Selling prints on e-bay and elsewhere

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Doug Hook, Dec 20, 2006.

  1. Doug Hook

    Doug Hook Member

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    Just out of curiosity, we put a print up for sale on e-bay a couple of years ago. It was an 8x10" black and white print I'd shot and printed. There was just a little interest and it did sell for a few £'s.

    While my ego would love it if I sold some prints and even more if I made some real money out of it, it doesn't quite feel the right thing to do. In trying to work out my unease, it does seem to cheapen the image, or is it a case of vanity? I can't quite put my finger on it.

    Is it the right thing to do?
     
  2. User Removed

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    Just sell your prints for more money. Simple as that.

    I've been selling 8x10 AZO prints for a couple years now, my prices are now $175.00 and my prints are still selling very well. My prints are going up to $250.00 at the 1st of the year. This is still very reasonable for the photography market when compared to galleries.

    Ryan McIntosh
    www.RyanMcIntosh.net
     
  3. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Doug:

    I think if you do a search here you will find a number of threads about this - particularly in the Presentation and Marketing forum.

    If statistics are your strength, you will love this one::D

    http://www.apug.org/forums/showthread.php?t=33903

    Good luck.

    Matt
     
  4. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    Not quite sure what you're driving at here. As I am sure you know, there are people by the name of "professional creatives" (of which I am one) who are happy to sell the results of their labors for money. There are others who, while they do not make a living from their creative work, like to sell this because they feel that in this way the buyers demonstrate that they value and appreciate the work. There is a third group with an equally valid viewpoint, the members of which never sell their work, usually because they feel it is not worth while and they would rather have creative freedom than the small amounts of cash they might otherwise earn. A small minority of this third group may well feel that any association with commerce is squalid and disgusting! I think it is absolutely up to you to decide which group you want to belong to.

    Regards,

    David
     
  5. Kirk Keyes

    Kirk Keyes Member

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    Ryan - how have your sales been with this technique? What kind of percentages of your listing sell?
     
  6. kjsphoto

    kjsphoto Subscriber

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    Kirk PM sent
     
  7. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser

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    Doing the wrong thing and feeling quite fortunate and grateful to be able to do so.

    B.
     
  8. rjas

    rjas Member

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    I sold two prints a week ago for about $13. One was a random buyer that said he found the photograph for his father in law, who likes fly fishing (photograph depicted fishing off of a river.) The other sale was by someone I showed the listing to and they bought it. I relisted both photos and had barely any interest and no bids. I think I was just lucky and I can't really afford to list any more photos for such low prices... i might try again later but probably not.
     
  9. kjsphoto

    kjsphoto Subscriber

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    This is exactly why eBay or any venue will not work when photographers basically pay someone to take their prints off their hands or in other words give their prints away.

    I cant even make a print for $13 unless of course it is digital, then maybe if I took the shot in my front yard but not having to travel anywhere, up-load the image to the computer, Photoshop using no more than 5 minutes of my time as time is also money and then print it on ink on a inkjet printer with one shot only. I couldn’t matt it or mount either in order to make any profit from the print.

    You need to realize that as long this selling low mentality and photographers continue to give away their work, no one and I mean no one will take them serious as they are only hurting themselves and the photographic community in the process.

    Sorry for being brash, but this mentality is the problem with the market place today.

    And I don’t want to hear the crap that Brook spews out that Weston sold print for $20 and so therefore $20 is good for everyone. That was in the 20-30 and $20 back then would equate to over $100 today so that whole $20 is a bunch of crap.

    Instead of paying eBay to sell prints at $10, 15 or $20 just put them on a photo site and tell people here are my prints, just pay shipping and I will give them to you.

    This just irritates he and I am not trying to vent but a lot of us make a living from selling prints and this type of things really hurts the marketplace.

    Done ranting.

    I do however applaud your effort to try earn a little extra from what you love, but don’t give it away, your time is worth more than $13 especially when you add in all the time to find the image and print it. At $13 you are looking at less than $1 hour for your time.

    I realize it is a free world and you can do whatever you please I just wish people would realize that cheap prints is hurting the market as a whole.

