Lenswork article: pricing your artwork

Discussion in 'Book, Magazine, Gallery Reviews, Shows & Contests' started by brYan, Feb 2, 2006.

  1. brYan

    brYan Subscriber

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    Excellent article in the current issue of Lenswork. Brooks makes a good point that a lot of photography art is overpriced. Specifically he talks about a large chromogenic print selling at a gallery for $3700 (photograph of an out-of-focus leaf by an unknown photographer). The article takes off from there. Many points and comparisons are made, too many to list here. Go read it.
     
  2. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    I produce 30x40 solarized fibre prints that are double toned then matted and framed.

    Basically to produce one good print for exhibition is a full days work, the material costs if I use 12 feet of fibre paper per image , 40 litres of working solution for each stage, dev 1, dev 2 , stop, fix1 fix 2, hypoclear, bleach sepia and then selenium toner.

    Then to factor in the overhead of the facility, My basic cost to produce a print are huge.
    I think that the selling price must reflect the amount of effort and style that goes into each print.

    If one is pressing a button on a inkjet machine after a scan, dustbust, colour correction then eating dinner or watching the new as the plotter lays down the ink, then I would say you could sell your prints for $25.oo or less, without getting bent out of shape.

    but some final print processes are costly and time consuming, I think the artist is correct in selling for as much as they can attain.

    Try buying some materials for platinum, printing and then make the print.
     
  3. roteague

    roteague Member

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    Brooks has already taken a lot of heat on APUG for that very article, just about a month ago. I'm not sure where this thread is at the moment, but you can do a search for it.
     
  4. brYan

    brYan Subscriber

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    Thanks, Robert.

    I should have figured it had already been talked about. Nothing gets by anyone on this forum. A good thing. Most of the time.
     
  5. brYan

    brYan Subscriber

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    The thread is under "Darkroom", then "Presentation..."

    Goto "Do photographers charge too much for their prints"

    Sorry for duplicating that thread.
     
  6. roteague

    roteague Member

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    No worries. This is a subject that has upset many; it got pretty heated at times.
     
  7. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Not to beat up on anyone hear, but one of my Clients from Denmark has spent a month and half in Tibet each and every year, returning to the same monastarys and tribal camps. The trips that I have seen , he has carried 4x5 linhoff and hundreds to now thousands of sheets of film. The last two trips he has taken a phillips 8x10 with him. he just got back Jan 27,06 with 300 sheets of exposed 8x10 and 250 sheets of 4x5.
    He will be flying to Toronto with the film *hand delivered* for processing and contact prints. We always finish off the trip by making 4-6 fibre prints so that he can give one to his Mom and the others hang on his wall.

    The thought of pricing this work is mind boggling and one can only imagine the $$ spent to make this project.(16 years of repeat visits)

    This kind of dedication is somewhat rare but I do know of others as commited to our craft.
    The value of these photographs when finally produced for a traveling exhibit, I hope will exeed $1,000 per image. He has paid his dues and did the work.

    I do understand , that if it is simply made , the costs can be low, but for serious workers it is never simple or easy.
     
  8. Nige

    Nige Subscriber

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    *envy* wouldn't you like to have done that!

    while I agree with your reasoning, it still comes back to what the market will pay... and if people buy crud for lots, more curd will be priced accordingly I guess!
     
  9. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    I read this article and it is right on. It is actually my yard sale philosophy. I still hold the family record for $300 on one day. In four hours.

    But seriously. Know your market and be sure that you don't overprice, they'll think 'This Shmoe'. Underprice and they'll think 'This Shmoe'.
     
  10. mark

    mark Member

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    Totally off topic response

    Damn!!!!!! That must be a facinating body of work. He wouldn't happen to have awebsite would he.
     
  11. kjsphoto

    kjsphoto Subscriber

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    Who says artists are charging to much, who give him the authority to set any price on anything?

    So a doctor or a lawyer with 10 years of experience should only make as much as they did the day they started?

    Some of us make a living from print sales unlike Brooks who has a magazine that brings in a ton of cash and we are not in a position to sell prints next to nothing as we do not have a disposable income that allows us to give away our hard earned work. We don’t live in Weston’s time we live in the 21 century where everything is damn expensive and you can no longer buy a loaf of bread for a nickel or get a gallon of gas to travel for a penny.

    Personally I cannot and will not print silver gelatin prints for $20-30 bucks as it is absurd.

    There is cost involved, equipment expensive, travel expensive, hotel expensive, etc.. that is associated with each image, so if someone wants to sell a print fro $1000 good for them as far as I am concerned it is justified. And if I liked the image and could afford it I would buy it.

    Why doesn’t he give away his magazine for free? Why doesn’t he give advertisers free space? Because it is a business and he is in it to make money, turn a profit just like us who make a living 100% off of prints sales.

    And who defines what is too high? So you are saying with this logic that I should be able to buy a Porsche for $20 because I think that they are overpriced? Give me a break.

    Why don’t you go to work tomorrow and tell your boss that you think you are being paid to much and you think that this week you will work for $20 dollars. This is exactly what you are telling us that make a living selling prints to do.

