What's *really* needed to sell prints?

Discussion in 'Presentation & Marketing' started by Donald Qualls, Jun 18, 2006.

  1. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    I think I'm reaching the stage of being ready to try to sell some prints -- need to get some VC fiber paper and a print washer, but that's within reach, just about.

    What I'm looking for is, what's really *needed* to sell prints.

    I see notations of prints selling for hundreds or even thousands of dollars, with X mounting board, Y overmat, in Z frame, but I also see eBay sellers apparently peddling the bare print (but with no information on how many they actually sell). And for me, at least at first, every dollar I have to put into a print before sale pushes the day I have something ready to try to sell that much further away. Printing on fiber, archival washing, toning, check; not much extra cost above the RC prints I've been learning on. Unfortunately, I have neither money nor space for a dry mount press, can't readily afford a matt cutter setup, nor a stack of board to ruin learning to cut matts (accurately and cleanly); paying someone to do these operations gets ugly *fast* when it's out of pocket, speculative money (like buying a car to start a cab company, without really knowing if anyone in your town will actually ride in your cab). If I have to invest a couple hundred dollars in a print before I can sell it, it's not going to happen any time soon.

    OTOH, if I can sell "naked" prints, I could have them on the market within a few more months -- just a matter of getting a print washer, buying a box or two of fiber VC paper, and reprinting some of my best work.

    Now, I fully realize that a "naked" print isn't going to bring a bazillion dollars -- and that's perfectly fine. If I can sell some prints at a modest price, I'm ahead of NOT selling prints at gallery prices. If I bring in enough to keep the freezer and darkroom stocked, my photography will be self-sustaining, and it'll be a lot easier to maintain equipment and buy more because I won't have to sell those expenditures to the wife on top of a film/paper/chemical budget. And it wouldn't take much more beyond that to make photography a net gain in the budget instead of a sink (a few dozen prints a year would do that at eBay "naked" print prices) -- and beyond that lies the ability to start doing things like traveling for images, hiring models, etc.

    So -- do "naked" prints actually sell? If not, how much do I need to put into a print to make it saleable?
     
  2. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    I think that mounted and matted work sells better. Offering framing is desireable. My experience indicates that it has to be one hell of a print to sell without being mounted.

    I don't know how and to whom you want to present your work. One way around the expense of getting a bunch of framed prints to sell is to present a single framed print or two and take advance orders from potential purchasers for unframed prints but that will be delivered as framed work. That way you don't lay the green out for something that may be a shot in the dark. You can get around not having a dry mount press and mat cutting equipment by using a frame shop at the beginning. As far as costs invested, you would need to check with a frame shop in your area.

    You can begin by buying a single box of VC fiber paper and do a good job of washing your prints in a bath tub for now. An archival washer can be a later expense if you want.

    As sales come in, you can add to your ability to frame and buy the necessary equipment at that time. Doing your own framing adds to your profit.

    Good luck.
     
  3. kjsphoto

    kjsphoto Subscriber

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    Hello Donald,

    I sell prints two ways; loose and mounted.

    I use fiber paper for both. All prints are sel toned as well. With a loose print I just sign, title and date the back of the prints and ship it off. Very easy and quick. With the lose prints you also don’t have to worry about a mat cutter or a press for some time.

    To flatten the prints I get a piece of thick glass and stack the print after fully dried. Put the glass on top and pile a ton of books on the top. Let it sit for about 8 hours and the prints are really nice and flat.

    As fro a print washer I just use a Kodak Siphon or rotate trays every 10-15 minutes. Tray one print goes in, tray 2 fresh water, put prints in tray 2 dump tray 1 refill again and repeat. Or with the siphon just put it on a tray and let it run. I also use a hypo check to make sure they are washed properly.

    You can really get stated with very little cost out of pocket.

    As far as pricing if you go the ebay route that is tough, I see gelatin silver prints starting out anywhere between $35-55 and seems to work, then move up form there as the prints sells. Mounted prints I see between $75-$175.

