Excellent points Brooks.
Originally Posted by lenswork
Originally Posted by James M. Bleifus
My whole understanding of the article hinged on the fact that Brooks feels others are asking to much for their work, which in my opinion he does not have the right to do, just as he has no right to say that someone elses work is not worth a particular figure..
Plain and simple, yes we have the right to critique, but we don't have the right to say, your asking to much or your asking to little, I feel this is beyond the bounds due to the fact, I can look at many of the gallery pieces and feel they are pure and simple crap, but that has no determining factor of what they are worth..
And yes I did read the article and understand it. Editors in this country take far to many liberties, I have also published magazines and feel the same way to this day, I feel the editorial venue allow those who feel they can get away with it, to much press time. What works for him is great, and I say more power to him, I am glad he is successful with it...
This is my opinion and as with others, I am every bit entitled to it as the next guy. As I am entitled to ask what I want for my work, I have no frustration with the gallery system, I understand it fully and understand why they do what they do.
As far as photography, I never started it as a hobby, it has been at least a part time income maker for me, since I was 14 years old, I am now turning 44 next week, so 30 years of my life has been involved in producing photographs for money, I think at times I have missed out on the hobby aspect, but am not sorry about it really at this point, being sorry is not an option, it has never been oh perhaps I could sell a few pictures, but a full 100% job must sell the pictures, so I have a different perspective, I guess.
Dave, I think you've misunderstood my question. Having read your other posts I'm familiar with your history in photography and I'm not questioning your entitlement to your opinion (and frankly, I don't disagree with a number of the things you've said in this thread. I disagree with some opinions you've said the essay contains. Big difference). However, your read of the article is different than mine and I'm trying to see why. Where our interpretation diverges is that I don't see Brooks telling people what to charge, I do see him saying that some people have no clue and are trying to charge too much. Now that I understand the issue I can understand your interpretation better. Although I don't know this, I'd bet money that photographers contact him all the time asking why their work doesn't sell or asking him what to charge. So his essay makes sense to me even as I'm more aligned with some of your marketing comments over his.
Originally Posted by Satinsnow
One area we certainly disagree on is the opinions of editors'. There have been a number of interesting threads on APUG as a result of Brooks' essays and blogs. I don't see these conversations stimulated by other magazines. It's good to have an editor who's willing to take chances and stimulate conversation, and, in the age of the internet, I don't see editors getting away with much of anything. We're here to keep them honest with threads like this.
I have made a sincere effort to read various articles on the Lenswork website, including the sample material from the latest edition of the magazine, and Brooks' postings.
Originally Posted by James M. Bleifus
You are entirely correct that there are several intertwined arguments here (I think actually 3). I see these as follows:
1) $20 prints. Brooks as I understand it emphasizes that he sells other work for more money and does not explicitly advise anyone else to sell for this price. However, I do feel that for ANYONE to offer prints at this price plants a seed of doubt in the public's mind that sellers asking more are cheats - I feel this is dangerous.
2) The $3700 print. The actual example quoted (a defocused snapshot of a suburban house) does not appeal to me, I wouldn't buy it for $3700 or even $3.70, but I would defend to the death the right of the author of this work to price it in this way (wildly unrealistic as it may be). The general concept of photographs priced at this level I find good, photographers should recognize that they will need to take the time to build a reputation before they will achieve this kind of money. My own experience, and statements by other contributors to this thread, indicate that a reasonable selling price for a framed matted print by a lesser-known photographer may be around $150 to 200 for direct sales or double this through a gallery (simply to factor in the usual 50% commission).
3) A point of agreement, I think among everyone participating in this debate - pricing is largely if not exclusively a matter of what the market will bear, and efficient marketing work is essential to win market acceptance of higher prices. The only point I would disagree on is the feasibility of beginning to sell very low, even below cost price, to gain a foothold in the market and then raising prices once you have done this. All the marketing gurus I have read (and my own experience) indicate that this is almost impossible to achieve - start cheap and you'll stay cheap!
Regards to all,
There were 10 pages of replies here before me and I admit that I did not read them. It looks like most posters here disagree with Mr Jensen's premise--that photographers over price their work.
I mostly agree with him.
Not on his $20 prints--he can sell whatever is his for whatever he wants but it's not worth mixing the Dektol for me to print a photograph for $20. But Mr Jensen probably makes inkjet prints and $20 ain't bad for pushing a button a few times.
