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Author Topic: Shipping prints, canvas etc  (Read 4027 times)
mballent
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« on: August 05, 2009, 04:26:07 PM »
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Not sure if this is the appropriate place to ask this so advanced apologies if it is.

I was just accepted into an art show and I am curious as to how to handle the shipping of prints.  I am thinking that I should provide the service so that winter visitors would not have to worry about carrying the prints on the plane etc.  So how is the best way to ship them, and which service do you usually use?  USPS, UPS, Fedex?  This is my first show so I have a bunch of questions. TIA

-Michael
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bill t.
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« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2009, 04:54:18 PM »
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The good old 3" cardboard tube from Uline is a fine solution.  Good because it is compact enough to fit in a suitcase so you don't have to ship it!  And there is a certain pleasure in being able to carry away a shiny newly purchased item, don't underestimate it.  Things like shipping talk are well known obstacles to successful point of sale transactions.

Also good because if you still have to ship, it's easy to handle and very low hassle.  US Postal Service Priority Mail will ship in anywhere in the US for about $5 in just a couple days.  Depending on weight first class mail might be a little cheaper.  Also UPS and Fedex Ground.  All those have online services where you can pay and print labels, beats the heck out of waiting in line somewhere.

For art papers 3" is minimum, don't be tempted to go smaller.  Yes, it will be rolled and have a curl, but the chances of it arriving in one piece are hugely better than any known flat shipping option for anywhere near the same money.

Edit...BTW someday I'll write a piece about how much more high dollar framed artwork I started selling when I completely stopped offering prints for sale at art fairs.  First time out with no prints available I grossed 2.5x the previous year.  Then maybe I'll write a piece about how counter-productive it is to hand out cards with your URL on them, say what?
« Last Edit: August 05, 2009, 05:01:31 PM by bill t. » Logged
Gary Brown
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« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2009, 05:57:12 PM »
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The “tutorials” section of this site has an essay on that general topic: Shipping Your Photographs
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Colorwave
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« Reply #3 on: August 05, 2009, 06:25:22 PM »
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Quote from: bill t.
BTW someday I'll write a piece about how much more high dollar framed artwork I started selling when I completely stopped offering prints for sale at art fairs.

Then maybe I'll write a piece about how counter-productive it is to hand out cards with your URL on them, say what?

Toying with us, Bill!  Inquiring minds need to be fed.
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Colorwave
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« Reply #4 on: August 05, 2009, 07:23:18 PM »
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D-double p-post
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bill t.
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« Reply #5 on: August 05, 2009, 11:18:17 PM »
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To keep it short, if you offer both a framed version of an image and a print, people who might otherwise buy the high profit margin framed version will often opt for the print just to relieve the impulse to spend with the least damage.  It's simply a matter that low priced prints undercut high priced framed pieces.  But if a nice high profit margin framed piece is the only option, it will remain the sole focus of the buying decision and is more likely to sell and you will make more money than from a piddly print sale.  I had long theorized this, and am happy to report it seems to be true.  Other fair-going veterans concur.  And visibly offering prints devalues your framed pieces, and offering lots of prints turns off serious collectors.

Another problem with prints is that you wind up spending too much time writing them up, while potential high dollar customers go un-schmoozed.

As to the URL cards, those are nothing more than written excuses generated by you to NOT buy right then.  "Wow, I just ADORE this piece, but oh, I see you have a web site gosh I'd like to check your other stuff.  I will DEFINITELY be in touch!"  Yeah right.

Or even worse, somebody is reaching for the credit card when one of their so-called friends spots your URL card and lays down the same line.  Press the NO SALE key, and don't expect to hear from them again.  The friends of your potential customer are your enemies.  Friends-in-tow at art fairs think it's their duty to prevent their pals from buying anything at all, that's a fact.  If you smell an impending body block from a friend, your one hope is engage the friend in some small talk, sometimes it can slow down their reactions just long enough.

But basically, your website can undercut your right-now sales at a fair, much like prints undercut framed sales.  Save the website for non art fair days

However you do want to have some of those contact cards.  But the only guys who get them are credible possible customers, and only as they are starting to leave your booth without buying anything.

The return on mass giveouts and mailings of cards is pretty close to zero, hugely less than from on-site, face-to-face sales.

TIP: if you decide to leave a pile of those cards up for grabs, you can save some money checking the trash can just outside the entrance at the end of the day, that's where most of them will wind up.

