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  1. #1
    Donald Qualls's Avatar
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    What's *really* needed to sell prints?

    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?
    Photography has always fascinated me -- as a child, simply for the magic of capturing an image onto glossy paper with a little box, but as an adult because of the unique juxtaposition of science and art -- the physics of optics, the mechanics of the camera, the chemistry of film and developer, alongside the art in seeing, composing, exposing, processing and printing.

  2. #2

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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.
    Art is a step from what is obvious and well-known toward what is arcane and concealed.

    Visit my website at http://www.donaldmillerphotography.com

  3. #3

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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 donít 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 donít 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. #4
    bill schwab's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Donald Qualls
    So -- do "naked" prints actually sell?
    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. #5
    Curt's Avatar
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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. #6
    ann
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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.
    http://www.aclancyphotography.com

  7. #7
    Stoo Batchelor's Avatar
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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. #8
    Bob Carnie's Avatar
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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. #9
    JBrunner's Avatar
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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/showthrea...ight=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. #10
    Jim Jones's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Curt
    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
    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.

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