gallery in Cairns, Australia in 1997, his first U.S. gallery in Lahaina, Hawaii in 2003 and in the years that followed, moved his brand like a freight train across the country. Today he owns 15 galleries in the United States and celebrates multi-millionaire staus through the sales of his prints.
It is by design, not accident, that most of Lik's galleries are located in tourist-rich areas of the country, with highly trained 'art consultants' at each location. Catering to the uninitiated who may not possess a strong understanding of the secondary art market, the prices for his 'limited edition' prints (of 995 copies for most photos) start at around $4000 and rise steadily as the photograph sells out, up to a purported $200,000 for the last handful of prints, amassing a fortune along the way. The common mantra among his sales staff is "Buy it now, as the value will keep going up," emphasizing that the buyer is making a sure-fire investment. Lik's Chief Financial Officer claimed in 2015 that more than 100,000 prints worth over 440 million dollars had been sold. Below I have listed some of his most popular photographs.
- 'Tree of Life', a Japanese maple in autumn color from the Portland Japanese Garden.
- 'First Flight', an airplane in a hangar.
- 'One', an abstract reflection of trees in a river. (A single print sold to an anonymous buyer in 2010 for $1 million.)
- 'Inner Peace', that same Japanese maple tree as 'Tree of Life', but with green leaves (winning a Windland Smith Rice award and featured in a nature photography exhibition at the Smithsonian from April thru September in 2012.)
- 'Ghost', a beam of light shining through sand dust in Antelope Canyon (winning a Windland Smith Rice award and featured in a nature photography exhibition at the Smithsonian in May, 2011.)
- 'Phantom', the image 'Ghost', converted to black and white, printed once and sold to another 'anonymous buyer' for $6.5 million in 2014. Lik claims it is the world's most expensive photograph. At the time, he even hired a public relations team to make sure the sale was noticed. Technically, it has never been verified and is met with much skepticism.
Whether you agree with Lik's tiered pricing structure and sales tactics, his financial success and net worth demonstrate that he is an absolute master at marketing his work. But in reality, art market history shows that only a tiny fraction of artwork sold will ever be worth more than the day it was purchased. The consensus among industry experts is that he has effectively flooded the same market he created, and although he dictates the price of the prints from his galleries, the market dictates the actual value later on.
Have you visited a Peter Lik Gallery?
Like many who have walked into a Peter Lik gallery for the first time, you were probably awed and inspired by the beauty, saturated colors, and sheer size of the fine art prints for sale on the walls. It is hard not to be impressed as most people have never seen this type of sizeable art presented so beautifully. The glossy photos seem to 'pop' off the walls and almost appear back-lit like a high definition television screen. Lik's signature style and presentation get you excited and imagining how one of those gorgeous prints would look on the wall in your living room... until you discover the price tag.
After such an experience, many people return home and begin to search online wondering if other photographers offer large format fine art nature prints with that same museum-quality 'Peter Lik style'. And the short answer is yes, I also offer fine art equal in size, presentation, and quality.
Lik's printing style is no mystery at all, and I'd like to take this opportunity to show you how his prints are made, then later compare them with my work using some visual diagrams. I believe that I offer fine art prints that are of an equal quality and value to my customers and collectors, at a much more affordable price point. Please allow me to explain and you be the judge.
Acrylic Face-Mount Prints
Peter Lik's prints for sale in his galleries are manufactured with a method called acrylic face-mounting. So, what exactly is an acrylic print? Let's break it down.
In it's most simplistic form, acrylic 'face-mounting' is a process that first involves printing the image on a sheet of quality photographic paper. Next, after a special adhesive is applied directly to the face of the photograph, a clear sheet of acrylic 'glass' is placed over the photo, permanently gluing them together. Lastly, a stiff and smooth backing material is applied to the back of the print with adhesive to protect it and provide rigidity.
As you can see, the face-mount print style is relatively straightforward. It consists of a sheet of acrylic, a photograph, and a backer material all permanently laminated together. And to be clear, acrylic is not glass- it is a high-quality, optically clear plastic. Many in the industry simply use the two terms interchangeably. The diagram below shows the various layers of this print medium.
Why Do They Look So Beautiful?
The acrylic face-mount print style is by far the best medium for presenting photographs and for good reason. Firstly, many of the higher-quality photo papers manufactured today are somewhat reactive to light. What this means is that when you apply accent lighting to the photo, it almost appears to glow. Secondly, the acrylic over the photo has some thickness to it, usually at least 1/8th of an inch. When your print is lit up, that accent light refracts or 'bounces' within the acrylic, causing a unique effect that appears to illuminate the image from within. This captivating effect is unique to the acrylic face-mount style and is the reason they look so bright and vibrant, full of rich detail with amazing depth.