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mikev1
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« Reply #6 on: August 05, 2009, 11:28:11 PM »
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Depending on what you are printing on you might want to give consideration to the 5" tubes from uline as well.  Some fine art papers such as most Photo Rags retain a lot of curl so the less curl you give them at the start the better.  That being said I've successfully decurled some super tight rolled prints.

Prints on standard papers like luster or glossy I ship in 3" tubes and the fine art papers I use 5" tubes.  The 5" tubes are more expensive but worth it in my opinion for no other reason than to prevent the holy sh*t reaction some customers have when they pull their print out and it rolls right back up into a tight curl.  The less a customer or framer needs to play with the print the less chance of damage.

Mike
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mikev1
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« Reply #7 on: August 05, 2009, 11:33:06 PM »
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Quote from: bill t.
Or even worse, somebody is reaching for the credit card when one of their so-called friends spots your URL card and lays down the same line.  Press the NO SALE key, and don't expect to hear from them again.  The friends of your potential customer are your enemies.  Friends-in-tow at art fairs think it's their duty to prevent their pals from buying anything at all, that's a fact.  If you smell an impending body block from a friend, your one hope is engage the friend in some small talk, sometimes it can slow down their reactions just long enough.


Bill your posts always are great and a joy to read.  

You might want to employ a wing-man, an attractive male or female to take the "ugly friend" out of the game, you know the one that always make sure that all her friends go home alone.  Oh wait what am I talking about here?
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mballent
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« Reply #8 on: August 10, 2009, 12:20:47 PM »
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Quote from: bill t.
To keep it short, if you offer both a framed version of an image and a print, people who might otherwise buy the high profit margin framed version will often opt for the print just to relieve the impulse to spend with the least damage.  It's simply a matter that low priced prints undercut high priced framed pieces.  But if a nice high profit margin framed piece is the only option, it will remain the sole focus of the buying decision and is more likely to sell and you will make more money than from a piddly print sale.  I had long theorized this, and am happy to report it seems to be true.  Other fair-going veterans concur.  And visibly offering prints devalues your framed pieces, and offering lots of prints turns off serious collectors.

Another problem with prints is that you wind up spending too much time writing them up, while potential high dollar customers go un-schmoozed.

As to the URL cards, those are nothing more than written excuses generated by you to NOT buy right then.  "Wow, I just ADORE this piece, but oh, I see you have a web site gosh I'd like to check your other stuff.  I will DEFINITELY be in touch!"  Yeah right.

Or even worse, somebody is reaching for the credit card when one of their so-called friends spots your URL card and lays down the same line.  Press the NO SALE key, and don't expect to hear from them again.  The friends of your potential customer are your enemies.  Friends-in-tow at art fairs think it's their duty to prevent their pals from buying anything at all, that's a fact.  If you smell an impending body block from a friend, your one hope is engage the friend in some small talk, sometimes it can slow down their reactions just long enough.

But basically, your website can undercut your right-now sales at a fair, much like prints undercut framed sales.  Save the website for non art fair days

However you do want to have some of those contact cards.  But the only guys who get them are credible possible customers, and only as they are starting to leave your booth without buying anything.

The return on mass giveouts and mailings of cards is pretty close to zero, hugely less than from on-site, face-to-face sales.

TIP: if you decide to leave a pile of those cards up for grabs, you can save some money checking the trash can just outside the entrance at the end of the day, that's where most of them will wind up.

Wow Bill you have really given me some food for thought... I was about to go the route of prints and large canvas, but now I am re-thinking things.  I would like to know what you would think of a the following scenario.  A completely different set of images offed for canvases/framed photos than the prints... Do you think that would affect sales the same way?

-Michael
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bill t.
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« Reply #9 on: August 10, 2009, 06:43:36 PM »
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Well there may be combinations of prints versus framed or stretched art that would work, but all I know is that I never found one.  And besides spoiling sales, print racks attract gaggles of non-buying persons with strong rummaging instincts who block the views for the carriage trade.  Yes it is true that small crowds of people do tend to attract larger crowds of people, but not necessarily people in a mood to spend.

What was apparent at my last fair in June is that sales of low end impulse items, like ceramic coffee mugs and cheap prints-in-a-bag and such, was much lower than in previous years.  But higher end stuff did as well or better.  You'd think it would be the reverse, but apparently the average guy is tightening his belt while those who always had money still have at least some and are primping their houses and offices.

