Selling Prints

Discussion in 'Presentation & Marketing' started by waynecrider, Mar 21, 2005.

  1. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    Outside of having done some portrait work, headshots and the occasional party, I have yet to try my hand at sales of printed framed or un-framed personal work. I would like to ask how many of you have sold such work, and how and where you have done it and to what success. What percentage of your photo income does it amount to. What subject mattter do you find viable in the market place; Postcards, posters, landscapes, nature shots etc. What sizes are the most popular and should one invest in printing the larger sizes; Is there a market for these? Thanks for your help that I may determine my options.
     
  2. Grady O

    Grady O Member

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    I work at a small privatly owned photography gallery. Most sales tend to be in the smaller range, usually less than 16x20 framed. It seems when people wantto go big, they go BIG. Usually if it's not in the 16x20 range its a couple feet large either way. Subject matters varry. Although alot of people think people only like sunsets and the such, you'd be supprised at what people actually buy.
     
  3. Graeme Hird

    Graeme Hird Member

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    Hi Wayne,

    I sell prints from my own gallery, and at the moment I'm averaging two sales per day.

    The two most important factors in the sales of my prints are the impact of the subject and the perception of the print being "impossible to produce" for the average person in the street (my market).

    The photo must have that "WOW!" factor, something to make people stop and take notice. Once they stop in front of a print on the wall, you can see them start thinking about the print. The more they examine it, the more likely they are to decide to purchase it. But the secret is to have a picture that will make them stop, and for that to happen the print must have an emotional impact.

    The print must also seem to be beyond the ability of the customer to produce. Whether it actually is or not doesn't matter - the perception must be that it is too difficult to copy. As soon as you hear the words "I could have taken that", your chance of a sale has gone (and as I said, it doesn't matter if the person could or couldn't have taken it - they think they can, so you won't sell to them). In all reality, if you hear those words, that print is not good enough to sell to the public. (Incidental, that's why sunset photos don't sell - anybody can take them.)

    It's true when the say "Size doesn't matter" - my biggest selling print is 28x12" and most of the rest of the top 10 are bigger than 20x16". One of our best sellers is 31x28" (all these are unframed sizes). Price does matter though - we have trouble selling prints which have a total cost of more than AUD$600. To make matters worse, people equate price with size. We hear the words "Does that come in a smaller size?" often, and we know they are really asking "Does that come in a cheaper version?". We sell prints in only one size for any given photograph - otherwise the cost of carrying stock would put us out of business (and we would only ever sell the budget version).

    I believe it's important to have a permanent location from which people can buy my work. People know exactly where to go when they are ready to purchase. If I were using the common "Art Gallery Circuit" and displaying my work on a month by month basis, I'd have very few sales. Don't make it hard for people to find your work. I'd also need to charge more to make up for the loss of volume, and then I'd sell even fewer. Vicious circle leading to the starving artist syndrome, in my opinion.

    Cheers,
     
  4. roteague

    roteague Member

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    Thanks Graeme, that is one of the best descriptions of the business that I have read. One other thing I would like to point out is the image should have the feel of quality about it. For example, yesterday I was at the local shopping center, when I saw a framed sunset photo from across the walkway (it had the Wow factor), but when I went closer I saw the photographer had printed it on giclee; standing next to the print I couldn't see either detail or sharpness in the print. I walked away.
     
  5. Dave Parker

    Dave Parker Inactive

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    Hi Wayne,

    over the years, I have made a substantial portion of my income from print sales, there are good years, but most years are not so good!

    One of the most important questions you need to ask yourself.....and it is a harsh question to ask is........ 'what makes me think this print will sell?'

    If the answer is.....my friends and family have always told me, that I should be selling my pictures.....then I can tell you from experiance, that is not a good enough reason...

    If the answer is, you have visited a few galleries and said you could take the same photograph, they are offering on the wall....that is not good enough, they already have it!

    Post cards, posters, magazines, can all be productive markets to work in, although your not going to get rich, I average about .02 cents on each post card I sell, one of the most lucrative markets is the magazine and trourism industy, the yearly books they publish to entice people to come to the area and visit and spend money can be good money.

    Being a successful 'Gallery artist' is difficult, there are a great number of photographers, that have come before us, that either their companies or their estates are exibiting.

    I work in the magazine industry quite a bit, because, quite simply it pays! I have a number of prints hanging in galleries, but only every once in a while do they sell, not because I am not good, but because the competition is very strong.

    My biggest suggestion, if you really want to sell prints, then really research the market you live in and want to exhibit in, and find out, what is selling, and find a way to take that particular niche and make it your own, either by extremely strong subject matter, or good subject matter, and extrememly strong printing skills, as has been stated, you really need to WOW the potential customer, and there is only two ways to do it!

