Most people have no idea where to start when it comes to selling their photography as art. In fact it’s not easy to sell photography to be honest. In the gallery I work in we have only four photographers work of which one sells really well while the others do moderately well. This is no reflection on their work as it’s all amazing, it’s just that the general public do not seem to hold photographic work in as high regard yet as they do other artworks like paintings or sculpture. To sell your photographic artwork you need to really stand out from the crowd. Its all and good taking a really good photo of the Fairfield bridge for instance, but someone standing next to you on the same day could take almost exactly the same shot and I think that’s how the buying public view it, it’s a case of “I could do that myself,” and often they really could if they have the right equipment, the eye for it and the know how on how to take a great photo.
When it comes to artistic photography though, that’s another whole ball game. The photographer knows their craft well; they are able to manipulate the image either by their skills, their understanding of light, their equipment and maybe usage of programs like Photo-shop on their computer that will have special filters and effects to enhance the finished product.
So if you think you fall into that genre and are ready to sell your work, what do you do now? Most people think of selling their photography as fine art prints but struggle with things like pricing, whether to sign them or not, if framing is necessary, and where they should try to exhibit them.
When it comes to pricing fine art it is hard work, but there are better ways than to simply guesstimate. First up don’t always assume that lower prices bring in the sales; as over time, you get a name and reputation, which allows you to command higher prices. That's not always how it works however, there are other factors involved and Ill try to cover them all off in this posting.
Consider for instance the relationship between price and volume. A simple example of selling 10 prints for $10 each gives you $100, but a sale of one print for $295 gets you more than twice as much. The real question is whether it's easier to make ten sales at a lower price, than one sale at a higher price. That's why you need to get a little more analytical on this and leave out the guessing. There are many factors that affect sales volumes and perception of value, so where do we start?
Next you need to consider finding sales venues
Check out places like commercial art galleries, public spaces, art fairs and festivals, cafés, and other similar places. Not all these venues will necessarily make you sales right away, but the important thing is, they get your name and your photography out there and that can lead to buyers and sales further down the track. I thought I should point this out as often artist (Not just photographers!) will put their work in a place and come away bitterly disappointed if they don’t sell something in the first few days, some may take weeks, even months before their work is appreciated by the buying public. I have seen people dither for 6 months on whether or not to buy a painting they admire. Have a chat to other photographers and check out message-boards at Art centres or galleries. There are websites like www.hcac.org.nz for the Hamilton area or www.artlist.co.nz where you can find out when art or photography events, or try Check out http://www.photography.org.nz/index.htm for a list of photography clubs around New Zealand they will be able to point you in the right direction for local or national events that may be a good start for you.
The easiest way to start is by entering competitions. If your work is what they are looking for you can get some awards which are invaluable to add to your arts CV and help you to become taken more seriously as a collectable artist.
So what else can you do? One way you can really optimise your returns is by broadening your sales inventory to include more than just expensively framed prints. Try selling your photos in a variety of formats, like unframed prints or matt mounted only, with a cellophane cover (These are ideal to send overseas since there is no glass or added weight with a bulky frame, and it also allows the buyer the choice of framing it themselves when they want to.) down to small four by six frames, or even a rack of postcards or even greeting cards and so on.
Websites are ideal for photography, but make sure your site covers off copyright issues, your images need to be big enough to view but small enough to be unprintable if someone downloads them or better yet, get a system where they can’t be downloaded off the site for such a purpose in the first place. Having a website too, means that you can show your work to a much wider audience that if you simply had it displayed in galleries or at competitions etc.
So should you do unlimited runs of prints or stick to limited edition signed prints? That’s entirely up to you which you choose. I think you need to consider the subject matter, a picture that is of a famous band that you just happened to capture at the right moment will be more likely to sell hundreds or thousands of, but most photographic works tend to be more limited on how many buyers they may attract. Most seem to limit their runs of photos to 200 – 300. In regards to signing them, well most people who sell their photography art seem to feel the need to sign and number their prints. Art collectors are usually insistent upon signatures and numbered, limited edition prints, and I see a trend more and more for this feature on photography as artwork. It adds to the value generally also if the artist has signed their work regardless of the medium used; it's also more because there are some who feel a closer association with the artist, not because of a perception of its added value.
When it comes to any artwork what you may love in your own work, doesn’t always mean that’s what you might actually sell either. You can promote what you think is your best work, but keep in mind that often it is your second-choice pictures that often are the ones that sell. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and what you like or think is the best isn’t always what everyone else thinks. So don’t forget to show that work also, you might be pleasantly surprised!
Posted: Wednesday 7 April 2010