Print sale on spec--what would you do?

Discussion in 'Presentation & Marketing' started by Barry S, Mar 27, 2012.

  1. Barry S

    Barry S Member

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    I was contacted by a local art advisor several a few weeks ago, looking for some photographs for a a client. I sent her a selection of images via email which were passed on to the client. The client liked three of the images and after some discussion decided on three 8x10 silver gelatin prints. I have an 11x14 silver print of one of the negatives, and large digital prints of the other two, so the 8x10's would be a custom printed order.

    The advisor told me that the next step was having me invoice the client as soon as the purchase was confirmed. So far so good. However, the advisor contacted me today and said the client would like to see the prints before deciding on the purchase. I'm in a position of potentially doing a lot of work to produce three high quality archivally printed split-toned prints and have the client decline the purchase. Plus I'd have the extra work of delivering and retrieving the prints from the client. I have small worries about the clients damaging or not returning the prints and a larger worry that I'm encouraging bad behavior and capriciousness on the part of the client--they have nothing to lose.

    On the other hand, there definitely won't be a sale if I decline and I can understand wanting to see artwork before purchasing. If I invoiced (as originally proposed) and sent the prints and they weren't happy, I'd refund the money as long as the prints were returned undamaged and within a short period of time.

    Has anyone faced a similar situation? How would you handle it? Thanks.


    -Barry
     
  2. railwayman3

    railwayman3 Member

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    If the client were viewing existing and finished prints (as in a gallery), they obviously have the choice to buy or not to buy.

    However, if the client has approved the images and also viewed examples of your work (not necessarily the exact same image, but sufficient to judge and approve the technical quality of your silver gelatine prints), I think they are rather unreasonable to expect a custom printed order and still have the right to arbitrarily change their mind and reject it. And I can't see the problem in invoicing as originally proposed, especially as you are offering such a generous refund policy.

    I also feel that the "art advisor" is not helping and is undervaluing your work.
     
  3. Dan Henderson

    Dan Henderson Member

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    Realistically, how much actual, out of pocket expense in paper and chemicals will you be incurring to make 3 8x10 prints? Obviously you will have some time invested in making the prints as well, but if you already have a finished 11x14 print and you kept good notes, making 8x10's should not be that time consuming, at least for one of the prints. And consider that whenever a photographer makes prints for sale at a gallery, those are on "spec" as well, with no guarantee that they will ever sell.

    If it were me, I would make the prints and deliver them to the client along with an invoice. I would tell them that if they had specific, objective issues with the prints after inspecting them, that they could return the prints to me at no cost. When you make art you put a lot out there (your time, materials, self-worth) with absolutely no assurance that reward will follow.
     
  4. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

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    Barry- I've been in the same situation a few times. They involved custom hand-painted photos. Except for one occasion, they've gone just fine. The one problematic time, the client had asked a few other artists for artwork, too. I was not told that they were looking at other work, which would have been nice to know... In any event, I did the order, they bought elsewhere, but I ended up selling the prints at an arts festival.
    I'd do it. Your terms are fair, and the odds are the client really wants your work.
     
  5. jeffreyg

    jeffreyg Subscriber

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    I agree with Dan and would like to add ...
    Is the art advisor receiving a fee or commission?
    Why not produce the work, deliver the prints to the advisor and have him/her deal with the client and be responsible for the safe return of the prints if the sale falls through?

    http://www.jeffreyglasser.com/
     
  6. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I would....

    Request a payment, either enough to cover cost or in full made upon delivery with option to return for a refund if not satisfied within reasonable amount of time.

    Yes, you do have a risk of turning off a potential customer but I'd not do a business with someone who will, likely, demand the same term for every purchase.
     
  7. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    A bit unusual, I hope you're getting a decent price per print if he does eventually buy them - or it's not worthwhile printing on spec.

    Ian
     
  8. Barry S

    Barry S Member

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    Thanks for all your advice! I heard back from the art advisor and the client has requested an invoice. She was very apologetic and thought the client just didn't understand the process. Plus, there's an interior designer acting as a second intermediary, so that added some complications. I think everyone is acting in good faith and I let her know that if the client wasn't happy for any reason, the prints could be returned.
     
