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Author Topic: Prints: did you sell (for) less this year ?  (Read 19092 times)
luong
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« on: December 26, 2007, 01:16:07 PM »
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My experience: I have been selling prints since 2001, and 2007 would have been the first year I would have experienced a decline in sale and revenue. Why did I write "would" ? I got a large order from a single corporate customer that in statistical terms, is an outlier, so that sales actually went up, but without that order, the decline would have been significant.

I also noticed that sometime this year, Alain Briot, who obviously is a well-established artist and an authority on the business of selling art, lowered his prices a big deal, despite his "regular print increases" being presumably a sales argument with collectors.

If you are selling prints, esp. on the web, did you notice a decline in sales in 2007, and did you have to lower prices ?

What do you think is causing the decline ? My assumption is that it is just easier than ever to produce and offer prints on the web, with many companies providing convenient printing, fullfilment, and e-commerce facilities.
« Last Edit: December 26, 2007, 01:32:13 PM by luong » Logged

Rob C
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« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2007, 03:33:04 AM »
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I have no personal experience to add to your thread, but I do know people selling their work this way (via a site) and their experiences are as yours - it is getting tight and possibly because of over-supply. Say hello to the twin sister of stock!

Rob C
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DarkPenguin
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« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2007, 10:39:43 AM »
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I would think that in a year that has featured as many foreclosures as this year has that there might not be as much discretionary income available as in previous years.

Of course of the 6 prints I've bought in the last year or two 5 were purchased via the interlink.  Only one at a discount, tho.

(Oh, there is nothing good about that sound.  @%$#ing  cats.)
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Geoff Wittig
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« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2007, 09:33:44 AM »
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My guess is that two trends are at work.

First, the "real" economy is in the crapper. The very wealthy continue to make out like bandits, especially in the U.S. where the tax structure grotesquely favors them, but there aren't enough of them to buy all those prints out there. The affluent upper middle class who are the main market for discretionary purchases like fine art photography are suffering with stagnant or even falling real income, so art purchases are the first thing to go.

Second is something Brooks Jensen has written about several times in Lenswork. Digital tools are making repeatable production of a really excellent photographic print more accessible to an ever increasing number of people. We all know that making a really good inkjet print is not a trivial matter, but once you have the process nailed down, you can easily make another dozen identical prints with little additional effort. In the darkroom era the number of really skilled printers was limited by the sheer technical difficulty of the process, and the number of prints each could produce was limited by the time-consuming one-of-a-kind nature of a hand-made darkroom print. Both those constraints have been lifted by digital printing technology. Jensen described the coming tsunami of high-quality prints as something that will change photography and the fine-art market in ways that are impossible to predict, but a steady downward pressure on prices seems intuitively obvious.
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Rob C
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« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2007, 10:48:08 AM »
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Geoff

I think you are probably correct in your thinking, but I have a feeling that there is yet another factor at play here: boredom.

There are just so many sites where photography is being flogged off, both as cheapish wall-art and also under the guise of fine art. Frankly, if you take enough time to look at enough sites (I do) the sheer quantity of product - which is all it is - is mind-bending. So much material and at so wide a range of prices must make anyone doubt the honesty of the marketplace. It is all devalued, exactly as has been the case with photographic stock.

There is no way I can see this change for the better, from the photographer´s point of view, and if anything, I fear that art sales in the photographic sector will end up as not a lot more than individuals kite flying, hoping against hope that somebody might buy something and make the cost of playing photographer that little bit more bearable.

Fashion also plays a part in forming opinion - is it even fashionable any more to hang large B/W pics on your loft wall? Who knows - I don´t have a loft!

There is also the fact that painting might have suffered a little from photographic print competition, but in the end, paintings still seem to be more legitimate as decoration; perhaps painting appeals more to the individual whereas photography to the boardroom? Some painters I know are still doing okay - Brooks Jensen´s fears need not be confined to digital competition alone!

The very rich are not like the rest of us; that is obvious and if you have known any of them well, you soon understand the factors that make them as they inevitably have to be (or perhaps the reverse is the case: being as they are is what made them wealthy). If you can indulge yourself with 25m-and-above yachts, third/fourth homes, car collections etc. then why would you really think much about a few photographic prints which might not even have the provenance claimed for them? Not only do photographs not travel all that well into traditional home decor, they have to fight for space with much more expensive competition. So yes, maybe the photo market is a lower one than painting, the few notable exceptions in the entertainment industry notwithstanding.

I do wish it were otherwise!

Rob C
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Geoff Wittig
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« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2007, 01:30:19 PM »
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You do touch on a point I hadn't thought about much. There is a huge volume of "fine art" photography out there which is mediocre. I remain astonished by the proportion of photographs at art shows with blindingly obvious flaws, from poor focus to awful color balance to enlargement beyond what the file can stand. My personal gripe is the ubiquitous trend toward cartoonish color saturation.