    Good luck and keep plugging away. I do however seriously congratulate you on your sales.
     
  10. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council

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    Ebay is an interesting conundrum for selling artwork. It CAN be a good place to gain visibility for your work, and establish the value. On the other hand, if you want to move into traditional gallery sales, many galleries won't touch you with a ten-foot pole if you have an Ebay sales history. If you want to test the waters, it's one way to start. Better though would be to do the cafe/restaurant circuit, and move up from there.
     
  11. naturephoto1

    naturephoto1 Subscriber

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    I would also say, though it can be expensive, difficult, and time consuming, the Art Circuit may also be a better way of showing your work and to try to move on to Art Galleries. Through this means, people have the opportunity to see your work first hand. Some of these shows draw from the tens to many hundreds of thousands of people in a weekend (some approaching 1 million). It is however, stressful, requires a lot of time and preparation, travel, equipment, set-up and tear-down, etc. After 10 years or so in this business, I am cutting back and am in the process of trying to find gallery representation as well as other types of distribution (which supplements stock sales).

    Rich
     
  12. Doug Hook

    Doug Hook Member

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    Still being relatively new on apug I can see the value of lots of different points of view. Apologies to David about my unclear approach in asking the question. This, BTW, is an office habit and often interesting and worthwhile to see what comes back. Trouble is, I tend to forget when I'm not at work plus it drives my wife up the wall. More about that another time maybe.

    Anyway, I like the way David reflected some different groups.

    Being pragmatic about it, Ryan has clearly cracked this and it works for him.

    I can see the logic in the just-do-it approach combined with a realistic price in the first place which reflects some of what has been put into producing the finished print. I like that because otherwise procrastination can be a major obstacle along with the "what if no one likes it?" line.

    Maybe it's down to the belief in what any of us do, the worth of it in terms of the satisfaction, the enjoyment, the pleasure in creating something that makes the hairs prickle on the back of your neck. For me, a real buzz is taking a photo, seeing then in my mind's eye how it's going to look when printed and then achieving that. Even better, taking that step further and getting something really great - beyond what was originally seen - in the finished print. Seeing that in the fixer tray when the lights are turned on is great. Those moments make it so worthwhile no matter whether anyone buys it or even likes it. So maybe that's the goal. But if someone does buy it, that's a bonus and an encouragement too.
     
  13. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser

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    I don't believe this to be true. I think it is more the case that many who sell on eBay would never get into a gallery anyway. The cream rises no matter where it is sold.

    You would be amazed at how many "legitimate" galleries and dealers sell on eBay under assumed names, etc. I know several personally and they find money from eBay sales spends just as good as any. Several very well known and represented photographers sell their work there too. Granted, there is a stigma that can be attached to eBay sales, but I think this is rapidly disappearing as people realize it can be a very good source of cash flow with extremely little overhead when compared to more traditional means. I think it is a valuable tool to have in the bag. Those that want to denigrate it can, the others can laugh all the way to the bank.

    B.
     
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  15. jgjbowen

    jgjbowen Member

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    Let me chime in here. I recently purchased Ryan's Iceland Portfolio II and quite frankly, if I hadn't purchased a couple of Ryan's Azo prints on Ebay for about $50 each a year or so ago, I would have never spent the $$ for his portfolio.

    What selling some prints on Ebay for $50 (actually they started at $50 and I was the only bidder on the two I purchassed) did was expose me to Ryan's work at a reasonable price. I also purchased a couple prints by another photographer (no longer participates on this forum) for $50 each and for this photographer, if I had spent say $250 each, I would have sent them back for a refund. However, at $50 each I just kept them and chocked it up to helping out someone just beginning to sell his work.

    I don't think it would hurt a young artist to offer prints the way Alan Ross does. While Alan certainly commands a respectable price for his fine prints, he also offers 1 or 2 "artist edition" prints each year for something like $225. These prints are clearely listed as being different from his usual Gallery prints and it allows folks to afford one of his prints and become exposed to the quality of his work without paying the "normal" Gallery prices.

