Arts and Crafts Shows Questions
Next year my goal is to do a few regional arts and crafts festivals. I have a few questions.
- I can only print up to 11x14. Is that going to be a problem? I was thinking matting prints to fit a standard size frame (8x10, 11x14, and 16x29) as well as framing a few. I know many photographers at festivals will frequently show 16x20 and larger prints.
- Do general buyers even appreciate the superiority of a silver gelatin print over the rest of the ink jet stuff at the show? Even if I educate them? I ask because I was hoping this would be one area that would make me unique from all the other digital photographs at the show.
- Would RC prints be ok for these kind of shows? They are much easier for me to make as well as I could price them cheaper. If not, what would be the advantage to using fiber base paper for a show like this, besides taking true pride in my work? I was actually thinking RC for anything 8x10 and smaller, and FB for 11x14.
Any other advice would be great!
Not sure about in the US but here's my experience in the UK having just done my first year at Craft Fairs.
I think at the outset decide why you're doing the Fair. For me it was a way of marketing myself as a photographer in a new region we've just moved to.
On size - the decision to buy a print at a larger size is one that I think buyers make over time - would you want to spend that much money on a print that may not fit in the place you envisaged it? My idea was to have small prints, mainly 6" x 6" square because of cost, and offer larger prints by pointing people to a website to help them make a choice at a later date - business cards/ websites etc are important and ask for the email address of buyers or interested people so you can follow up.
Buyers, on the whole, don't appreciate the benefits of a SG print over digital - they don't care in most cases. The subject is more important. A print I sold, for instance, was of Paris, France, and the couple who bought them had been there and were collecting images of Paris as reminders.
On my last fair I displayed a 1910 banquet camera complete with brass lens and this opened the door to give people something to talk about. They then asked if the images were made using that camera and the conversation and selling goes from there. I was reluctant to do this but my wife persuaded me and it worked. There was something unique about it.
I sold only RC prints but if someone was sufficiently interested would offer archival fibre based.....had no takers at present!
I decided to display, on small wooden easels, my mounted prints - only around fifteen at a time and had a smart box with another fifteen in. The digi-boys at the fairs I did had thousands of images in many boxes. I wanted my buyers to be able to see and make a choice rather than be overwhelmed - it worked reasonably well. And the one thing about displaying this way was that people actually stopped and looked and took time - which was great to have people interested in your prints. The hard part is converting that to sales.
I'm still learning!
Most modern consumers don't know the difference, and couldn't see it if they tried. They would most likely believe RC to be superior with the plastic coating. I also don't think 11x14 to be a hinderance, they have to carry the photo around and larger sizes prove awkward and may just sit on the rack unsold. I used to sell lots of matted and sleeved prints over framed, frames are personal and must fit into a decor, frame your examples, sell matted in sleeves(upsale in frames). Use the FB prints as upsale items, price accordingly. Have a bunch of self stick labels for the back of the photos. Take custom orders that are pre-paid and ship later.
BTW: Don't forget to come to Emporium for "Weekend in the Wilds" in July, I think we are the weekend before State College's art and craft show. See you there.
I've been selling B&W photos at the local annual arts & crafts fair for 30 years. Most prints have been about 10x14 on RC paper with a recent shift to digital printing on an Epson 3800. Buyers in this rural area don't seem to be concerned with fiber, RC, or digital printing. Matted prints sell about as well as framed ones. Frames are basic aluminum frames in black and silver. It's easy to remove the frames if a buyer desires, or frame a matted print on the spot. By standardizing mostly on one size image and mat, the mats and frames can be interchanged and can be purchased in quantity for discounts. 5.5x8 images in inexpensive 8.5x11 document frames provide a quite affordable alternate to the larger prints. Framed prints have labels on the back giving my address and a little biographical information.
Display panels fabricated from pegboard 30 years ago have earned their keep. They hold up to 32 16x20 frames. Unframed photos are in a bin. Trifold brochures and business cards produced on a laser printer give potential buyers something to think about and remember the photos by. A schedule of events for the fair is posted on the panels for the convenience of passers by, and in hopes that they will linger and look at the photos. Sometimes, like Tony, I set up an older Speed Graphic camera for those who have no experience with larger equipment. I also offer a guarantee and will buy back or exchange any photo previously purchased. So far nobody has wanted to do this. Customer service is important for repeat customers.