As one can imagine, with so many different types of photo papers and grades of acrylic available, every face-mount print is not created equal. Peter Lik purportedly uses Fujiflex® Crystal Archive photographic material for his gallery prints, which is one of the best available. This material is very reactive to light with a very wide color gamut. In essence, this means that you can print a much broader range of deeply saturated color with smooth tonal transitions compared to a standard photo paper.
However there is an equal alternative to Fujiflex®. I would like to show you a breakdown of the acrylic face-mount prints that I offer, complete with some background and a diagram to show you the differences. Again, you be the judge.
Lumachrome® TruLife® Acrylic Face-mount Prints
Lumachrome® is a proprietary, award-winning state-of-the-art photographic paper that is said to surpass Fujiflex® in almost every category including color gamut, vibrancy, clarity, and resolution. This archival transparency paper is infused with iridium particles and features vivid, brilliant colors lasting over 120 years with incredible 3D depth and dimensionality. Additionally, the lamination process includes a white, resin-coated paper base beneath the transparency color layer that when combined, creates a fine art print that is visually unsurpassed. When lit with quality lighting, it's reactive properties make it come alive with a glowing response that can appear backlit and holographic and is stunning to see in person.
If you have ever viewed artwork that is framed with glass or standard acrylic, especially if there are windows or bright lights in the room, you will know that the reflections and glare on that shiny surface can be very distracting. This is why the acrylic used on my face-mount prints is a very important consideration.
TruLife® is a revolutionary, optically clear acrylic with a unique anti-reflective coating that vastly reduces reflections and glare while allowing viewers to see the finest details in the image. Additionally, this acrylic gives your art piece 99% UV protection, is abrasion resistant, has anti-static properties that repel dust and it cleans like glass without the need for special acrylic cleaner.
The diagram below illustrates the layers of these amazing prints.
All of my acrylic face-mount landscape and nature photography prints use Lumachrome® technology coupled with TruLife® acrylics, producing breathtaking works of art that offer incredible 3D depth, intense color and razor-sharp clarity for the highest-resolution viewing experience possible. They are the gold standard of photographic presentation and I am proud to offer such museum-quality art pieces for my customers. Below is a chart illustrating some important points of comparison between my Lumachrome® TruLife® acrylic prints versus those of Peter Lik.
As you can see, Lumachrome® TruLife® prints rival Peter Lik's gallery prints across the board. Most of the images in my collection can be printed up to seven feet wide, with my panoramic images as wide as nine feet.
For the ultimate in beauty and sophistication, I also offer custom framing options for my acrylic prints from the leaders in hand-made Italian mouldings, Roma®, and Omega®. A portion of the proceeds from all framed print sales is donated to charity.
You may notice that most of Lik's prints are sold as limited editions of 995 prints. That's 950 numbered prints and 45 artist proofs, regarded as 'personal to the artist and therefore highly sought after by collectors.' Even for the uninitiated, it is not hard to see past the fact that 995 of anything is hardly limited. An overabundance of any product will devalue it, which holds true for almost any commodity. Although every image in my own collection is sold as a limited edition to help protect their value, the vast majority are editions of 50, a small number are editions of 100, and a select few of 150 prints maximum. I only sell one artist proof for each photograph, of which a large portion of the proceeds is donated to charity.
I take a lot of pride in my ability to offer world-class fine art for prices that are a fraction of the cost of an expensive gallery. My business model includes working from my home office rather than a gallery and collaborating directly with award-winning printers chosen for their mastery of the craft, producing art pieces that are engineered to last a lifetime.
People have different reasons for investing in photographic art; some may follow a certain artist because they are popular, while some may just want some pretty wall art and others make a purchase in hopes that its value will increase over time. Whatever the reason, the most important factor is to buy art that is made with quality, and a piece that you will be proud to hang in your home, no matter the artist. A beautiful nature photograph is a perfect addition to any home or office, evoking a calming effect to everyone who views it.
Choosing to invest in an artist whose personal values align with your own always makes the choice easier. And remember that an expensive print in a fancy gallery is often of no higher quality than a print from a conscientious, less famous photographer who strives for perfection of their craft.
Invest in what you love. Invest with your eyes.