Occasionally, I visit art fests, where artists and craftsmen set up little tents and hang their work on the walls and sometimes sit inside working on things so people can see how they do it. I have found very good photographers there. I am wondering if anybody here has tried that, if you make any money doing it, and if you have any hints for other people (like me) who might want to try it.
I had a stand at the first Battersea Arts Fair in London about 10 years ago. I did make money but it was hard going for most people who wanted to buy also wanted to haggle and knock the price down to what I would describe as silly money. I never have gone back but a friend has attended every one and recently told me that he will not go again, apparently the price of the stand is very high and he failed to make a worthwhile profit in the last two fairs.
I don't want to put you off giving it a try but have to tell what I know of at least one such show. If you do go my suggestion is to have only one price for your images and not a sliding scale where the smallest is less expensive than the largest. Most people will buy the cheapest and the same amount of work goes into making a 5 x 7 as a 16 x 20. You may think that a certain image is worth more than others and that's fine but don't offer a sliding scale for size.
Best of luck if you give it a go.
Thanks for your thoughts. That's a good point about print size. If I do try it, I'd imagine I'd have a single size of print, and ask one price for framed and another for unframed.
I don't know where you live but here in California there are a lot of these in the summer. Essentially, they are kind of like the circus. People travel the circuit during the summer going from city to city and selling their work.
If an individual wishes to set up a booth, they have to spring for the cost of the space, then buy or rent some sort of canopy etc and you go from there. After these initial cost you then sell your work. I guess if it is good enough you could do quite well. However you are competing with people who seem to shoot part of the year then travel the circuit the rest of the time or shoot full time and have other people travel the shows.
Try this excellent list for art shows:
Been thinking of doing the art shows also.
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Check with the specific organizers of the festival you are interested in. They will give you info about price for space, the kind of work they are looking for, details on submitting samples of your work to judges and entry deadlines.
I have never participated but I have looked into some of the more regional ones here in the midwest. Usually there is a set number of booths, for example 100. Of those, maybe 12 are for photography, and the organizers divide that between B&W and color work. Then you have to compete with established participants and others wanting to get in for the first time, thus the need to give submissions to judges.
I would agree with Les that people love to look at the big prints on display but buy much smaller work. i talked to one photographer who was well aware of this and said he had learned that you have to get a persons attention with the big prints (16x20 or larger) prominently displayed
in order for them to buy a smaller print, usually 11x14 or 8x10. He said he may sell a one or two of larger at a good festival, and he prices the large ones in a way to make the 11x14 or 8x10 seem like a very good deal in comparison while making a good profit on the smaller print.
Most people love the big prints but like the smaller size for hanging considerations he said.
I knew photographers (husband and wife) who, twenty years ago, earned a considerable amount of money from the Art Fairs--over $100,000 a year. They only entered the top juried fairs and did fewer than 10 a year as I recall, maybe as few as six. They worked at it full time. What mostly sold were the "easy" pictures. They were both pretty good photographers, later had their work purchased by a museum of two, but I recall them telling me the print they sold the most was a small photograph of a clown who was crying. They colored the tear in red. They felt it was a compromise, but at $25 (or thereabout) per print, they made about $10,000/year from it. Prices varied by size. They had considerable initial expense buying a tent, stands to hang pictures on, bins for unframed prints, and a huge van to transport it all in. It was a serious business and was how they earned their living, it was not something they did for fun. They envied what I did--selling my prints to collectors and curators--and I envied what they did--that they made money.
Michael A. Smith
I am just getting started in doing the craft fairs. I know they are a lot of work but can be a lot of fun too. Where are you located? (what state) I live in California and there is an organization called "the crafts fair guide" that is for crafters. There is a fee to get their quarterly publication...it is $45.00. The publication is good though if you are serious about doing this. It lists and rates the various fairs and the promoters. The website is
Promoters do jury work and have quite stringent requirements as far as resale #, insurance, etc. Usually the fee for a weekend show is about $150.00 and up, and often they charge a percentage as well.
I will certainly have more info as I progress. I am scheduled in two local craft festivals in the next few months.
I have no idea what kind of work you do, but the point about "easy" pictures is a good one.
I have seen dozens of these fairs. And they are fairly homogenized. Things like -
10 booths selling wooden "whirly gigs"
25 booths selling "Bohemian" style clothing
5 booths selling hats
The photographers tend to sell "pretty" pictures. I'm not saying they aren't good. In fact some are great. But we are talking about pictures that don't exactly challenge people. More Ansel Adams and less Nan Golden if you know what I mean. Tons of nature pics. Those seem to be the perennial sellers. Or at least those guys show up at the fairs.
I did once see someone do a brisk business in something different though....
And this was only once....
A guy set up his 4x5 and his 8x10 with Polaroid backs and the hand-cranked 8x10 processer. He would then do transfer portraits right in front of the client. I think he was charging something like $25-30 for the 4x5. And this was unmatted. Business was brisk and he had frames and mattes available for extra too.
Now, you have to be pretty good at transfers. Make sure you have a consistent output, and it is pretty brainless and repetative work after a while.
But I'm sure he made off quite nicely....
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The Fort Worth Main Street Arts Festival is probably about as serious an outdoor venue as you'll find for photography and arts of all kinds. All the foot traffic you could possibly hope for. Very well managed. And the downtown Fort Worth area is a treat, a far cry from the ghost town it was 30 years ago.
It's a juried show with booths for 200-250 artists and artisans. Expensive - booth fees for the four-day affair run something like $300-$500.
I see mostly "serious" photography, even when it's pretty. Lots of returnees, including Joachim Knill and Shelly Corbett.
Entry deadline should be coming up pretty quick, by the end of October if I'm not mistaken. The usual 3 slides, $20-$50 evaluation fee, extra cost for extra slides, that sort of thing. I think the entrants are notified by January. The fair is in April.
You should be able to find info about the fair on the web along with a list of recent participating artists. You could write to those artists and ask for their impressions of the fair. My impressions are those of a longtime visitor and I've talked with some artists about the business end - most seem to find it worth the trip.
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