    Also with ebay you have to remember even if you don’t sell you are paying fees and then there is paypal. IF possible maybe only accept checks or money orders. Again you have to do what will work for you.

    Also on ebay I mainly sell landscape stuff but Nudes do really well from what I have seen. So if Nudes is your cup of tea you will probably do well.

    As far as how much to put into a print I have found that you always want to make it the best you can. Print the same as you would for a gallery as sometimes you will get collectors that start buying your work and you never know.

    Good luck and if you ahve any opther question I am more than hapy to help if I can.

    Wish you all the best!
     
  4. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser Advertiser

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    Yes, quite well. Although I still prefer to mount photographs that go to the galleries, an increasing number of photographers do not do so. It is left up to dealers and collectors to do this. It makes great sense as far as storage space, shipping, etc. Many prints collected end up in flat files anyway and rarely see a wall. Strange, but true. However, if you're planning the art fair circuit, mount them. You're talking a completely different type of collector.

    Bill
     
  5. Curt

    Curt Subscriber

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    Mount em up and head em out. No frames, just the best mounted and over matted prints you can make. Are you sure you are ready to sell? Yes you are ready to sell! If someone wants a print of yours then what else matters? Go for it! Me personally I don't care if I sell another photograph in my life time. It's the love of photography that keeps me interested. I would rather have a person enjoy my work than sell it. It's kind of an Edward Weston point of view. Everyone should be able to afford a print. I know I won't get to be a millionaire doing it but I do know that in history what has been done in the past has proven to be of historical value later.

    The very best of luck,

    Curt
     
  6. ann

    ann Subscriber

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    standarize the print size and get the windows and boards ready cut, i.e. redimat as needed.

    you don't need to dry mount, tip in or hinging will do the trick as well.
     
  7. Stoo Batchelor

    Stoo Batchelor Member

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    Hi Donald

    I speak as some one who has himself, done just as you wish and entered the market. You have certainly started in the best place by posting this thread here.

    Reading between the lines I feel that although you are ready to sell your work "naked" you know deep down in your heart of hearts that window mounting is the way to go.

    Before I did anything I really studied the market. Mainly what other people are doing. APUG Sales gallery, what APUGers are charging for their work, Ebay, APUGers Ebay sites and High Street Galleries.

    It didn't take long to realise that most are window mounting their prints, and personally, I believe this is the way to go as presentation is key. I dont even show my closest friends a finished print now untill it is sitting behind a window. It just gives it the finishing touch (IMHO)

    You have already said that a print washer is within reach. Personally I would forego the print washer and treat yourself to a good matt cutter. If you really think about it before you make your purchase, ie; finished matt size in relation to the size of matt board you buy, you should end up with very little waste. I pay about $7.50 per sheet for a top quality conservation board and get two matt/windows out of each. Thats $3.75 per image. Bargain!

    Don't be afraid of these things (matt cutters). With a little care you will be cutting quality mounts immediately, with edges so sharp you will cut your finger on them. I have never screwed one up yet. the longridge one comes with a demo cd and I can imagine that most do.

    Personally I have aimed for the High street Gallery, so putting together a good portfolio was of great importance to me, as it should be yourself. As I said before, presentation is key. You only get one chance with these people. I have shown my work to two galleries and both have accepted to sell my work. And also I have shown my work to the local manager of Art and Leisure who has given me an exhibition date for 2007 and 2008. Plus I have convinced my local fish resturaunt to let me dislpay my framed prints permanently on his wall.

    I feel that once I have started to sell my work and people start beginning to trust it and come back for more (wishfull thinking) Then and only then will I feel comfortable to sell my work "naked" as you put it.

    I would just like to point out that to date I have not yet sold any work and neither do I expect to just yet. I'm no fool and know that it will take time, but I am prepared to be in it for the long haul. And Though I have probably set my goal too high by starting with the galleries, I am no snob and do not discount selling my work in the other outlets mentioned. In fact, the craft markets appeal to me greatly and was something that I cleanly forgot about.

    Go for it Donald, and do what you feel is right for you. One last thing, and I feel it the most important. If it isn't good enough to go on YOUR wall, It sure isn't good enough to go on anyone elses.