Regardless of the improvements in the tools we use, the hand of the artist is still critical. So there's a lot of nominally competent work out there, but far fewer really beautiful and carefully judged prints that merit being considered art.
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Rob C
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« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2007, 02:29:24 PM »
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Geoff

I´d like to quote something from today´s Sunday Times, by Bryan Appleyard:

"Something happened in 2007, something ended. Old gods stumbled and fell. New ones sprang up. But they sprang up in their thousands. That´s the point these days. Technology, hype and the sheer profligacy of the arts when confronted with a large, hungry and wealthy audience have created a climate of excess - just too many artists, too much money, too many works and too much noise. Who knows who, now, is great? Even if greatness existed, how would we find it? Do we want greatness, or would we simply prefer choice?"

I read this after writing my previous post and it seemed to me to continue the thread of what we have been thinking about here.

Have a great New Year!

Rob C
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ternst
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« Reply #7 on: December 30, 2007, 06:38:47 PM »
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[quoteIf you are selling prints, esp. on the web, did you notice a decline in sales in 2007, and did you have to lower prices ?
[/quote]

I guess the winds were blowing a little different in my neck of the woods. I sold about 400 fine art prints over the web in 2006 and I am ahead of that so far this year (not done yet - sold six today while I was watching football on TV) - and I raised my prices, some by quite a bit, which sometimes will elevate your work into "art" instead of just plain old photos, and more folks are willing to spend money on it. The web does make it a lot easier to sell, especially for folks like me who live so far away from any real art market, and with web galleries folks are able to view thousands and thousands of images instead of just being able to select from a couple dozen hanging in a gallery.

One thing I have noticed this year - people are buying less photography as gifts and more for themselves. I judge that by how people by my picture books, which I sell in person at slide programs during the holiday selling season. In previous years I would be autographing numerous books for a single person standing in line to give as gifts, but this year while my picture book sales increased overall (sometimes selling more than 100 books at a single slide program), nearly everyone had books autographed to themselves instead of to other people - yet walked away with a stack of calendars to give out - obviously the economy at work.

I am in the process of adding even more expensive fine art prints to the menu (gallery-wrapped canvas prints), and making more bulk corporate sales, so am expecting my 33rd year in business to be the best ever. The web will continue to be a huge part of that success...

Tim Ernst in Arkansas
www.Cloudland.net
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Chris_T
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« Reply #8 on: December 31, 2007, 07:48:22 AM »
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Second is something Brooks Jensen has written about several times in Lenswork. Digital tools are making repeatable production of a really excellent photographic print more accessible to an ever increasing number of people. We all know that making a really good inkjet print is not a trivial matter, but once you have the process nailed down, you can easily make another dozen identical prints with little additional effort. In the darkroom era the number of really skilled printers was limited by the sheer technical difficulty of the process, and the number of prints each could produce was limited by the time-consuming one-of-a-kind nature of a hand-made darkroom print. Both those constraints have been lifted by digital printing technology. Jensen described the coming tsunami of high-quality prints as something that will change photography and the fine-art market in ways that are impossible to predict, but a steady downward pressure on prices seems intuitively obvious.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=164035\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I'm not aware of Jensen's writings. But when I started selling my digital prints a couple of years ago, I priced them much lower than I would for traditional prints for the reasons Jensen stated. Since the cost of reproducing digital prints is significantly lower, making them affordable to more people is another intent for my pricing. A few photog friends (who price their digital prints higher) are critical of my views.

For the same reasons Jensen stated, I also think that "limited editions" for digital prints is less meaningful.

This by no means suggest that I do not value my work. I value and protect my digital files a heck of lot more than the prints from them.

Having printed in a traditional darkroom is helpful in putting things into context.
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Chris_T
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« Reply #9 on: December 31, 2007, 08:06:43 AM »
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There is a huge volume of "fine art" photography out there which is mediocre. I remain astonished by the proportion of photographs at art shows with blindingly obvious flaws, from poor focus to awful color balance to enlargement beyond what the file can stand. My personal gripe is the ubiquitous trend toward cartoonish color saturation.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=164078\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I think that the relative ease and low cost of reproducing digital prints is one reason why the numbers of photographers at art shows, ect. has sky rocketed in recent years. That was what motivated me to start showing my work.

The range of quality in these shows is wide indeed. But as long as they are proclaimed "fine art", they will be accepted into shows, and will be purchased by some buyers.

