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Author Topic: Print pricing when entering the market?  (Read 24164 times)
gryffyn
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« on: January 19, 2006, 01:23:35 PM »
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This topic didn't seem to belong anywhere else (like Equipment/Techniques) so I've posted it here.

I'm wrestling with how to determine pricing of my fine art prints.  

Any advice or personal experience you can share on how to set your print prices when you first start out?

Thanks!
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #1 on: January 19, 2006, 05:45:01 PM »
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This topic didn't seem to belong anywhere else (like Equipment/Techniques) so I've posted it here.

I'm wrestling with how to determine pricing of my fine art prints. 

Any advice or personal experience you can share on how to set your print prices when you first start out?

Thanks!
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I would start by reading Alain Briot's essay on selling photographs that appeared on the LL website quite a while ago. Here is the link: [a href=\"http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/selling.shtml]http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/selling.shtml[/url]
He includes a thoughtful section on the issue of pricing.

Eric
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gryffyn
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« Reply #2 on: January 19, 2006, 09:26:13 PM »
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I would start by reading Alain Briot's essay on selling photographs that appeared on the LL website quite a while ago.

Thanks....will do!
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Sfleming
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« Reply #3 on: January 19, 2006, 10:12:04 PM »
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Well, first of all don't look at the prices established artists are getting.

Figure your costs.  Costs of film and processing.  Price of print. Price of mat, frame and framing.  Pay yourself about what it would cost to have your print done in a lab if you have your own printer.  Pay yourself a decent labor fee for framing.  Then put a number on whatever size print you are marketing that you can live with.  Keep it low.  If you are wholesaling to a dealer or retailer it will have to be as low as you can stand.

If you develop a market you can think about raising your prices and finding higher bracket markets as you become known and established.
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61Dynamic
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« Reply #4 on: January 19, 2006, 10:33:54 PM »
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<DrEvil>
One Million Dollars!
</DrEvil>

Keep in mind to not price yourself too low. If your prices are too low, you will attract charlatans and tire-kickers. Basically, people who don't really value your work. Crooks are attracted to low prices too who might think it a good idea to spend a couple bucks on a good photography print and scan/reproduce it elsewhere.
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genesplitter
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« Reply #5 on: January 20, 2006, 05:28:50 PM »
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Brooks Jenson (the Editor of Lenswork Magazine) wrote a very nice essay about pricing. "Fine Art Photography at Real People Prices.

He says that normal people do not spend $500 on photographic prints, but he wanted normal people to enjoy his art without price being the barrier. He says that normal people will buy a nice dinner for $20 or $30 or a bottle of wine for $20. He thinks normal people get similar pleasure from his prints as a nice bottle of wine. He sells all his prints for $20 (the cost of a nice wine). Now price is no longer a barrier for regular people to enjoy his art.

In his article he has now sold over 1000 prints and he feels that if he used "typical" pricing (a couple hundred dollars per print) he might have instead sold 2 prints. He is happier that 998 normal people enjoy the fruit of his labor instead of 2 rich people.

I really liked his articles and his philosophy. Why not give his articles a read - http://www.brooksjensenarts.com/pigmentonpaper.htm#commerce.

PS - The current issue of LensWork has an article about an unknown artist selling a very large print of an out of focus leaf for several hundred dollars. It's a great article too.
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alainbriot
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« Reply #6 on: January 20, 2006, 06:04:44 PM »
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There are two things that you need to consider when deciding on a pricing structure for your work.  The first one is who your audience is, and the second one is how many pieces can you realistically produce while keeping the quality of your work at the level at which you want it to be.  

From there things flow naturally.  For example, there is no need to price "adequately" (meaning high) work that you can easily produce in large quantities.  

Similarly, there is no need to price affordably work that you can only produce in limited quantity due to the time, materials and effort involved.

And of course, you have to present your work to the right audience.  In the two instances above this is either an audience looking for affordable work or an audience looking for exclusive work.

I personally follow both approaches, thereby reaching a significantly large audience.  With some of my work, I can successfully decrease the time it takes me to produce it, as Brooks Jensen recommends, by using time-saving techniques.  However, with some of my work -such as large and/or hand-assembled pieces, portfolios, etc- there is no way to reduce the time it takes to produce the work without negatively affecting the quality.

Time has passed since I originally wrote my essay on selling and my approach has been refined considerably since then.  The above touches on some of my recent thinking on the subject.  There is, of course, a lot more to it than that.

Regards,

Alain
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Alain Briot
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gryffyn
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« Reply #7 on: January 20, 2006, 07:10:38 PM »
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Brooks Jenson (the Editor of Lenswork Magazine) wrote a very nice essay about pricing. "Fine Art Photography at Real People Prices.

I've printed all of Brooks' articles and will read them later this evening.  Looks like wonderful stuff.