    In this day and age, the general public is inedated with images, it encircles us, and engulfs us virtually every waking hour, you just need to find a way, to use your skills and images the ones that are the engulfing ones!

    I don't know that I agree, that size always matters, but if it is smaller, then it needs to stand above the pack, perfectly!

    One of the quickest ways to get noticed is make big prints, frame them perfectly and make darn sure you only display the best you have to offer, no if's, and's or butt's, Period!

    There are a great number of areas to explore and make sales, take a look at the endless market available to us as photographers, and you will be plesently surprised at where your income can be made at.

    Dave
     
  6. Daniel Grenier

    Daniel Grenier Member

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    Lots of good advise here, Wayne. One more thing that is common in photographic sales: "Water sells". Falls, streams, rivers, brooks... water sells!

    Good luck.
     
  7. Graeme Hird

    Graeme Hird Member

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    Daniel, that depends very much on the market location. Very few of the shots I sell have water in them, since there is no standing water of any type in the area I live in. Unless a thunderstorm counts as water .... In this location, water is out of place, and people prefer to remember the region as it is (or as they'd like to think it is.)

    You might be confusing the subject of "water" with the techniques good photographers use to render the water. Showing movement in water is beyond the skills and equipment of the average person in the street. They perceive the shots to be good, simply because they can't do it themselves.

    Cheers,
     
  8. Joseph

    Joseph Member

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    Hi Wayne, I earn my living selling my framed and un-framed black and white fine art photos from my gallery in Gloucester, Massachusetts. I try not to think of clients interests but my interests, and to persue my own vision. This works for me. Joseph
     
  9. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    Hey Wayne,

    I went the E-Bay route starting the first of this year. The first several weeks kept me fairly busy selling and shipping 3 to 4 per week. Lately, its fallen off so I suspect this may be a seasonal lull.

    One nice thing about E-bay is that you can do market research on completed offerings to see how others are doing in the same genre. That's why I say this may be a seasonal lull because others aren't selling as much either.

    All of mine have been 8x10 size. I posted some 11x14 enlargements recently but have yet to sell one. I think size makes the greatest impact when customers can see the print first-hand.

    For me, this is a viable way to sell. To haggle with galleries would require considerable travel on my part with the prospect of scant sales for my trouble. Not much tourism in my area so selling through the local gallery is not a prospect either (Have had some in the local for nearly 2 years and no sales). This way, I can handle everything out of my own home, similar to how Graeme is set up with his own gallery. Except my customers have to rely on seeing a crummy small scan of the print instead of the real thing before they buy. I have a 100% refund policy for any disatisfaction; haven't had any returned yet.

    Good luck with however you decide to do it.
     
  10. Graeme Hird

    Graeme Hird Member

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    I didn't mention quality because it should go without saying. If the shot has poor quality in any aspect (print, frame, presentation, lighting, etc) the WOW factor disappears. But this is APUG - we are all about quality anyway.

    The print should be pin sharp from any viewing distance. The public do not know about "correct viewing distances", and wouldn't care anyway. If the print doesn't stand up to scrutiny from 8 inches, things are looking bad! People expect to see minute details in a photo, so don't enlarge too much.

    (Oh, and don't believe the line "Ooh, I love B&W" - nobody wants it if a colour print is the same price. Colour sells, B&W just takes up wall space (sorry - that's just my experience)

    Cheers,
     
  11. rhphoto

    rhphoto Member

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    While we're on this topic, regarding size, what experience do any of you have with selling contact prints? I realize only photographers and connoisseurs really know what a friggin' contact prints is, anyway, but I'm wondering about the size. I am beginning to make 5x7 contacts, and is that TOO small for the average market?
     
  12. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    So do nudes, no matter what color or quality.

    My specialty is contact prints. I don't have a 5x7 back, so haven't done any. The guys in the Contact Printers Guild do OK with 4x5. 5x7 is not too small.
     
  13. claytume

    claytume Member

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    Graeme

    I agree with your previous posting, you've given Wayne some great stuff to get started with.

    I too make a living selling my work, not an easy task by any means. While you appear to have had little success selling B&W the opposite is true for me. I started with B&W and sometime down the track experimented with colour. I tried selling the same image in colour and B&W, same size, same price. There was little interest in the colour work.

    What this means is you have to find your own way, see what works for you then go hard out.

    Clayton
     
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  15. rhphoto

    rhphoto Member

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    One other thing - prior to my current thing with the 5x7, I was in a co-op gallery and also did some craft fairs. I found that pricing was a crucial issue. For the fairs anyway, it seemed that a few customers might be serious buyers, but most would have no qualms about spending $15 or $20 for a smaller print. I realize this is silly for serious work, especially if you put a lot of time into each print. But it does insure some cash flow at these street fairs, and if you are in a craft gallery, it helps to have some "accessible" things along with the truly fine work. For 11x14, I've seen pricing in the range of $125 to about $250. Depends on if it's framed, too. Just be aware of the price sensitivity of your particular market.
     