    For those of you who are trying to become exposed to a larger audience and sell your prints at respectable prices, let me suggest that you consider offering on Ebay an "artist edition" of a print that is produced in volume and then sold for something approaching $50 for an 8x10 that is matted etc, the way you would normally present one of your "fine" prints. This would allow those of us that want to explore your work a way to enjoy a print at a reasonable price. Who knows, maybe the next portfolio I purchase will be one of yours.

    From what I see there are many fine photographers here and your work deserves an audience.

    Just my 2 cents,
     
  16. User Removed

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    Ebay is truly a great market for self representing photographers who are trying to sell work, but many people need to do more research and understanding into how the art market works, not just Ebay.

    When I started selling prints a few years ago on Ebay, I started my print prices at only $50.00. This was really a break-even price where I was not making any money, nor loosing any. At first, no prints were sold for several weeks-months. As soon as a few people took a risk and purchased a print, a few more did also, then the first people purchased a few more, and I kept having repeat buyers along with more new ones coming. Soon, people realized that I was offering high quality prints for a very cheep price, so they kept purchasing. Prints sales were getting out of hand and I could not keep up with the mounting/matting of so many prints, so I knew it was time to raise print prices.

    Starting out selling cheep on Ebay is okay, because it's a way to "test the water". If someone purchases your prints and they are of good quality, they will purchase more. In result, others will see this and follow. If someone purchases prints and are not pleased, they will not purchase anymore and neither will others.

    Because selling prints is my only source of income, I knew that I had to raise my prices, so I went up to $75.00, then $95.00, $125.00, $175.00 and soon $250.00. As for print sales, they have remained steady and consistent over the past few years. The price increase has not decreased sales, if anything...it has increased sales. Many because people know my print prices are steadily climbing.

    Ebay has been a great way to introduce myself to collectors, galleries, museums and photographer who purchase artwork on Ebay. I've sold several hundred 8x10 AZO prints on Ebay since I first started, and prints sales are still going strong. However, I'm starting to be approached by more galleries around the country (who found my work on Ebay) that are interested in representing my work. As soon as a gallery starts representing my work, I will probably stop selling so much on Ebay and reduce the online sales down to maybe only a few prints a month. This may also call for another increase in prices.

    I hope to start a "Special Edition" print program shortly, to give new buyers a chance to buy my work at a more introductory price. I'm still getting several new buyers each month, but as prices increase, the number or new buyers will decrease. Of course, even for past collectors, this will be a great chance to acquire prints for a lower price.

    I don't think it’s a good idea for a artist to sell their work to cheep, as it only devalues the artists work. However, you need to realize what your intentions are with selling your work. Are you selling your work as just "wall art" for the casual buyer to hang in their home, or selling work to more collectors as an investment purpose for the buyer? Personally, I'm doing photography for a living, so many people purchase my prints to collect and value them, not always just to decorate their home.

    There is only a VERY small handful of artist on Ebay that are worth collecting and selling their work not just as wall-art. If you do some research, you will see these are the artist that are selling most.

    Like someone said before...if your just wanting to sell prints to share an image with someone, Ebay might not be the place for that because there is several others trying to do that unsuccessfully. It takes alot of time, energy, and effort to sell your work. However, in the end, it's one of the most fullfilling and pleasing jobs one can have and I would not want to do anything else with my life.

    All the best,

    Ryan McIntosh
    www.RyanMcIntosh.net
     
  17. kjsphoto

    kjsphoto Subscriber

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    I have to disagree with this statement completely. Lately my prints sales on eBay have been in the toilet, so does this mean I am not worth collecting even though selling prints is how I make a living and the fact that I am completely and totally dedicated to pursuing this as my only source of income?

    I have made sales the last few month off my website but to say that since artist are not selling on eBay per say they are not worth collecting is really wrong.

    As far as steady sales at higher prices on eBay, I have yet seen it for myself and many others that sell on the site. One print a month or even two is hardly enough to consider strong sales. If someone was selling 20 prints a month at the $175-225 range then yes I would agree, but as I comb over eBay feedback and the many known and unknown photographers they are only selling 1-3 prints a month at best above the $50 price point. To me this is not strong sales and hardly enough to support a family or a household.