Thanks for the links!
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gryffyn
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« Reply #8 on: January 20, 2006, 07:13:44 PM »
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For example, there is no need to price "adequately" (meaning high) work that you can easily produce in large quantities. 

Similarly, there is no need to price affordably work that you can only produce in limited quantity due to the time, materials and effort involved.

I think your comments show some sublime wisdom on the topic of pricing.  Especially now that anyone can afford the technology to produce archival quality prints.

After glancing through Brooks' comments and your addendum to your excellent pricing article, I am rethinking some of my preconceptions about pricing of my prints.

I'm definitely leaning towards making the prints more affordable and accessible, for the easily produced stuff.

Thanks for the thoughtful reply, Alain!
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alainbriot
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« Reply #9 on: January 20, 2006, 07:30:14 PM »
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"Thanks for the thoughtful reply, Alain!"
 
You are welcome.  My "Selling" essay is a good starting point but the reality of the market is more complex.  My upcoming "Being an artist in business essay" will touch on some of that since it is part of my story as an artist in business.  Studying Marketing is also an absolute necessity to avoid making common errors.

"...now that anyone can afford the technology to produce archival quality prints."

Yes, archivability is no longer a major selling point.  I no longer mention archivability verbally to clients unless I am asked.

Regards,

Alain
« Last Edit: January 20, 2006, 07:33:10 PM by alainbriot » Logged

Alain Briot
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gryffyn
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« Reply #10 on: January 21, 2006, 10:48:47 AM »
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Brooks Jenson (the Editor of Lenswork Magazine) wrote a very nice essay about pricing. "Fine Art Photography at Real People Prices.

I just ordered a subscription to Lenswork and some of Brooks' books.  Looking forward to getting the stuff.

Thanks for the tip!
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Mike_Kelly
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« Reply #11 on: January 23, 2006, 06:02:07 PM »
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I too have wrestled with this problem. I have mentors that recommend my work should sell in the $250 range now in order to be accepted by the Gallery represented club.  I don't want to be associated with the"state fair" club, as they call it, but I agree with Brooks thoughts on some of his essays. On the other hand it is hard to get your work in front of the people without a Gallery representing you and they need high margins to stay in business. I think Alan has touched on some of the points that Brooks doesn't seem to touch. First I would like to know if he is still happy with his $20 price with a thousand orders.  I can't believe he can even pay himself minimum wage and produce a packaged print ready to ship, although they are only 8x10 prints.

I watched the local art buyers at photographic shows and see that locally $100 is a price barrier. Under $100 and most buyers will not hesitate if they want the print. Over $100 and they think about it carefully. I also don't need to make a living off my prints and want to share my work. But just putting on a solo show can cost $2500 in frames and supporting costs not even counting equipment. If I add those to production and marketing costs, without the cameras and computers tossed in, I would have to sell prints for  a minimum of $75 to break even assuming a show attended by 200 people yields 10-15% of the folks buying a print.

I also agree with Brooks that maybe if the pricing was less elitist more Americans would buy photography as art and fund more support in the schools. However, I think you do risk a loss of the perception of value. Lets face it lots of things have little intrinsic value that are sold in our society. Diamonds are a good example. They are just rocks. Not particularly rare either but their marketing is carefully managment to give soceity the impression that they have value. People seem to enjoy this game. That's fine. Hence do we risk losing a sense of value if we price our prints too low?

Brooks logic is seriously flawed when he compares his prints to a bottle of wine or a cd. First the bottle of wine is a one time use and it was sold in many thousands of copies.  The CD is reusable but it is also so sold in the 100,000 of copies. So we should be look at the pricing as if we were selling a single copy only. Like an oil painting. If we were selling just one copy what would be a reasonable price. Then take that number and divide by the number of copies we might acutally sell and add fixed overhead. Originally I thought well if I sold a print and burned the negs for that person, as a total novice I would hope for $500 for the print. If I really thought I might be able sell 10 prints, in my exercise, I would then say that maybe I sould sell each print for $50 plus expenses. This is equivalent to other local new artists with original one time works of art like oil paintings.

One thing I have found that I will pass on. People are people. Normal marketing techniques do apply.  I have made my prices lower during the opening of the show during the reception hours only. Then the price goes up the very next day and I stick to that. Art buyers are very much impluse buyers and if you don't get them to commit when they are all exicted they often change their minds. So giving them a reception only price gets them to commit that night.

It is a very tough problem.
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alainbriot
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« Reply #12 on: January 23, 2006, 08:54:14 PM »
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Yes, it is a tough problem and you do need to consider who is saying what. In my case, I make the majority of my income from the sale of fine art prints.  In fact, now that Natalie (my wife) works with me full time, we have "split" our business in two parts and Natalie takes care of the majority of the shows as well as of the preparation that goes with them, while I do the photography and the printing plus my writing and my workshops.  I'll be detailing all this in my upcoming essay "Being an artist in business" but I thought I'd touch upon it here because it is relevant.