  16. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    Excellent point Robert. E-Bay is somewhat like that unless you have a "name" which Glory few of us do. Far better IMO to sell 100 prints per year at $50 each than no prints at $500 each.
     
  17. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council

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    Wise words Wayne...you'd do well to really think hard about what Joseph said.

    I had a lesson in this years ago. My girlfriend and I were almost broke with Christmas looming, so we spent almost the last of our money on photography and framing supplies. I went into the forest and rattled off a bunch of cheesy snow in forest scenes, frozen waterfalls, and icicles in creeks; they were all easy-on-the-eyes uncomplicated compositions. Not one sold. My personal work, the images I was passionate about making, that I was driven to take, did sell.

    I have always kept my photography a very personal expression, prefering to have day jobs I like to pay the bills. But then, I think of myself as an artist first, photographer second.

    If you fancy yourself as a stock photographer, or freelancer, disregard all of the above, research your market and exploit some unoccupied niche.

    (I don't know how to post a link to the Ethics and Philosophy forum, but in Ed's recent post on critiques, he tells a great story about his photographs of nudes and what a Nun had to say about them...read the last paragraph of that story several times!)

    Murray
     
  18. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    It is not too small, but the smaller the print, the more exceptional it has to be. It needs to draw the viewer and hold him there.
     
  19. mikewhi

    mikewhi Restricted Access

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    I thought I'd write and give you the other side of the story: the buyer.

    I collect photographs. I do not have a huge collection, but when I tell gallery owners and other collectors what I have, it is respectible. I have the big names and not-so-big names. I also buy the work of those that I expect\hope will become a 'name'.

    The reasons that I buy, in order of what will make me make the purchase:

    1) I like the image
    2) For investment
    3) A bargain (price\image\name photographer combination is too good to pass up).

    The most I've ever spent on a single print: $4450. The least was probably $50 or so.
    Average price is probably $1k per photograph. I'd list the names, but I can't remember them all.

    I buy what I like and tend to keep them. I have only ever become disatisfied with one image and sold it for what I paid and that was a Bruce Barnbaum 16x20 slot canyon image. The others that I've sold I have deeply regretted.

    For me it is mostly about the image. If it grabs me I will want it and there is little that will stop me from getting it. There are some prints that I want and I can't afford and I am still trying to figure out a way to buy them (like $20k+ images). People that are telling you that the image has to be compelling are telling the truth. For someone that collects, there is a certain fervor about getting what you lust after and believe me the love of compelling images is strong. Sometimes, I will remember an un-bought print for years and years always wishing I had bought it. I passed up Ruth Bernard nude in a box for $2k (16x20 even)...yikes, but I just didn't have the $$ at the time.

    Collectibility is important. I don't want my collection to depricate in value after having spent so much money on it. I am unwilling to spend large sums on an unknown photographer's work unless I think I have discovered someone. I bought a Pat Jablonski Portfolio I for $2500 or so not because I necessarily thought it'd be a great investment, but I got about 15 5x7 contact prints of very nice quality for under $100 each and abot 10 or so are very very nice images. I even bought an extra of one of them in 16x20.

    I do like bargains. I like buying directly from the artist rather than a gallery. I know people who know people so I can usually get an address or phone number. People would like buying directly thru you knowing they arent paying a 50%+ gallery surcharge.

    For me, size is not very important except that I know it will help re-sale value. If I like the image, I may buy 2 copies, 1 that I like and another for re-sale. I bought John Wimberley's "Descending Angel" at a gallery where they had an 8x10 and a 16x20. I could afford either, but didn't really want both. I bought the 8x10 because in the end the image quality was better and I liked it more. So in that case, image quality won out over size. Later on, I bought a 16x20 photogravure of this image that is amazing!

    So if you think my motivations are representative of the average collector, I'd suggest:

    1) Find what your most compelling images are from the eyes of the buying market. Offer them in assorted sizes with pricing tiers. Dont' stock 20 of each size, just a few and take orders. If they love the image, they will wait and wait and wait! In fact, as a buyer I dont' want to walk out the door with it. If I have it shipped, I will save on local sales taxes and often the gallery will pay for the shipping since they will want my return business. Display them prominently. If you can, get them in B&W magazine and have copies open to that page lying around. People who want images to appreciate may take this is a sign.....

    2) For your not-so great images, make them a 'bargain' in the eyes of the buyer. That is, print them big and sell them at a lower price.

