I talk a lot about collecting - do it! buy original art! art is awesome! But there are a lot of perceptual barriers to actually making that first purchase. One is the overwhelming amount of art out there. This Wired.com article addresses the explosion of online art buying websites that offer art at affordable prices. With so many choices, how do you know what is good? Some sites sell original work, and some sell mass-produced art. Most claim to sell limited editions, but if a photograph has an edition of 200 in one size and 500 in another, I don't consider that limited, collectible, and an image that could potentially increase in value in the same way as a photograph with an edition of 10, 15 or 25. And now with 20x200, arguably the pioneer of online art buying, in a very public and massive state of flux, the confusion grows.
If you are new to looking at and buying art, you are most likely not confident in your taste yet. You have probably not studied art or art history, and you do not need to - but without a context to put the images you are looking at in and without a lot of experience looking at work, you haven't learned what you like and why you like it. That is where strong curation and relationships with gallerists or dealers you trust can be so important.
A good gallerist will work with you and guide you through this process. A lot of people are interested in art and want art for their walls, but need to have some time to see work and feel confident about what they like and don't like. I love talking to these people - we pull out images, look at work online, make connections between the pieces they are drawn to, talk about the photographers who created them, what the work is about, why it speaks to them. . . until they begin to circle back to the images that really stick for them. Then they can make a purchase and feel good about it - they love it, and they know why, and because they trust the relationship and the caliber of work the gallery shows, they feel confident about the quality of the piece and that the artist who created it is committed and talented.