But, let's get real. His argument for the value of a photograph compared to the value of other items involved in the activities of daily living makes a helluva lot of sense. Especially when you consider the $3700 photograph he was using as an example.
While I agree with Mr Jensen (I think that might be a first!), I would note one point. Overall, digital has devalued real photography while, at the same time, making it more expensive. I really hate that.
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Just want to add/emphasize a couple of points to this very interesting discussion. The concept of an efficient free market pricing system for art work presumes both sides of the transaction have equal knowledge. Part of this knowledge includes, as mentioned earlier, that the artist convey his story to the prospective buyer. Informed transaction includes info about the materials used, ie. expected longevity before noticeable entropy. And ease of reproduction: if the buyer thinks he is getting a unique work of art, the price should reflect that uniqueness. A gum bichromate print should, if well done, have a greater value than a contact print, which in turn be of more value than an inkjet print. In sum, an informed buyer should result in a reasonable price for your artwork.
van Huyck Photo
"Progress is only a direction, and it's often the wrong direction"
Something that hasn't been mentioned here is what type of photography the person does. For instance if he is a landscape photographer and produces prints, his only contact with the buyer ( if at all) is at the time of sale. So he sets his price and the transaction is completed or not.
Other types of photography, are far more personal, and include a relationship with the client. Wedding, portrait, commercial etc all have interactive relationships with the final buyer of the prints. When determining ones clientele, a photographer also has to take into account what type of client he wants.
Not to sound too elitist here, but having a Walmart client compared to having a Neiman Marcus is a difference between night and day. Here the pricing will involve the fact that with the Walmart client you will have to do a large numbers of them to equal the income you make from the Neiman Marcus client. This in turn will equate to higher overhead costs of time and materials to produce the pictures.
The other consideration is, in my experience, that Neiman Marcus clients don't have the financial constraints so I never had to run into the problems of them keeping my proofs ( in the days we let then out of the studio) , as a rule their children were better behaved and didn't wreck the place and since money is no problem for them the orders were far greater.
I'm not saying that people with less income are less honest or worse parents but when your product is inexpensive, it seems to create a whole set of problems that a more expensive product does not have.
In my 30 years of doing this and having both the Walmart and Neiman Marcus crowd as clients, I'd take the latter any day.
I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.
Originally Posted by blansky
I think you are making this a little too complicated.... The subject is really "art pieces". Such things as wedding portraiture, executive portraits, and "coverage work" et. al. are really photographic services. In that case, the photographer is performing a service in which the photographic products are but one part. In the case of photographic art, the image stands on its own. It is up to the photographer to price it in a way that makes sense. With respect to services, there are things such as sitting fees and minimum order guarantees that are more directly related to incremental costs....
Often wrong, but never in doubt!
IMO the problem with Jensen's article is more basic than all that was mentioned here. He starts by mentioning a print of an out of focus leaf on a tree as an example of "questionable" photography. First, none of us has seen the photograph, for all we know it is a wonderful print. Second, he has become judge, jury and executioner, and has labeled the work of other photographer as questionable....who is he to do this? I am sure each and everyone of us here who has read Lenswork have found some of his choices for the magazine "questionable" yet, we do not say the magazine is bad or too expensive, and at the price it is not exactly a cheap magazine.
If we are to follow Jensen's reasoning, then Lenswork should cost about 3 dollars, so the proletariat can buy a magazine that showcases photographic art instead of Guns & Ammo....no?
Jensen has lost sight of a very important point. He has an outlet for his $20 prints. I tried his way, I tried to sell cheap pt/pd prints on e bay and after all was said and done I lost money on the deal. If I was a famous photographer selling prints for $1500 in a gallery, I sure as hell would try to market cheap ink jet prints for those who cannot afford the gallery prices, I would rather sell 1000 prints at $20 every month than 3 or 4 prints at $1500....but this is a catch 22, to do this you have to be well known, and to be well known you have to be published and have played the gallery game. It is for this reason I find Jensen's argument intrinsically weak.
Ed, I agree.
Although the initial statements made on this thread were about "art", the thread also headed into the area of "print prices". And in that area all photographers really share the same circumstances. What we charge determines our own lifestyle. Charging low rates carries it's own set of challenges for both. Flogging out 1000 prints for $20 carries with it certain problems not associated with charging $1000 for 20 prints.
Also your citing sitting fees, minimum orders etc, really has very little bearing on what portrait photographers make for a living. Except for product photographers, portrait/wedding and every other photographer make almost all their income from print sales.
I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.