    I am going to bite my tongue before I say something that is going to tick people off.

    This really irritates me dearly. Next time you are at a job make sure you only get paid $10 dollars for 8 hours of your time as I don’t think it is fair to pay you what you are worth.

    Just my two cents.

    Kev
     
  12. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Mark

    My friend has not published or exhibited his work for a couple of reasons.

    1. He is extremely anal and does not want to release any of his work until he feels it is worthy of the people and culture he visits.
    2. He is non political with his intent , but is well aware that the subject matter can be interpeded in many ways. He did not want to jepordize his axcess and freedom to photograph in this very personal way.

    I think he is ready to do his first book which will be self published if necessary. I can assure you gallery curators that have seen this work are salivating to represent the imagery, but fortunately he does not require to sell the images to pursue his project.

    I am amazed at the quality and the endurance of this crazy Dane and I know that once released his work will qualify with the best.
     
  13. scootermm

    scootermm Subscriber

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    Im pretty sure this is not at all the case. I dont think, nor have I ever heard of a single magazine that brings in a ton of cash, especially small niche magazines like Lenswork.
     
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  15. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    The National Enquirer? People? :wink:
     
  16. Dave Parker

    Dave Parker Inactive

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    At 10K for a full page color ad in Pop Photo, seems to me, they may have a bit of cash as well! Yikes, with the amount of ads they have in that mag/rag, thats a few dollars

    LOL

    Dave
     
  17. kjsphoto

    kjsphoto Subscriber

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    I was planning on starting a magazine a few years back and I call tell you with advertisements you can make a ton of money. It is all about the marketing big or small magazines can make you a fortune.

    Readers Digest
    National Geographic
    Sports Illustrated
    Etc...

    They all started small and they bring in a lot of money... Takes a few years to get established but once you do and you have marketed properly it is a goldmine.
     
  18. Paul Sorensen

    Paul Sorensen Member

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    I am curious how many people here on APUG make their living selling fine art photographs. I am not talking about selling a few now and again while you do portraits for a living, I am talking about making a living selling images - through galleries especially. If I am right that nearly no one does, than I think that it tends to make Brooks' point, that the system as it currently operates does not work well for the photographer.

    I think that Brooks didn't make a clear enough distinction about the fact that he is selling inkjet images for $20 per, but I still think that the main point remains. It just needs to be readjusted to fit the materials cost and time structure of your medium. If prices are inflated due to scarcity or percieved scarcity to the point where there is almost no market for prints, then we are not being served by the system.

    I really wonder why Brooks making the decision to sell his 8X10s at $20 and criticizing a print that sold for $3700 threatens people so much. I don't suspect very many of the people here are making their living selling $3700 prints. I don't think that Brooks is threatening anyone's income here. Perhaps he is threatening the out of focus leaf photographer, if anyone reads Brooks' piece and decides not to go out and buy it, but otherwise, I guess I fail to see the harm here.

    Of course, all of this doesn't negate anyone's right to have a different opinion. I just really wonder what people are so afraid of. In fact, I find it interesting Kevin that you sell images on eBay, precisely the kind of lower cost mass marketing that Brooks was recommending. I think that the prints that you are selling there for $50 or $60 are very economically priced and reflect well the fact that they are hand made and take more time (and skill) than inkjet prints do to produce. In my mind, you are selling prints at an even more agressive value pricing point than is Brooks, with his $20 inkjet prints.
     
  19. kjsphoto

    kjsphoto Subscriber

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    Hello Paul.

    My point is that who’s right is it to set a value on something other than the person creating the product. It is about a free market and if someone wants to sell a print for $5000 and someone is willing to pay for it what is wrong with that?

    I also not sell an unlimited number of prints at $70. I am trying to introduce myself by letting people realize that for a few number of prints they can get a good value and at the same time realize that they are making an investment when they purchase one of my images in the early stage of a print edition and that once a few number of prints of that image are sold it will then move into my normal pricing structure therefore they just made a return on investment. Also by limiting the number of prints I will ever make also makes it entirely different than what you are saying. Again, unlike Brook I am not selling an indefinite number of prints at a low value and therefore making my work valueless.

    With some of the eBay sales, I am only trying to get my name. For me my prints sales are how I make 100% of my income. This is what I do for a living.

    Not at all, as stated above, I am not selling unlimited number of images at $70 but rather only a few then move into my standard pricing model. That is a huge difference between making unlimited copies and creating value, which I am doing for the buyer.

    Big difference.
     
  20. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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  21. scootermm

    scootermm Subscriber

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    okay... I think you missed my point. I am talking about LENSWORK. its not an adHORSE it isnt a 80/30 mag by any stretch, just open a copy... its not an ad driven magazine. so yeah I understand and know that magazines like people or nat. geo. make money.

    but a small magazine like lenswork I wouldnt imagine being a cash cow. that was the only point I was trying to make.

     
  22. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Regarding the selling price of prints.

    The solarizations that I am making ,are part of a long term project I have been working on.

    I have decided to limit the image to 3 versions, the selling price I have in my mind for print only is $2500.00 . framing would be extra.