  9. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    I'd be inclined to include a "kill fee" of say 25% of the value if the buyer declines. 10% if you're feeling generous. Stores do it all the time; it's called a restocking fee. If it were of already existing work printed at your predetermined size, then they could return the work at no cost. I'd also include a clause in the sales contract/invoice that makes it clear work must be returned in identical condition to when it was delivered.
     
  10. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    In that case.... I'm a bit surprised either the interior decorator or the art adviser couldn't tell the client, that's not how it works... The client really is an innocent party in this whole thing - she didn't know so she hired a pro who in turn went through another pro....

    Either way, I'm so glad it worked out for you.
     
  11. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    Require a non-refundable deposit?
     
  12. ROL

    ROL Member

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    While I'm sure everyone is acting with good intentions :smile:confused:smile:, I don't envy your circumstance. One thing that concerns me is the number of intermediaries, particularly the designer. My experience with interior designers is that they can be problematic. While they may certainly help you get your work out by promoting and exposing it, they rather notoriously expect to buy your work at huge discounts, and will resell it to their clients at a huge markup. This can be worse than it at first seems if the client likes your work, and doesn't realize that buying direct or from your agent may be more reasonable than the invoice from the designer suggests. Ahem...


    ...but you probably shouldn't let that stop you. :smile:
     
  13. Barry S

    Barry S Member

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    The art advisor takes a 20% commission, which she said will be split with the interior designer. I was under the impression there would be no further markup, and my invoice would go to the client--but who knows? The bottom line for me is the net amount I receive, but I'm trying to sell at consistent prices. The galleries I've worked with take a 20-50% commission, so this is a good deal. The art advisor seems like a nice person who genuinely likes my work, so I'd like to be considered as easy to work with, and not make things too complicated.
     
  14. M. Lointain

    M. Lointain Member

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    Jeez, make the prints already. If they don't want them, chock it up to the CODB.

    To the rest- Restocking fee? Nonrefundable deposit? for an 8x10?

    I have had this happen to me before and there ended up being a lot of 000's at the end. Why would anyone buy something they couldn't see first? A lot of bad advice here. Worst case scenario, you have the prints to sell to someone else. Go ahead and do it.
     
  15. R.Gould

    R.Gould Member

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    For Special order custom printing I require a 25% non returnable deposit to cover my material costs and the time involved in making the prints, this is non negotiable, if they wish to view already made prints I need the full purchase price which is returnable upon the prints being returned undamaged, and if I am asked to take and print a specific photograph for a client then I charge a 50% deposit, I do not think this is unreasonable with the time and costs of materials involved for what is today a very special service, and I have never been turned down.
    Richard
     
  16. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    I did much of the publicity photography for a college. An assortment of 8x10 prints of an event would be submitted the next day on spec to the PR department. They took what they needed at $1 per print (this was decades ago) and I still have hundreds of rejects. This system was profitable for me and efficient for the PR department.

    If I was Barry, I'd submit three finished prints to the client. If they are rejected, he will have three quality prints that should find a good home eventually. If they are accepted, the clients and intermediaries have good reason to appreciate his business style. There are other ways to conduct business, but not for me.
     
  17. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi barry

    make the prints, and don't worry about it.
    make sure you charge a fair amount for your time and effort.

    if you have similar work ( tonally &c ) you could always show them those photographs
    and say theirs will be custom made and have a similar tonal pallet ...
    if they say go ahead, make them ...

    congratulations + good luck !
    john
     
  18. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    I agree.

    I'd recommend not to rush. Take the necessary time to make prints that meet your standards, but start immediately. Perhaps you already have done the prints by the time you read this.

    I'd actually prefer to deliver before being paid because then I won't be under pressure to produce (which might lead to inferior printing).
     
  19. ME Super

    ME Super Member

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    One of my side projects is a software developer. We have a product that is useful for land surveyors, civil engineers and the like. We do sell direct to the customer, but we also have resellers of our software. We do give rather large discounts to the resellers, but we have found that we make more money by selling through the resellers than by selling direct to the customers because the volume of sales is much higher. I see absolutely nothing wrong with going through an intermediary to get the sale, if that's the way the client wants to handle it.

    I do also think that a small deposit to cover cost of materials is not out of line, though it is likely that you would sell the prints eventually anyway.