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January 14, 2011

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I had looked into pricing two years ago when I had some people who wanted to buy prints. Since I do not do this for a living, I wanted to price my work fairly - but not stupid cheap.

If I remember the numbers correctly, a 'ready to frame' print - mounted and/or matted - ran around $60-75 for an 8x10. I think 11x14's started at about the $100 mark. A framed print seemed to be about twice those prices.

It scared off the people who thought that it would be under $10 -'because that's all it costs at the big box store.'

Thankfully, I already had some work (gifts) hanging on friend's walls, so I wasn't crushed! lol

This is where I appreciate the approach on RedBubble - the product costs a certain amount to make, RB take their cut and then you specify the markup% above that depending on how much you like your shot.

I was a little surprised to see simple 10x8" prints in (cheapish) wooden frames going for £25 in a major tourist-attraction visitor centre shop. Then again, that's about the amount anyone's ever paid for a laminated print of mine via RB. Hmmm!

For my first time ever some of my work is going to be displayed. When submitting I had to struggle with this very topic. I had very little time to research and ended up just making a number up. Additional criteria I used:

  • My status. I am a total unknown as an artist, having never published or shown work before. I felt like this lowers my value.
  • My potential customer. Two of my photos are being shown by my city in the City Hall for the next year. At the end of the year my photos might be purchased by the city as part of their permanent collection. My city will have a different budget than a person-customer would, but they would also be looking at purchasing from more artists than just me so the same concerns arose: don't undervalue the work but don't price my work out of being affordable (your second bullet).

    The bottom line criteria for me ... what made my decision make-able were (1) a price below which I would feel like I am not charging what it's worth to me, especially considering if it sold it would be as a part of a public collection, and then (2) the burden is on me to print and frame the work so the price needs to cover those costs plus any profit I might want to make (this is your first bullet).

    Having had this experience and not performed proper research I need to go back and do your third item (check my competitors). I didn't like the feeling of just making it up even though I am comfortable (for the most part) with the figure I settled on.

    As a maker-of-images I have never considered any of the practical aspects of being an artist in society, such as price or print/frame sizes (I insanely decided to print at 14"x14" and committed to framing at 20x20 - so no option for buying a frame off the shelf!). I strongly encourage anyone who considers showing their work via gallery, etc (or selling off your website) to consider all the mundane practicalities you can!

    Great topic, Gordon. I hope I've not rambled too much in my comment :-)

Cristian,

Your revelation about the cost of framing is one that comes late to many photographers and some buyers. Even if you (photographers in general, not you in particular) don't choose a custom size, framing and matting can easily cost a minimum of $50.00 per print. The print itself may cost only a few dollars in materials, but can cost at least an hour of your time, however you value it. Then add the fact that the gallery owner will expect a commission on every sale. Commissions range from a low of 25% up to 50%. Keep in mind that a 50% commission is well worth it if the gallery owner has the ability to call on a list of serious photography buyers and whose prestige can help build your reputation.)

My point is this: Higher prices for photography buyers doesn't necessarily mean higher profits for the photographer. That's why you need to keep a calm, unemotional eye on the bottom line to make sure that what you get in exchange for selling your work is worth the time and effort involved. Only you can answer that question.

Hi Gordon.

I guess the timing was conincidental, but this story hit the news at about the same time as your blog posting:

Peter Lik sells photograph for US$1 million

This wasn't a secondary market sale, either. As Bob and Ray once said, "Sure it's expensive, but I only have to sell one."

Your post makes some excellent points.

I am semi-retired, a serious amateur photographer, and not interested in doing the marketing work to become a professional. However, it was flattering when I was recently asked if I would be interested in showing my work at a gallery that exhibits a variety of art forms. When I turned down the opportunity, a group of friends was astounded until I listed the costs of producing and framing the prints (I don't have any work that is gallery-ready at this time). We played with the numbers and figured that, if I framed the prints professionally, I could easily spend about $1000 and risk coming away with nothing but a pile of nicely framed prints that would have to fight for space on my own walls.

At this point in my life I'd rather spend that money on travel, or a new lens, or a piece of someone else's art. And the time...that I would rather spend cycling or travelling with my husband or being out with my camera taking more pictures.

When I had my first show in college, I threw the I Ching to come up with a price. I thought the price I ended up with was reasonable, but I didn't sell anything.

The print sales at TOP seem pretty affordable, and they seem to do well, so that would be a good place to start, IMO.

Rob,

"Reasonable" depends on the audience. Students are not known for having much disposable income. Even $25.00 could be too expensive for a cash-starved student.

The same principle applies to other venues: Print sales will be much better in a coffee bar that's near a shopping area that caters to the upper-middle class as opposed to one whose clientele are mostly commuters, students, mothers with young children, and retirees.

Gordon,

I didn't expect to sell anything to students. I did some trades with friends, and ended up with some nice work that way. But there were faculty, staff and community members who visited those shows, so I did have some hope of sales. I have to say, though, that while I was disappointed, I wasn't especially surprised; it was already evident that my idea of an interesting photo wasn't shared by most people.

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