    My reasoning is as follows. I honestly don't think I will sell out this series.
    I really don't need the cash to survive from sale of these prints, and due to the complexity of these prints I know nobody else could duplicate them in the future, I am 52 years old now and if they start to sell based on the volume of negatives I know I could not print more than 3 of each negative of this series in my remaining lifetime.

    If I get representation and I get 40-50% cut, I would glady keep my price high and print for myself and anyone enjoying my work enough to cough up the selling price.

    I am getting tremendous enjoyment from photographing and printing this work, but I am very concience of the cost to do so. If someone wants one of the three , my price is my price.

    This argument about $25.00 per print somehow jogs my memory, *I am not sure* but somewhere in Fred Pickers Newsletters*I am not looking for it* there was a piece about Edward Weston and how he made prints to order for some of his famous images.
    Orders would come in and he would walk into the darkroom and in an afternoon he would print 100 of the same image and then the would sell for $25.00 . If you do the math , thats a pretty sweet deal if there is DEMAND for your work. $2500.00 for an afternoon.
    Somehow I think this is the reasoning of Brooks article,
     
  23. Daniel Grenier

    Daniel Grenier Member

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    Inded, Bob. EW sold his prints for $25 but that's equivalent to (roughly) $300 in today's dollars. (I really don't believe he sold prints by the 100s in one afternoon - even in years, though). So Brooks selling his "prints" (or whatever you call these things coming out of Epsons) at $20 would mean EW would have had to sell his prints for what, $1.50 or so? Even way back when, EW knew the folly behind that silly notion.
     
  24. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Also, it wasn't until maybe the late 1960s that photographs were even regarded potentially as items of significant monetary value. This is also true of books and prints, for that matter.
     
  25. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    OTOH hand Matt, one cold argue that if he can afford the luxury of not accepting advertisements, then the magazine must be doing pretty well.

    What chaps my hide is the somewhat hypocritical behavior. Jensen did not answer when I asked here, why does he not charge $3.00 for his magazine? But he did answer the same question in the LF forum. His response was that Lenswork is not a magazine but a "mini book" because of the inks, paper...blah, blah, blah. Well, lets use his example, lets go to any B&N and ask any person if Lenswork is a magazine or a "mini book" , I bet 99% would say it is a magazine and that it is overpriced. So apparently it is ok for him to charge premium prices for something that he has put a lot of effort, care and expense into, but it is not Ok for us to do the same.

    IMO Jensen's editorial and opinion hurt photographers because of a couple of very important reasons. First, $20 prints reinforce the idea that if you buy a camera you are a photographer. Second, the person who buys a print is not buying the paper and micro grams of metal deposited on it (or ink for that matter). They are buying the years of effort it took to develop expertise, craft and talent, and most importantly, the ability of the photographer to show us ordinary things in a special way.

    About the $3700 print he mentions, this might be a bad print where the guy is trying to take advantage of the art market. This happens in every profession, we have doctors who do not know their ass from their elbow, but you dont see the AMA saying, "hey, are we charging too much?"

    His attitude is like getting into a boxing match and fighting your opponent while your corner man is trying to trip you......

    I am glad I never sent any work to Lenswork for consideration, I would have been chagrined if my prints got published in a magazine whose editor believes they are worth $20.....I wonder what his buddy Whitherhill has to say about that... :smile:
     
  26. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser Advertiser

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    In all honesty it can be done, but it is not easy. I used to supplement my commercial photography income with fine art print sales. Over a 25 year span, it has slowly shifted to the point where I now do a couple of good commercial jobs a year to supplement the income from my "fine" photographic work. It is not all from print sales however. Licensing and royalties from posters, note cards, books, etc. is a big part.

    Too many photographers out there who see another with representation think that photographer has it made. Nothing could be farther from the truth! It almost always amuses me to read discussions of those with impressions of what it is like to be a photographer with representation. If most really knew, I'm sure they would be chasing a different carrot. Any who think that all but a very few are making a good living doing this are sadly mistaken. Most "successful" photographers doing this that I know also have a spouse or partner with a real day job as well. One very good friend of mine who is a very successful photographer perhaps said it best.... "My wife goes to work... I stay home and hunt for money." ...You do this as a labor of love, not riches.

    To me this is not threatening, simply annoying. I have no true knowledge of this, but I would expect that Brooks Jensen has never truly attempted to make a living from his work as a photographer. His writings also exhibit little knowledge of the true workings and transactions of the business of fine photography. Believe me, I am no master or expert in the field, but being a lay person who criticizes and speaks flippantly about the way others grind out their living is no way to gain respect among your peers. The more I become familiar with Brooks and his writings, the more I suspect his positions come from a tiny bit of bitterness among the more noble causes. Something tells me that if his prints were represented by high profile galleries and selling for $3700.00, there would be a lot less criticism and a whole lot more photographing. We will never know.

    Also, Brooks is an entrepreneur with a magazine to sell. Those like him thrive to a degree on controversy and taking positions "for the point of discussion". It brings attention and perhaps sells magazines. I for one prefer to spend my money on publications that don't hide their criticism of my business behind a banner that claims support.

    Bill