    Kind Regards and Good luck

    Stoo
     
  8. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Donald

    If there is a good frame shop in your area, try approaching them with the idea of renting their hot press to flatten out the prints with a solid promise to frame with this shop and or buy the materials from them to frame your own work in the future.

    We rent out our hot press to our clients.. the *cost* is the price of two clean rag boards for the client to use while pressing their prints. If they are not using archival methods at least our boards in the press do not get contanimated.

    Build up a body of work that you can sell framed or unframed.
    In our area most people prefer un framed photographs so that they can take them to their favorite framer and match to past styles of frames in their home.

    With a good CD portfolio and backup fine prints you should be able to move forward without a lot of initial startup expense.
     
  9. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I first began to flatten fiber prints by pressing them under books. It took a long time and some times after flattening they would curl a little bit a few days after removal. Then I found that if I placed the print between two pieces of mat board and put the print between two sheets of metal, and heated the plates by placing a iron on top, the print would flatten out, and stay flat. The key was to let everything come back to room temp after heating, before removing the print. I now use my dry mount press the same way, again letting things cool back down before I remove the print. Works like a champ, and doesn't take forever.

    I sell most of my prints mounted and matted, but not framed or glazed.
    Precuts from Dick Blick can be economical, but cutting your own is always cheapest, after you recoup the investment in the equipment. Another plus is you can cut a custom size opening.

    I dry mount my prints using Bienfang Buffermount as it is archival, and allows the print to be easily removed from the board if desired. Dry mounting gives the flattest presentation, but it has fallen out of favor for archival reasons. The Buffermount addresses these concerns, or I would not use it. There is a good movie on how to dry mount with an iron here:

    http://www.apug.org/forums/showthread.php?t=15878&highlight=dry+mount

    There is nothing really wrong with hinge mounting, etc. if you would rather do that, and some collectors prefer it, however I think dry mount gives a better presentation.

    I can't seem to get more money for a matted and mounted print, but they sell much better. Sort of an added value thing.
     
  10. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    I certainly agree, except I offer prints both mounted and matted, and framed. Framed prints are more difficult to transport, though. My second-hand dry mount has paid for itself many times over. Mat cutting needn't cost much. For many years I used a Dexter mat cutter. They can produce as good a mat as any other, but aren't as easy to master. I use a Logan model 2000 now. It is easier to use, and can use industrial single edge razor blades with the back stiffener removed. It lists at about $25. Check with the various art supply sources for actual prices. Contrary to the method some others use, I can cut many mats with one blade. I use a cardboard jig to mark the back of the overmat, and a home-made jig to hold the mat and guide the cutter. I can mount and mat dozens of prints in a day.

    I've used ratty old pegboard display panels for 30 years. Something nicer would be needed in a classy venue. Visit an arts & crafts fair for ideas on improvising your own. Ready-made panels are available. I might have lost a sale or two by not taking credit cards. Do have plenty of change. Keep records of what you sell for business reasons, and to anticipate what to prepare for the next event.

    Arts & crafts fairs are a good opportunity to discover what people do and don't like. When you exhibit, talk to prospective buyers as you would talk to any congenial stranger, not as a salesman would to a customer. People sometimes buy because of the persona of the photographer as well as just the image. If you have a supply of prints that are ready to display in your home, you're on the path to selling.
     
  11. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    Until you're established and people have an interest in your work solely because it's your work, I'm sorry to say that I think what's really *needed* is a low price. That, and relentless, even fanatical self promotion.

    I believe it's 10% photography and 90% marketing.
     
  12. kjsphoto

    kjsphoto Subscriber

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    I have to agree with this 100% Also everytime you sell an item keep track of the mailing addresses and once or twice a month send out a mailing / newsletter to everyone to keep them informed as to what you are up to and new images as well as any specials you might have for that newsletter.
     