One local art show specifically discourages photographers from participating because they have "too many already". But compared to the number of painters in the show, the number of photographers is only a very small fraction.
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Rob C
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« Reply #10 on: December 31, 2007, 12:17:20 PM »
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Chris

To differentiate your prices between wet prints and digital is to reduce your work to the level of art by the ounce.

It matters not a damn how the work is produced; all that matters is that somebody wants to buy it. When either print is under glass, there must be something a little off with the printing if there is a difference that can be seen, unless, of course,  you use funny surfaces for some godforsaken reason.

Do you really believe that something you have made in the wet has some greater moral legitimacy than something exactly the same made in the light? If anything, this would suggest to me that you have very little belief in the value of your work; should that be true, then don´t be surprised if others feel the same way.

Rob C
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Kirk Gittings
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« Reply #11 on: December 31, 2007, 02:21:58 PM »
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My sales were solid this year with a 25% price increase of pigment ink prints. This included a couple of group shows that sold 100%.
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Thanks,
Kirk

Kirk Gittings
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Nick Rains
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« Reply #12 on: December 31, 2007, 06:56:52 PM »
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Nick Rains
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ternst
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« Reply #13 on: December 31, 2007, 07:14:52 PM »
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Thanks for the notes Nick. I have hired a guy to build a new database photo web page and it is just about done - he has been working on it for a few months. Once that is complete everything will be much better and each photo will be just as you suggested. Actually about 95% of all the images sold on my site are from the picture books so it has been pretty easy for them to place orders (all they do is type in the book name and page#), but now we will have many thousands of images in searchable databases so everyone will be happy, especially our banker...
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Rob C
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« Reply #14 on: January 01, 2008, 01:51:45 PM »
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Just as a matter of interest (and not in any way connected with, nor intended as reference to sites on this forum), do any of you feel that a commercial website can be just too big, contain too many different products, or does the supermarket ethic rule on the web too?

Rob C
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TMcCulley
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« Reply #15 on: January 01, 2008, 11:51:35 PM »
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Just as a matter of interest (and not in any way connected with, nor intended as reference to sites on this forum), do any of you feel that a commercial website can be just too big, contain too many different products, or does the supermarket ethic rule on the web too?

Rob C
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=164412\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Rob C,

I think that the web is much more forgiving than the bricks and motar world.  A beautiful store in the wrong location will not get the traffic it needs to survive and when WalMart moves into a small/medium sized town the cost of doing business will kill off some of the local B&M stores.  The location problem does not arise on the web.  A high quality web buying experience will preclude some comparison and price shopping.  I think there is plenty of room for the boutique and the supermarket especially if boutique does not try to compete directly with supermarket on price.

Tom
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Nick Rains
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« Reply #16 on: January 02, 2008, 04:56:31 AM »
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Just as a matter of interest (and not in any way connected with, nor intended as reference to sites on this forum), do any of you feel that a commercial website can be just too big, contain too many different products, or does the supermarket ethic rule on the web too?

Rob C
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=164412\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
I believe that anything can have too many choices, to the point where the buyer will not end up making a choice due to worry that they may make a wrong decision. There has been some interesting research done in this field.

I am fairly convinced that, unless you can break down an image collection into manageable portions, it can be just too overwhelming if it consists of many hundreds of images.

Hard call though - excessive choice vs limited range.
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Nick Rains
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Rob C
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« Reply #17 on: January 02, 2008, 05:12:53 AM »
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Nick - thanks for your response - do you know of any links to the research you made reference to?

Rob C
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iancl
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« Reply #18 on: January 02, 2008, 05:23:57 AM »
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Rob, try The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz. There are others researching the field but his book has got all the recent press and it apparently quite readable (I've been too busy to do much more than peruse it).
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Chris_T
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« Reply #19 on: January 02, 2008, 07:36:46 AM »
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To differentiate your prices between wet prints and digital is to reduce your work to the level of art by the ounce.

It matters not a damn how the work is produced; all that matters is that somebody wants to buy it. When either print is under glass, there must be something a little off with the printing if there is a difference that can be seen, unless, of course,  you use funny surfaces for some godforsaken reason.
A buyer's purchase decision is primarily based on how he/she connects with an image. Everything else is secondary. Sellers do price their prints "by the ounce", traditional or digital. For the same image, 8"x10" and 30"x40" prints are priced differently. For the same size, framed and unframed prints are priced differently. A pragmatic seller has to take the labor and material cost into consideration when pricing a print. My pricing difference between a traditional print and a digital print is merely an extension of this.

While a buyer could care less about how a print is produced, many sellers take great length in touting the media used and its longevity. That's pure marketing.

Quote
Do you really believe that something you have made in the wet has some greater moral legitimacy than something exactly the same made in the light?
This is too deep and convoluted for me to comprehend and respond.
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