By: Alain Briot
Alain Briot is one of the most successful landscape photographers working in the American Southwest today. His work is widely exhibited and collected. His monthly columns for this web site, of which this is one, is called Briot's View.
An extensive interview with Alain is included in Issue #1 of The Luminous Landscape Video Journal.
Last year I wrote an article about How to Sell Your Photographs. This article has generated a lot of responses from readers as well as a lot of questions. Because the same concerns were expressed numerous times I thought it would be useful to address them in a second article.
What Type of Prints Should I Sell?
Many of you have asked which type of photographic prints you should sell. The truth is that any type of photographic prints which you find meets your quality standards can be sold. These can be traditional prints, done on light sensitive materials, or digital prints done on inkjet printers. In my estimate using an inkjet printer to print your work will give you more control and will lower your costs.
Should I Print My Own Work?
I personally print all of my work because for me printing is part of the creative process. Printing myself also allows me to print only the images I want when I need them, which means there is no delay waiting for the lab to complete my order and no time spent finding the originals, packaging them, sending them to the lab, etc.
The cost of printing your own work is also lower than what a lab will charge you. Of course, you have to make the initial investment in equipment but it is a business expense which you will recoup over time. Plus, you can also print for other photographers and expand your business in this direction.
Clearly, you can sell either prints made by yourself or prints made by a lab. What matters is that the quality is up to your standards and that the images are attractive to your customers.
Should I Mat My Work?
Yes, I recommend you mat your work. There are numerous places which sell ready-cut mats in standard sizes — such as documounts.com — or you can cut your own mats if you prefer. I personally cut all my mats (see my article on matting).
Should I Sign My Work?
I personally hand-sign each photograph that I sell and I recommend that you do too. Signing your work enhances its fine-art quality and makes it more attractive to your customers by separating it from mass-produced items. I recommend you sign in pencil on the mat. Pencil signatures look clearly hand-signed while signatures done in ink sometimes look like they were reproduced.
Should I Number My Work?
Numbering your photographs means that you are creating a limited edition of a specific photograph. Again, doing so enhances the fine-art image of your work and makes it collectible. I personally number photographs in sizes above 16x20 matte size. I also make the edition size smaller as the image size gets larger. In 16x20 size my editions are of several hundreds. In size 30x40 and above the edition may be as small as 25 pieces.
I do not recommend numbering 8x10 or 11x14 (mat size) photographs. These are your "bread and butter" sizes and I recommend you offer them in open editions to make them affordable. Number larger sizes only and price them adequately since, being numbered, there are only so many of them. Make sure you choose the edition size wisely so as not to short change yourself should the edition sell out faster than expected.
Keep the price of smaller size photographs low by releasing
them in open editions.
Offering a price break for quantity purchases is also a good idea.
Most people will purchase more than one photograph to save money.
How Should I Package My Photographs?
The easiest way to package your photographs is to mat them, sign them, and place them into a crystal clear bag. I also use a backing board to make the package more rigid and give a clean look to the back of the matted photographs. If you use price tags use a small tag so it doesn't take attention away from the photograph.
What About Permits And Sales Tax Licenses?
In Arizona, where I live, all that is needed to conduct business in my situation is a sales tax license. Here this is simply a matter of filing an application with the Arizona Department of Revenue, sales tax division. There is a small fee and after your application is processed you receive a sales tax license. This license allows you to charge sales tax and return it to the state each month. To do so you file what is called a TPT-1 form (at least in Arizona, other states may differ) which you send, along with a check for the amount of the sales tax you collected that month, to your state¹s Department of revenue. Having a sales tax license also allows you not to pay sales tax on supplies bought for your business. In Arizona you are asked to file a form stating that you are purchasing items for resale. Again, other states may differ.
You only collect tax if you sell retail, that is directly to retail customers. If you sell wholesale, that is if you sell to stores which then sell your work to customers, you do not charge tax. However, both wholesale and retail sales must be reported on the TPT -1 form. The only difference is that if all you do is wholesale you do not send a check along with the form.
If you ship items to out-of-state customers you do not charge tax either. However, you must have proof that you shipped their order out-of-state.
Sales tax laws can be complex and vary from state to state. The best is to contact your state's Department of revenue and apply for a tax license. They will most likely send you a brochure outlining the sales tax laws for your state. You can also take workshops with your state to help you with this aspect of your business.
So these are some specific aspects to selling your work. Although these are important considerations, try not to get bogged down in all the intricacies of business. What matters is that you have fun doing what you love and that you offer exciting and beautiful images to your customers. What matters most is to be enthusiastic about your work since your passion and excitement shows in your final product.
Selling your work at art shows is an excellent venue. In my January article, I will explore in detail how to sell at art shows using my show at the El Tovar Hotel, Grand Canyon National Park, as an example.
This is one of a regular series of
articles titled Briot's View
written exclusively for The Luminous Landscape
by Alain Briot