    3) Consider portfolios that have a lot of prints for much less per print than if they had bought them singly. Limit the size and numbering and put in pricing tiers so there is an incentive to buy in early. Don't mess with people by putting one good image with 12-15 average ones - they won't sell and it will be pretty obvious what you're trying to do. (I looked at Jablonski's Portfolio II at the Ansel Adam's Gallery and wouldn't buy it because he had mined in 1-2 pretty bad images in an otherwise decent portfolio that had only 1 of his well-known images as I recall).

    4) Frankly, I am not too excited about the idea of 5x7 contact prints. The image would have to be really compelling and if it is, it belongs in category 1 above unless it just won't enlarge and hold quality. If it won't enlarge, perhaps a portfolio....

    I remeber a Roman Loranc print that I didn't like at all (a road with a gate and clouds) that people seemed to trip all over themselves for. Listen to what people say, watch them react to photographs and they will tell you what is marketable and what isn't. Don't fall in love with your own work, listen to what the buyers say and market to that.

    I've said enough. There is plenty of room for disagreement here, but that is how I buy so my opinion is worth listening to. Good luck. It's a tough business and I'm glad I'm not in it on your end.

    -Mike
     
  20. Thomassauerwein

    Thomassauerwein Member

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  21. Graeme Hird

    Graeme Hird Member

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    Thanks for that perspective Mike. It's interesting to know how collectors of photographic prints choose which photos (and artists) to collect. Unfortunately, there are very few collectors of photos (compared with the general public). In my own situation, I could never afford to target my selling to collectors: there are just too few of you out there (in Australia). That means Wayne will need to define his market before trying to sell prints - he needs to work out who will buy his prints before he sells them. Will he target collectors or the general public?

    My own market research was done by taking a regular stall at the local craft market. By being there each month, I gradually worked out who the people in the market are: it turns out that people leaving the region seeking a memento of the place are my market. Everything we've done since has been aimed at those people.

    Clayton, I suppose I need to temper my views: they are based only on my personal experience. I also started my LF work in B&W and moved to colour. I shoot 100% colour these days, though I will convert to B&W for prints when the subject warrants it. Maybe it's a cultural difference I'm seeing - all the successful Aussie landscape photographers shoot colour exclusively (or at least, that's what they offer for sale).

    Cheers,
     
  22. claytume

    claytume Member

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    Graeme

    I thought the same too (about Australia) until I saw the prices Ken Duncan asks and gets for his work. I don't know what portion of his sales are exported but I'd imagine it has some bearing on it.

    Clayton
     
  23. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    Michael Kenna and Rolfe Horn sell like CRAZY, and their prints are small, black and white and expensive. What Clayton said rings true.
     
  24. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    I'm just wondering if there is an unoccupied niche!

    Graeme I thought of taking this approach as well. I live in a tourist market being S. Florida. The tourist are mostly here for 6 months after which there's a sharp downturn in visitors.
    -------------------------
    Thank you all for sharing your wisdom.

    Two questions;
    1. Who buys your art % wise, women or men.
    2. What's the subject matter of your best two sellers.

    Watching booths at the occasional art show I find that European village scenes and countryside sell well down here, but that type of photography is out for me at present.

    At the end of this week I leave for Arizona where I will be staying for approximately three weeks visiting my family. To me, the crux of this trip is to photogaph and produce something worth selling, so for approximately 14 days say, I'll be working at image making. I ask, if would I be smarter shooting lifestyles for stock sales? Are landscapes overdone; Are flower shots passe?

    I also want to ask everyone if you shoot print film for your prints.

    Again thanks for all the great advice.
     
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  25. Scott Edwards

    Scott Edwards Member

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    Joseph has good advice here.


    I sell my (black and white only) work in a gallery in Central Wisconsin in a very small town. This is not to say that there is a lack of purchasing power here. When people here view my work, their first question almost without fail is "where was this taken?". I have locally shot images hanging alongside some lovely west coast shots. People readily comment on how beautiful the coastal images are, but purchase the shots taken locally. If they see something familiar framed or shot in a way which they would never conceive of shooting it, they will buy it. They also see some mystique in black and white images. Combine that with compelling composition, dramatic light and the occasional abstraction, and these images provide a new way of appreciating their surroundings.

    I could certainly shoot and print the things that I know will sell, but I will only shoot subjects and scenes that inspire and please me. This I believe elevates us in our own unique vision and portrayal of those things which serve to define us as artists.
     
  26. roteague

    roteague Member

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    Shoot what your passion is, otherwise your images will show it. You should also know what makes an image for you; I realized a while back that for me it is the golden light that happens towards sunrise and sunset.

    Don't shoot print film, shoot transparencies. If you are doing landscapes, try Fuji Velvia 50, which is favored by most landscape photographers, including me.