I would be interested in knowing what percentage of their income lenswork is making from the sale of fine art prints? The article in Lenswork mentions that 1000 prints at $20 each where sold so far. This is $20,000. Now that may or may not be a lot depending on where you are at.  For me, it can be the income from a single show, a relatively low percentage overall.

Another question is who is your audience?  At shows our audience are fine art collectors who have no problem whatsoever spending $300 or more for a print.  On the web, it is a different matter.  As a matter of fact, we now have two entirely different collections, one that we sell on the web and one that we sell exclusively at shows.  I have my entire price list on my website, because sales do happen for all sizes occasionally on the web, but the reality is that my best selling item on the web is the Print of the Month.  

At shows, we don't feature the print of the month at all. We also have a different collection which is only sold and featured at shows.  I don't have photographs of this collection on my website because it has to be seen in person to be truly appreciated as an item one wants to purchase.  I also do not advertise shows on my site, because there is such a difference in buyer's habits.  Show collectors rarely surf the web, while web surfers rarely buy at art shows.  We do however invite previous print customers to shows personally, usually by email to our "show buyers" email list.  

I am preparing a new photography marketing course which will feature what I just touched upon and much more, so these thoughts are on my mind right now.

Best regards,

Alain
« Last Edit: January 23, 2006, 09:05:59 PM by alainbriot » Logged

Alain Briot
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Micheal_Kelly
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« Reply #13 on: January 24, 2006, 01:31:46 AM »
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Alan,

Thanks very much for your thoughts. I think your point of "audience" is very important. I was illustrating that with my comments about my local audience even though I had not taken that any further. It is also valuable to consider your comments on multiple audiences. Brooks has tapped into a web based audience and as you point out these folks are liable to be very different from your higher end collector show audience and my local arts and humanties council audience. The costs are very different as you point out and Brooks could not extend his scheme to a show based market without radically changing his prices to accomodate the high cost of overhead that he doesn't have on the web.

I realize I need to factor in growth into my own pricing ideas. What is required for my current audience might not fit later if I am lucky enough to gain a new and different audience. So maybe constantly changing to fit the situation is required.

My mentor, who I greatly respect, is essentially telling me if I want to get a reputation as a "fine art photographer" I have to join the Gallery club. This means raising my prices, smoozing with gallery owners and being at all the art happenings photo and otherwise. None of which I am very good at. I am normally a pretty solitary person. Otherwise I will be relegated to the "State Fair" crowd. He even implies that selling too low would degrade the established prices that the "club members" have managed to attain. I think you are above even his club but does this ring any bells with you Alan? Brook's proposal would have the "clubs" efforts total torn down.

I think your comments allow us to realize the big gap between a "successful" artist and  the shades of gray down to beginners like myself and others. I think this is part of what Brooks was trying to say about the "out of focus leaf". Most photographers are not at a point where they can sell prints for $3700, even if they are in focus:)

Cheers
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alainbriot
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« Reply #14 on: January 24, 2006, 03:12:19 AM »
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"does this ring any bells with you Alan?"

I am not sure at all what the "Gallery club" is although I have been at this for 10 years, in terms of making a living solely from photography.  My approach is to sell my work myself.  I have my work in only one gallery right now, and essentially because the owner is a friend (he is an oil painter) and he asked me to bring some of my work.

I have, over time, developed a marketing approach based on my experience that I teach in my workshops and Tutorial CD's.

My recommendation, since you ask for my opinion, is to study and apply my system.  It works very well for me.  I used to depend 100% on a single location to sell my work -namely the El Tovar Hotel at Grand Canyon National Park, which is run by the Xanterra Corporation- and when the show ended, due to changes in the National Park policy regarding sub-contractors to Xanterra, I had to completely change my business model.  

My goal then was to avoid having to rely on a single outlet for my work.  It took me a couple of years to implement a new business model and find new locations. The fact that Natalie and I work on this together made this quicker because it requires a lot of work. In my experience, a lot of artists look for a simple, easy solution to selling their work. While this can certainly be found, it does not lead to sustained substantial sales.  A high level of involment is necessary to guarantee sustained substantial sales.  In the end it all depends what your goals are.

Regards,

Alain
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Alain Briot
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Mike_Kelly
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« Reply #15 on: January 24, 2006, 11:25:00 AM »
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Thanks Alan,

In my area there are limited options for getting work to the public. Beginners like me usually apply for a solo one month solo show with a local arts and humanities gallery.  But you only get your work presented to the public for one month. The next step is to go the route of state fairs and public market booths or stepping up and through the Arts & Humanties/Statewide competitions get enough visibility to be represented by one or more private galleries.  The rub is that the work must sell for $250-$500 a piece minimum before the gallery will accept you. I call the gallery represented photographers the "gallery club". You must cultivate a sense of value for your work. A lot fewer people can afford to buy work at the $500 level than the $100 or less level as Brooks Jensen points out in his essays.