I have sold prints at craft fairs over the last few years and while I agree that most folks wouldn’t know the difference between RC, fibre or inkjet prints, a lot of them are intrigued when I explain the “old” darkroom process. But the images themselves are the most important thing to begin with. I do all my printing on fibre but I don’t see any problem with you making RC prints.
I usually show around twenty mounted prints with two or three of them framed. Framing can be expensive but I’d recommend you frame some to show how the finished product looks, and they do look so much better framed. My sales have probably been 50% matted and 50% framed. I mostly print 12x9.5 inch with one or two big prints.
Try and have your prints spread out and all in view. Flicking through a stack of prints is a no/no IMO, but I do appreciate space can be an issue.
The idea mentioned above of displaying your "old" camera is a good one as it will get people asking you about it and the prints.
Having a flyer or business card is important. On one occasion a guy didn’t want his wife to see him buying her a print so he rang me a few days later to order one. Another time a lady didn’t have enough money with her but rang me the next day wanting to buy a print she liked.
Don’t price your work cheaply, its not worth it.
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I do not sell in art shows but I have a lot of customers that do. Here are two great resources for art shows:
Some artists like selling big stuff, some like small stuff. Small stuff allows you to have a lower cost and can help increase volumes. I saw one person mention they like selling 5x7 and it helps distinguish them from the others that are mostly selling only large items. You have to be careful with going below 8x10 to ensure your margins can support you labor.
Most of the sales are unframed prints, typically matted and displayed in clearbags. Some sales are framed images but mostly the framed images are used to decorate the walls of the booth and help attract customers into your booth. You want to mat the images to a standard frame size so that your customers are not forced to a custom frame shop to get them framed. Most DIY frame supply companies can sell mats with special opening sizes and standard frame sizes.
Trying to rely on the education of customers is not something I recommend for any business. Most people are not looking to be educated by other people. Ever try to teach someone about driving when you are on the road? Of course, there are exceptions and those people will find your knowledge useful and it will help them feel comfortable with their purchase.
Thanks guys so much for all these suggestions and ideas!
Hi All, this is fascinating. Peter, when you say not to price your work too cheaply, what price bands did you have in mind?
As I am in a totally different country perhaps you could give us an idea comparing your prints to other art on sale at similar fairs.
I'd never tell another photographer how much they should or shouldn’t sell their prints for, as I feel that’s something they need to work out themselves, i.e. how they value their time, what materials they are using, etc.
I price my 12x9.5 inch fiber toned prints which are mounted/matted with 4-ply conservation board at €85. That's the amount I feel I need to get for the effort put into making the print.
I'm usually the only photographer at the fairs I have done, except one where a digital photographer was beside me. He had similar size prints selling for €20 or €30 which were also mounted but with a thinner standard economy board. He sold a few more than me but so what, if I lower my price to try and look competitive to him, then I'm wasting my time making the prints in the first place. I'm not saying his looked crap, they didn't, they were just different and while some people thought I was expensive, others appreciated my work having spoken with me about the whole process.
If you are happy selling prints for the novelty of it, then fine, sell them cheap but my point is to make it worth your effort.
I started a similar thread in the lounge and got sent over here. I attended some shows and fairs in the last little while and have come to contribute my notes:
Photography is a rarity in the craft fairs. It tends to appear more frequently in the big art fairs. But I don't think this is really an issue, and that photography can still be marketed in this setting.
To be clear, these were tabling events and not tent-displays. Getting ready for a table is quite a bit different from setting up a tent. And from observing the illustrative printmakers, I would say that it IS better to have stacks of prints to flip-through (sorry thefizz), but to curate your portfolio carefully. Give them a sense for your work without overwhelming, and bring a few new pieces to every event. Having them at different sizes and stacking them accordingly allows your audience to see more or less your whole portfolio at once.
Use as much vertical space as possible. There is a local photographer who blankets his table with small prints, each lying flat, and it looks terrible. If he stacked them, who would have a whole table to use for other things, like upsell prints.
Also, there is no need to limit yourself to the straight print. My locals are selling prints to frame, cards, calendars, magnets, pins, flip-books, all kinds of stuff. I don't go for the magnets, and pins are just some kind of giveaway thing IMO, but having a little more choice and versatility is a good thing. Have something for everyone and offer a range of prices.
There's a bunch of logistical stuff to, like having things on hand to replace what is sold (depending on your setup), carrying sales receipts, and business cards, and having a nice tablecloth. Very important.