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  1. #1
    sar-photo's Avatar
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    Selling prints - Limited Editions or not etc?

    I am having an exhibition type thing in late May and am busy making prints for it. My uncertainty is around limited editions and pricing (of course!).

    My current thinking is to offer 3 sizes of prints (the sizes are the image size, not the paper size). All prints will be on the same type of paper...

    7”x7” – unlimited – around £20 each
    10”x10” – limited to 50 prints + 5 artists proofs – around £50 each
    14”x14” – limited to 50 prints + 5 artists proofs – around £80 each

    Are limited editions the way to go? Should the price go up as the edition sells (if it sells!)? Or am I being too precious about my images?

    Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!!

    Cheers
    Simon

  2. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by sar-photo View Post
    I am having an exhibition type thing in late May and am busy
    making prints for it. My uncertainty is around limited editions
    and pricing (of course!).
    Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!! Cheers Simon
    Limited editions but no limit on the number of editions.
    That's my thinking. Years may go by during which a waxing
    and waning of interest may occure. Price alone will limit the
    numbers in each edition. Dan

  3. #3
    MikeSeb's Avatar
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    You'll get as many different answers as you'll get respondents. A lot depends on the gallery, if you're represented by a gallery; it seems entrenched among them that collectors won't buy unless editions are limited. Of course, if you're well known and have a history of selling well, you have more ability to call the tune. If you're new at this, the gallery often calls the shots.

    The plan that makes the most sense to me is to price moderately for the first prints of a given image, especially if you are not a well-known name, and escalate the price as a given print sells---say, every three or five or ? prints, raise the price by some amount. Eventually, each image will price itself out of the market, thereby finding its own natural "edition" size.

    If I were you, I'd print only a single or a handful of each image, and take orders (with down payment) for the rest. You don't want to be stuck with large numbers of unsold prints; you never know which image(s) will catch the viewers' fancy and sell, so print-on-demand is the way to go.

    I'm sure others will chime in also. Good luck--it's really exciting to watch a crowd gathered to view one's work.
    Michael Sebastian
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  4. #4

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    I'm not sure how you could sell darkroom produced exhibition prints for £20 and still make a reasonable return.

    Tom.

  5. #5
    MikeSeb's Avatar
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    @Tom, therein lies the rub. I'm doubtful that the gallery-sales model makes any economic sense for the unknown or little-known photographer, minus the ego boost and the learning experience. I speak with some modest experience here; others' will differ.

    The reality is that, unless you have something of a "name" with the attendant demand it produces, the gallery sales model is simply nonviable. You cannot command high enough prices to make it worthwhile to sell through galleries, especially if you have the usual 50-50 split with the gallery/hosting venue, and especially if the photographer is picking up some or all of the tab for matting/framing out of his/her end. Conversely, if you price too high (which most people do, judging by their vast numbers of unsold prints) you'll wind up with half of zero in your pocket. While I'm sure there's the odd exception, people will simply not pay a lot for photographic works by unknowns. (q.v. Brooks Jensen on limited editions et al.)

    The challenge is to find a selling model that allows buyers to see the physical art as it will look on their walls, yet channel them through more rational sales channels, such as the web, where overhead can be far lower.

    By way of background: I've had exactly two solo shows. The first was at a large public gallery space in the lobby of a theatrical venue; my work had the highest sales of any photography show in their history, yet it was a wash financially for me and the gallery, even though I priced the work as high as I dared and then some. All of the sales but one print came on opening night. At my second show--a year later, different venue--not a single print sold. I'm sure it couldn't be the work itself ; it had to have been the venue/ lack of publicity/ bad weather/ location! Got a nice writeup in the local paper, however, and a few things happened off that.

    Not a business for the fragile ego or faint heart, eh?
    Michael Sebastian
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  6. #6
    SuzanneR's Avatar
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    Seems to me, if you are going to limit the editions, then you ought to LIMIT them. I don't think of 50 prints as a limited edition, and offering an assortment of sizes, one of which is unlimited won't make the larger prints more valuable in the eyes of a collector.

    My feeling is... if I'm going to limit the edition, then 10 to 15 is plenty, and I'd only offer one or two sizes. Personally, I've decided to limit the prints that I have offered for sale to 10. These are 20x24 prints with a mount and a mat, plus 2 artist proofs. I've not offered any other sizes, but if I did, it would be 16x20 in editions of 15.

    Of course, the most democratic method is to sell uneditioned prints. Price will stay lower, but you might sell more.

  7. #7
    Stoo Batchelor's Avatar
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    Simon

    If I were you, yes, sell your prints for £20.00 each...but...let it be known that the price is for the duration of the exhibition only, and then resructure your pricing after the exhibition has ended. As far as I am concerned, photographers in the U.K are well undervalued, and the general public want us to bloody give the things away.

    Lets say you sell out in the exhibition, and then get an order at a later date for one of your 7 x 7 photographs, would you honestly mix up some chems and head off in to the darkroom for £20.00? Thats a lot of work for £20.00 And lets not forget that it takes the same amount of time and dedication to make a print 4 inch x 4 inch as it does to make one 14 inch x 14 inch.

    Also...

    One down side to the limited edition is that it holds you back on print swops, giving as gifts etc. I limit mine to 25 prints only, no matter what size, and 5 artist proofs, but I found that if you have a popular print that is regulary asked for, you will soon run out of artist's proofs, and you have then either got to say no to the swop/gift, or give away one of your limited editions, which is quite o.k for a loved one, but for a print swop???

    Just food for thought, I hope it helps.

    Stoo
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  8. #8

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    My thoughts have always been that the image dictates the size. Some images need to be massive others have to be kept small.

  9. #9
    Stoo Batchelor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PBrooks View Post
    My thoughts have always been that the image dictates the size. Some images need to be massive others have to be kept small.
    So true
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  10. #10
    MikeSeb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stoo Batchelor View Post
    Simon

    As far as I am concerned, photographers in the U.K are well undervalued, and the general public want us to bloody give the things away....
    Alas, Stoo, though I might agree it's the same here, the reality is that the consumer ultimately decides what the work is worth. You can't price your work high and "drive" the consumer to buy it. Demand for art is highly elastic, thus highly price-dependent for the great mass of potential buyers.

    Fact is, photography (except maybe the daguerreotype) has never been regarded with entirely the same cachet as other forms of one-off, unique original art. Everyone knows that a photograph can be reproduced ad infinitum with ease; hence the artificial application of "limited editions"---a concept borrowed from lithography, where the lithographic stones wore out after a finite number of impressions---and other tricks to attempt to create an air of "specialness" around the work. It's all artifice, and judging from the results for most photographers, not very effective artifice. I realize i may sound bitter here---really I'm not, but my two experiences have readjusted my concept of reality!

    Economic reality rules, unfortunately.
    Michael Sebastian
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