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  1. #1
    Barry S's Avatar
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    Print sale on spec--what would you do?

    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. #2

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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. #3
    Dan Henderson's Avatar
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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.


    web site: Dan Henderson, Photographer.com

    blog: https://danhendersonphotographer.wordpress.com/

    I am not anti-digital. I am pro-film.

  4. #4
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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. #5

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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. #6

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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.
    Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?

  7. #7
    Ian Grant's Avatar
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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. #8
    Barry S's Avatar
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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. #9
    TheFlyingCamera's Avatar
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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. #10

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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.
    Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?

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