I'll review your material.   Thanks again for your thoughts.
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larkvi
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« Reply #16 on: January 24, 2006, 11:30:19 AM »
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The two types of market Mike refers to do not seem entirely exclusive, which is to say, he is comparing unmatted 8x10 prints to gallery prints. The latter generally seem to be larger, and should be priced higher. My mis-spent undergrad years in economics say that to derive maximum value from your prints, larger prints should be priced significantly higher for the more committed buyer who will demand the commensurate increase in quality.

It should be considered as well that the $20 prints are just print and backing board, whereas gallery prints are presumably double-matted and framed, which adds a large amount to the price, not only for materials, but simply because the buyer does not wish to do it himself.

Caveatis, I have never actually sold any of my prints, happy enough to give them away (i.e. force them upon) friends and family, so this is based upon family experiences of buying prints; I of course defer to the more practical experience of Alain and others who actually make a living off of this.
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Rob C
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« Reply #17 on: July 11, 2007, 12:49:29 PM »
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Alll that I can contribute to this is that if you start low, you will find it damn difficult to go higher.

Simply look at the records of the big photographers of today, not to mention yesterday, and you will probably find that very few of them were stupid, that fewer still gave their time away and that the majority had the aid of very good agents.

I see no reason to think that art photography is lightyears away from general commercial or advertising work; it sells or does not sell depending on the marketplace. If you live in a town with no advertising agencies you wonīt find much advertising to shoot and if you are surrounded by cheapskates then forget it and take up fishing.

Art purchasing was never the preserve of Mr Everyman. History shows that only the established purses such as the church or milord were ever going to be interested in, or capable of, spending the money it took and still takes to produce something worthwhile. You can see all this for yourselves by surfing the web - there is crap at toilet paper prices and good stuff at eye-watering level. You takes your pick, as the miner said.

There is a big disadvantage to being a photographer AND a buyer of pictures: you canīt forget the cost of materials and that can colour your opinion of somebodyīs work, making it seem either too cheap or too expensive. The buying public probably does not share this knowledge and so is ruled by its taste buds and its pocket. You could say thatīs a shaky example of less sometimes being more. Or perhaps not - the choice remains yours, as with your definition of value.

Of one thing you can be sure: if you aim high you might reach half-way at worst; if you aim low thatīs where you will go.

Ciao - Rob C
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #18 on: July 11, 2007, 06:51:07 PM »
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Alll that I can contribute to this is that if you start low, you will find it damn difficult to go higher.

Simply look at the records of the big photographers of today, not to mention yesterday, and you will probably find that very few of them were stupid, that fewer still gave their time away and that the majority had the aid of very good agents.

I see no reason to think that art photography is lightyears away from general commercial or advertising work; it sells or does not sell depending on the marketplace. If you live in a town with no advertising agencies you wonīt find much advertising to shoot and if you are surrounded by cheapskates then forget it and take up fishing.

Art purchasing was never the preserve of Mr Everyman. History shows that only the established purses such as the church or milord were ever going to be interested in, or capable of, spending the money it took and still takes to produce something worthwhile. You can see all this for yourselves by surfing the web - there is crap at toilet paper prices and good stuff at eye-watering level. You takes your pick, as the miner said.

There is a big disadvantage to being a photographer AND a buyer of pictures: you canīt forget the cost of materials and that can colour your opinion of somebodyīs work, making it seem either too cheap or too expensive. The buying public probably does not share this knowledge and so is ruled by its taste buds and its pocket. You could say thatīs a shaky example of less sometimes being more. Or perhaps not - the choice remains yours, as with your definition of value.

Of one thing you can be sure: if you aim high you might reach half-way at worst; if you aim low thatīs where you will go.

Ciao - Rob C
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=127630\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
Probably mostly true. However, I would like to point out that back in the mid-1960s one could buy mounted, numbered, signed Ansel Adams prints of Yosemite at Best's Studio in Yosemite Valley for $6.00 each.    I bought some then, and some a couple of years later at $7.50 each, and finally at about $15.00. I stopped buying them then since they were getting too expensive.  
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Rob C
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« Reply #19 on: July 12, 2007, 01:23:28 PM »
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Yes, Eric, he did manage a remarkable change in prices, but I doubt many of us want to be dead before we start to make printing profitable - what, in hell, would we spend the filthy lucre on?

But then again, maybe those fifty virgins might be hiding just behind that sulphur mound...

Ciao - Rob C
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