So my gut feeling is to discourage you from offering the prints.  Maybe you could hold some prints in reserve for the last day of the fair.  On a typical weekend fair the high rollers show up on the first evening through mid Saturday, but by the time Sunday rolls around you're getting mostly just plain folks.  Or maybe only offer a print if someone asks.  Or if your fair organizers are slackers you may get away with putting the print rack somewhat out of your designated floor marks to keep the booth clear.
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soboyle
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« Reply #10 on: August 10, 2009, 07:26:10 PM »
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Bill, thank you for your helpful comments and sharing your experience. For somene who is considering the art/craft fairs as an option for selling work, can you give some idea what sale are like, and what your pricing is like. are you selling 20 franmed 8x10's, and 10 framed 16x20's a day? I realize that this number is going to vary radically depending on the fair, weather, location of booth. type of photography, etc, but wondering what I can realistically expect from these events. My wife does the craft fair circuit with jewelry and other low cost items, but there doesn't seem to be a market for my work at these events, perhaps some of the art fairs will work.
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bill t.
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« Reply #11 on: August 11, 2009, 02:36:10 AM »
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At the most recent 3 day fair I sold 18 framed pieces ranging from a few 15 x 42's through mostly around 21 x 55 up through five 30 x 72's.  No small pieces at all.  And no prints.  All were framed, coated canvases mounted on Gatorfoam without glass or plex.  Prices from $350 for the 15 x 42's through $900 for the 30 x 72's.  Plus I took orders for six mural size pieces from two different decoraters, and a few custom orders from individuals.  Total take attributable to the fair was close to $20K.  Which is the best I have ever done at a fair.  Plus I got a contact with the director of the local art museum, plus I got a personal invite to a hard-to-crack art show, plus I got a good hotel buyer contact which is my bread & butter business.  You can accumulate a lot of important contacts at fair, some vendors claim to go for no other reason.  Plus I had a great time chatting with the guys in the booth across the aisle.  There were nine other photographers at the same fair selling 8 x 10 through 20 x 24 pretty pictures mostly in aluminum suicide frames, they did not do well at all.

My framing and fabrication are all carefully cost engineered.  That includes buying a season's worth of materials all at once.  1900 feet of moulding (about 100-120 largish frames), all in a single shipment from a not-too-distant supplier, and a couple boxes of Gator, glue and coating by the 4 gallon box, etc.  Cost savings were huge on the moulding and pretty good on the other stuff.  Never buy moulding by the stick or length or the chop, stick to boxes.  I have efficient but not super framing equipment and can produce around 5 large pieces a day when I feel so inclined.  That capacity gives me a big advantage over most other art fair mavens.  Wish I could also get big discounts on canvas & ink, but frankly moulding is the heavyweight on the spreadsheet, way ahead of media.  Total cost to produce finished pieces is always less than 1/6 selling price, that's the pricing rule.  Only one type of moulding, and that was selected partly for looks and partly for the fact that it tends to be very easy to work with...no Mouldings-From-Hell here, thank you, and believe me there are such mouldings and you do not want to deal with a couple hundred intractable sticks of them.  This season's moulding was also selected to have a gold lip, which eliminates the aesthetic need for a liner which right there saves a bundle of money & work.

BTW forget the merely pretty pictures of faraway places.  What you want is photos that glorify landscapes, architecture and places familiar to your potential buyers.  Shot at magic hour, with great clouds, beautiful light etc.  Nothing sells better and people who never bought a piece of art in their lives will buy that sort of stuff.  Especially if it's presented in clearly classic framing.  Especially if it's BIG and of Perceived High Value.   PHV is what it all comes down to, and framed canvas just oozes PHV.  A customer's city skyline or his area's dominant landmark features presented in large scale classic glory will outsell Aluminum Antelope Canyon 10:1, no matter how many shafts of dusty light there are.  And while this all seems a little flippant and money-grubbing, you can have a fine time making some really great photos that satisfy all the requirements and fairs can be fun and if not you at least get a lot of exercise.
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Colorwave
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« Reply #12 on: August 11, 2009, 10:54:20 AM »
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Thanks for sharing the nitty gritty, Bill.  I'd be really curious to see what the specific molding you use looks like.  It sounds like it is probably on the simple side of a traditional look.  You must have found the sweet spot that appeals to a wide audience if one style works for all of your work and customers.  Great landscapes on your website, BTW.  Congratulations of doing as well as you have in challenging times.  Much, much more than good luck involved.
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bill t.
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« Reply #13 on: August 11, 2009, 12:22:56 PM »
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The moulding I use is from an importer who only sells to distributors.  But based on some chit-chat at a framing trade show he agreed to sell to me based on a ten box minimum and a few other terms.  Times are tough.  Frankly this source is my best kept secret.