  13. Jon Shiu

    Jon Shiu Subscriber

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    Donald, check out www.americanframe.com
    They offer a free custom cut mat with every frame ordered. The mats are cut to size and a window opening. They are acid free mats in various colors. (The shipping for the larger sizes is not worth it, though.) The standard frame is a nice frame and you can get glass at your local glass shop. I think framed work sells better in a place like a coffee shop, and matted work sells okay in an art gallery, but framed looks better esp. with proper gallery lighting. Collectors may buy unmatted prints. Oh, and the buyer has to connect with the photograph in order to buy it (unless it is a give-away price), so it is much more likely to sell if they see it in person than online. Good luck!

    Jon
     
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  15. Harrigan

    Harrigan Member

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    This is the the most true statement anyone has given on here about selling prints. The people that make it have thick skin and market the ever loving sh^t out of their work. You must be dilligent and fanatical about pushing your work if you want to make a living.

    If you just want to sell a few prints online is ok but research who's buying. I found ebay hurts the value of my work as my previous clients aren't too happy to see cheap prints going online for alot less than what they paid, so I've cut off the ebay special deals. You'll also find much strategy involved with ebay selling and getting help in bidding up your prints is obviously something people do. Also search the completed auctions to see whats selling over the last few weeks on ebay and you'll see that sales are pretty slow. You can also search the completed sales for individual sellers and see what they have sold recently.
     
  16. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    For business people, you are right. However, business people may find other products easier to peddle than photographs. For photographers, it's more photography than marketing.
     
  17. lee

    lee Member

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    If you are attempting to sell a lot of images I wish you well. I would not think to sell an image with out a matt on it. Presentation is a big part of it.

    good luck,

    lee\c
     
  18. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    Any time you sell anything, it's business.

    The most successful fine art photgapher I know spends more than 50% of his time marketing.
     
  19. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    That only happened to Ansel late in his life. It never happened to Edward Weston except, perhaps, as a struggling young photographer still seeking the style he is remembered for.
     
  20. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    MOST of the artists I know, famous or merely surviving, spend far more time than they'd like on the marketing of their work if they want to sell it. There is this horrible myth out there about the artist being "discovered" and vaulting into the ranks of the famous. Basically, that happens only in movies. Everyone else has to be a consummate salesperson for their own work.
     
  21. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Probably worth repeating.
     
  22. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    I don't sell any prints that aren't framed.

    Although if someone wants a 5x7 after placing their initial order, I'll mount it and they can buy a desk frame somewhere.

    Michael
     
  23. roteague

    roteague Member

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    I prefer to sell framed prints, but will sell mounted only prints. I don't sell unmounted prints to the general public.
     
  24. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    So, what most of you are saying is, I'm better off selling nothing (the number of prints I can afford to matt and frame right now) than trying to sell the prints as they are, and it's not about the photography anyway, but about the marketing.

    Maybe I need a middleman -- sell the prints for $25 or $50 each, bare, to someone who has the capital to mount, matt, frame, and hang. He gets the grand when something sells that way, and I get the $25 return on what I can afford to invest.

    Or are most of you just saying that if I can barely afford film, I shouldn't try to make this self-sustaining?
     
  25. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I think everybody is relating their best advice based on their experience, as to what works best. Nobody is saying "don't go for it" If economics says you are going to start with unmounted fiber prints, then thats what it will be, and you can start mounting as you can afford it, bootstrapping, based on print sales.

    About the best advice I can give beyond that, is a kind admonishment to get started, and last, but not least- once you set a price, never back it down.

    Oh, and selling photography is about marketing. That's what selling is, and nomatter the price point, expressive photography is a luxury item, so it won't sell as a need. Somebody has to want it, and to want it they have to know it exists, and without marketing they flat out won't.
     
  26. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi donald

    check out a place like this michel company

    (they sell those things like your high school portrait came in )

    i shot little league teams a while ago, and all the team photos were given out in folders like these ( no mats or frames). if the folks wanted to mat + frame they could take care of that themselves.

    maybe, you might think of having your favorite photograph matted and framed, and use that as a sample and suggest that you can recommend a frame shop that will take care of it for them ...

    just a suggestion ...
    i hope it helps ...

    john