    I am sorry but eBay does not produce sales. Look at the lister that goes by hasting on eBay, this guy must list 20-30 prints a week and only sells one or two. At that rate he is not even breaking even so in reality he is paying eBay to take his prints off his hands, the fees must be killing him. His price point is $49.95. Then I have seen a few other who sell at $175-$250 and they go for months on end on eBay with 0 sales and at times you will see with only 1 or 2 sold every 2-3 months.

    Look up on eBay for yourself and see what has sold versus what hasn't, look at the prices the prints have sold for, 95% of the prints are at or below $50. When you do your searching exclude the knowns such as Weston, Adams, Loranc, etc...

    Just my take on it.


    Kev
     
  18. User Removed

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    Hey Kev,

    Nowhere did I say that since an artist is not selling on ebay, that means they are not worth collecting. Nowhere did I say that, and nor do I believe that. That would just be stupid.

    I was saying that out of all the people selling art on ebay, only a small percentage of them are worth "collecting" for investment value. There is alot of artwork that is pretty wall art, and you can see it's not selling quite as well.

    Of course, I consider you one of the self representing photographers selling on Ebay that is worth collecting. Your certainly selling more than just wall art.

    Ebays sales come and go in waves. We all have down times where nothing sells, or times when we get more sales from another selling outlet (ie-website).

    Checking someones sold items or feedback does not mean they are not selling images from Ebay. I've had several people contact me wanting to purchase prints that just found me from Ebay, or someone that just got one prints on ebay...then views my websites and wants to purchase a few more via private sale.

    Personally, I think Hastings is selling wallart images. He has been selling (not much!) on Ebay for the exact same prices for along time and never changes. I believe he may just be interested in sharing his images with others. As you can see...no collectors are buying his work, only the casual buyer. This does not mean his images or prints are of poor quality.



     
  19. Ray Bidegain

    Ray Bidegain Member

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    As I read these writings, and the ones in the other thread I continue to feel like Bill Schwab is the voice of reason, and I tend to agree with him. I would also like to say that I feel like he is coming from a place where he might know what he is talking about; he is well represented and is prolific in his work.

    As for the others of you, I wonder why you care so much. If ebay is not working for you, and you can sell prints for lots more money somewhere else, then do it. I do not buy into your reasoning that collectors who would otherwise be buying your work for a few hundred dollars are being side tracked by cheap prints on ebay. If they want your work at your price they will buy it, they will not buy 5 others on ebay instead.

    There are lots more serious collectors browsing ebay than you think. And as Bill said, plenty of top drawer sales are taking place.

    Nobody is “ruining” the market for selling your work.

    As you are fond of saying,

    Just my take on it.

    Ray Bidegain
     
  20. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council

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    The reason many galleries don't want to handle artists who sell on ebay is that it will undercut their selling prices. It may be a good way to get seen by some galleries, but once you have significant gallery representation, you may well be asked by more than one of them to stop ebay sales because A: every ebay sale means one less print they can sell, B: one less commission they can earn, and C: because it is an auction, it can go for less than they are selling your work for. If you can not only sell work without paying them a commission, but your side sales will undermine their pricing, why would they represent you?
     
  21. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser

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    To think one is going to throw a few prints on eBay and suddenly be making a living is ridiculous. If this is what you are basing your negative feelings on, I would agree. Making a living with your work takes so much more than print sales and the sooner you realize this, the better you will feel. There is education, licensing, posters, notecards among many others. Anyone, and I mean ANYONE that thinks they are going to make a living off their work in one specific venue, is very sadly mistaken. People that complain about their sales should realize that each and every sale is a gift no matter how much it is for. Anyone feeling they deserve to make a living because they've been doing this a few years is just fooling themselves.

    Bill
     
  22. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser

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    Scott, As one who sells their work regularly via many venues and has done so for some time, I can tell you this is not entirely true anymore. The world is a far bigger place than any one gallery can cover. I am selling prints via the Web to places my galleries haven't begun to try to market my work. Plain and simple, the way you and many think of galleries and gallery representation is rapidly changing. Some are getting with the program, others are already being left in the dust. The book is still being written on this subject and it looks better for the individual artist than is does for galleries I am afraid.