But it's no secret that antique gold, wood veneer, black-with-gold-lips, and tastefully distressed weathered-wood mouldings do well in the ol' Southwest.  It may be different in Maine.  Most framers will tell you that gold is Framing Death and sooo 1980's but frankly that's not true for landscapes.  I cruise the very small number of truly successful galleries in my city taking careful notes of what frames are used and what's on the wall and how long it stays there.  Also I cruise Canyon Road in Santa Fe, which can be done via Google.  I look more at the paintings that the photographs.  Then I make something like those things.  So I sort of emulate the local Platonic model of what framed art should be, the model that forms the mental image of what well-to-do folks find buyable.  You can also look at the framing styles used by Peter Lik and (choke) Thomas Kinkade and the like, which would probably fly better in California and the East Coast respectively.  I am convinced that within such mental modeling systems Aluminum frames are filed in the Cheap Box.

OTOH there is a fabulous show in my city by a Zone System Master of stark landscapes framed just as starkly in Nielsen glossy black Aluminum, and apart from great imagery the overall installation is hugely impressive for being visually cohesive via the framing.  So there are other paths to follow.  You need to find a path that works for your stuff, and you need to stick with it so as to develop a recognizable style.  In the world of art fairs warm, cozy, living-room-seal-of-approval frames will outsell Nielsens any day.  And you can earn more at an art fair than in all but the very, very best galleries (as judged by location and foot traffic).
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Murph
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« Reply #14 on: August 17, 2009, 09:47:20 PM »
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Wow, great advice here.
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Paul Sumi
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« Reply #15 on: August 24, 2009, 11:05:04 AM »
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I've got a question on shipping multiple prints.  I use mailing tubes to ship single prints, but does anyone have any suggestions on how to ship 6-8 prints (sheets, not matted) on 13" x 19" paper?

Any advie greatly appreciated.

Paul
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mikev1
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« Reply #16 on: August 24, 2009, 02:44:06 PM »
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Quote from: PaulS
I've got a question on shipping multiple prints.  I use mailing tubes to ship single prints, but does anyone have any suggestions on how to ship 6-8 prints (sheets, not matted) on 13" x 19" paper?

Any advie greatly appreciated.

Paul

You can still use mailing tubes.  I use 5 inch tubes when shipping multiple prints.  Put a sheet of glassine in between each print to prevent damage from scuffing etc.  As a starting point roll your first print around a 3 inch tube and just keep rolling the next over top of it and pull the 3 inch tube out when finished.  I do this all the time and have never had a complaint.  You can even fit them in the 3 inch tube if you want as well.  When finished I take a scrap of paper from trimming and use them to make bands to wrap around the roll of prints.

Mike
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Paul Sumi
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« Reply #17 on: August 24, 2009, 03:41:51 PM »
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Quote from: mikev1
You can still use mailing tubes.  I use 5 inch tubes when shipping multiple prints.  Put a sheet of glassine in between each print to prevent damage from scuffing etc.

Hi Mike,

Thanks for your reply.  I was wondering, how many prints have you put in a mailing tube?

What papers do you print?  Also, do you have any experience shipping in tubes Epson Exhibition Fiber or any of the Baryta papers (like Harman Glossy FBAI)?  The Harman's surface particularly is prone to chipping or scratching and I think this would be exacerbated by rolling.

Thanks,

Paul
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mikev1
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« Reply #18 on: August 24, 2009, 07:18:25 PM »
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Quote from: PaulS
Hi Mike,

Thanks for your reply.  I was wondering, how many prints have you put in a mailing tube?

What papers do you print?  Also, do you have any experience shipping in tubes Epson Exhibition Fiber or any of the Baryta papers (like Harman Glossy FBAI)?  The Harman's surface particularly is prone to chipping or scratching and I think this would be exacerbated by rolling.

Thanks,

Paul


With a 5 inch tube you can fit a lot of prints.  I have shipped around 15 or so and had tons of space.  This is usually the Epson Luster however or Hahnemuhle Photo Rag.  I have shipped the Exhibition Fiber and Photo Rag Baryta without incident, though I would definitely use 5 inch tubes for this and I would not roll more than 4 or 5 for the Exhibition Fiber.  This is the one paper that I always cringe when rolling it.  I have talked to a few customers after they received their prints and they all said that the prints just needed time to go flat again but were otherwise perfect.

Mike
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