    Bill
     
  23. kjsphoto

    kjsphoto Subscriber

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    The same can be said for many that are working a full time job for a company. Just because a doctor has 20 years of experience does that mean he should deserve to earn a living doing what he does for his profession? I hear, understand and respect what you are saying, but there is no reason why an artist cannot make a living selling his or her work just as a doctor or a lawyer, we just choose different paths.

    Selling your art is no difference than working a 9-5 job and in many cases is harder and more demanding. I know for a fact that I or anyone for that matter will not make a living off eBay or any single venue, that wasn't my point. My point was that selling prints cheap creates a false market and drives prices down.

    As far as deserve goes, does anyone deserve to have a job or make a wage that can support a family or themselves? The answer is no if you look at it form the artist standpoint. Unfortunately, to many being an artist is looked down upon and many do not take the artist serious as it is considered a hobby or for the lazy, which is completely untrue. Again it goes back to as you said educating the public.

    Personally I treat selling art like a business and have spread myself over many different markets. I do not rely on just one market in general to sell my artwork to earn from it. This year though the trend has been lower sales. I do however spend quite a bit each month on marketing material, sending to galleries and collectors on a regular basis to keep my name in front of them all the time, but to be honest in the many years I have been in the art field, it is the only field where return on your investment is quite low. I will continue to do it because I love it. I am not in this to give prints away but to earn a living. When you work hard every day at something, no matter what field you are in, you do expect to earn a living doing what ever it is you do.

    I never understood why many think that artist don’t deserve to get paid for the work they do. I personally feel they do deserve to get paid if they are professional and are good at what they do, especially if they are dedicated just like with any other profession. I see no problem, paying anyone what they are worth. The only the question is, can I afford the prices they have set for themselves?

    Now is a whole other issue.
     
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  24. Early Riser

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    It is very difficult to make a living purely by selling prints. However it does get easier the more your name and work are known. I think that many people still find it surprising that photographic prints sell for more than $100, and are shocked that they can sell in the thousands of dollars ( and more). However it's gotten easy for people to buy your work online, never having seen anything more than a jpeg if they can Google your name and see that you are an established artist. For others selling prints on ebay not having that recognition makes it a far harder sale.

    The venue where art is sold has a huge effect on the perceived value of the work and maybe that is one area where having your work sold on ebay could hurt sales. But it all depends on the reputation of the artist and the quality of the work. Personally I would be hesitant to buy even an Ansel Adams or Weston print on Ebay unless I knew that the seller was a well regarded collector or gallery. So much that affects the perception of a print's value is also based on the provenance of the print. This does not apply to lower priced prints, but once people are forking over significant amounts of money, they want the assurance of a brick and mortar gallery.

    I think eBay can work for an established artist selling a second line of their work, inkjet prints at a modest price instead of selling their traditional prints at a far higher price. The risk of buying an inkjet print, of an image they like for $50 or $100 bucks, by an established artist who sells silver prints for many for times that price, is a small risk. It might be a good business model for a photographer.

    Posters of my work routinely appear on eBay which is something that I do not appreciate because they tend to advertise them as "art prints" or "art photographs" and I am always concerned that it may confuse people or somehow devalue my silver prints. I have no idea how well the posters sell online, but they have been selling them there for years. I only hope they bought them from a licensed reseller and did not print them off original posters themselves.
     
  25. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council

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    Bill - I'm not saying that the market is not changing. I'm just stating that this is a risk of selling your work on ebay. I think it would also depend on the pricing you set, and if you are selling via Buy It Now or are auctioning your work, if it is limited edition or if it is open editioned. It will be very interesting to revisit this issue in 10 years and see if the art market has caught up, or if it has changed for everyone.
     
  26. Early Riser

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    Selling cheap was mentioned. I think that historically the majority of artists have undervalued and underpriced their work. I think that most people get into art for the love of art, for the loving of doing it. They would do it anyway if they were wealthy, but ultimatley decide to sell their work in order to live but also in order to perpetuate their art. Most hobbyist artists, who are not reliant on their art feeding them grossly undervalue their work.
    I've seen many threads here where people talk about selling their work at prices that cause them to lose money. Where is the logic in that?
     
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