Selling Fine Art

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by melinda_potter, Feb 20, 2013.

  1. I've only been shooting with intent a very short time (just under 3 years). I'm currently studying portraiture just for my own interest, and plan on maybe someday doing a series or two, once I feel satisfied with my work and find some direction, but currently I do not share my portraiture experiments publicly (too many well meaning people ask me to take their portraits without me posting portraiture). I experiment with light, and shoot lot's of macro, nature and still life just for the sake of it, and pure self satisfaction it gives me. Like anyone else, I share them online. I put a price tag on them, and to my surprise people have been interested. I have sold 42 images out of my 90-ish public images in various formats from greeting cards to 30 x 20 mounted, in about 2 years time. Some images have sold multiple times. Mostly they are self fulfilled, but some sales have been through redbubble (I make NOTHING but smiles and pennies off of redbubble sales, and aprox $10 to $20 dollars back off my self fulfilled finished products).
    Well... this is a little unexpected for me. A little redbubble page, and a silly facebook page that I made so I wouldn't drive all my friends and family crazy that weren't interested in my photography (only 100 followers lol). I honestly just figured it was just a way to share, but now... I'm just wondering if maybe I should take this a little more seriously, and invest more into marketing and selling. Just imagining getting to a place where I can break even on this hobby of mine sounds very appealing, but more investing seems scary. Especially since my prices would have to go up to cover my costs (are the lower prices why they sell?). It could end in a serious flop.
    I guess what I'm asking is, for honest opinions (seriously, I'm tough as nails) on whether I have a chance at stepping up my game. and I'm also wondering if sales like this are "normal" for beginners like me? Should I just continue as I have been, and quit over analyzing over a few sales, and a lot of nice feedback from people?
    Give me a slap of reality if you feel I need it, and if you don't think a slap is in order... where do I begin?!
  2. Sorry I got no advice, but you definitely have a nice touch.
  3. You mean to tell me, I have to make this personal decision all on my own? lol
    Thank you for trying to help me Eric, taking the time to look and think about things, and the compliment. I aprcieate it
  4. Hi Melinda
    Nice work. You know it is salable because people have bought it. Now, the question of where you are going. Slap of reality - First is that, yes, you have to make a decision because no else can make it for you. Second, applicable platitudes - Nothing ventured, nothing gained - The fortune of the man that sits, also sits.
    Are you happy with the prospect of just selling a few prints now and then as an amateur or are you an artist driven to excel in your art?
    Face book is a start you also need a proper website and Wordpress to begin with, a trip to the library for business books. Some sort of framing service would be a plus. Register as a business.
    My simple advice is "Girl, go for it".
  5. david_henderson


    Before I went out this morning I composed and I thought posted quite a long response to you. I'll try to get the same sense of it across now.
    First, you have already achieved more than most people ever do. You've sold a number of pictures and you've done it without losing your shirt, so well done.
    I think you've correctly identified that pricing is a big issue, but I doubt whether its as simple as saying that maybe people are buying your stuff because its cheap. Actually I don't think people actually behave quite like that - I think most of us need to like a luxury item before we buy it at any price. What I think might be true though is that there's a limitation to the prices you can expect to achieve through those channels and its possible that those channels reaching as they do large numbers of people, are important to the success you've achieved so far. If I were you I'd be pushing my prices up on redbubble/facebook to see where the point is that you start to sell less-you can always reverse your pricing if you overcook it- the good thing about those media is that you'll get in front of new people all the time. But what I'm saying here is that there's a relationship between achievable pricing and your choice of sales channel.
    If you decide you'd like to sell at much, much higher prices I think you're talking of a need to penetrate the gallery market or the crossover area between gallery and gift shop. Here you need to budget not only for stock but also for gallery commissions, and reflect on the fact that these markets are very competitive to get in and its possible that you could do a great deal of work for nothing. If you have ambitions to be sold by serious top-end galleries you might well have to think hard about what sort of work you do, and look carefully at the sorts of photography those galleries promote and their customers collect. This is seriously hard and there are some incredibly talented people who struggle to get exposure in meaningful galleries where, as I say, an entirely different price model applies. My opinion/guess is that the work you produce now is probably more suited to the redbubble/giftshop/minor galleries/craft fairs markets than it would be for top-end galleries, and they will require you to sell at certain price levels if you want to sell at all.
    As I say, the choice of sales channel you make has a fundemental effect on the pricing you can expect to achieve and IMO you need to push to find the boundaries of the current channel in that respect.
    Finally here's an example of the importance of link between channel selection and pricing. Some time ago I was offered part of a show in a very large gallery selling various types of artwork including photography in the north of England. I'd been promoting a particular portfolio so it wasn't hard to agree the 15 or so photographs to go with. But then they told me that they only accepted framed work which meant a 600 mile round trip to drive it there and meant an investment of maybe $1500 in the show. Then they started to encourage me to reduce prices. We reached a compromise which would have resulted in profit for me with decent sales, and it turned out that everyone was happy with the compromise except the buyers. As it happened I sold zero, though the gallery told me that they were getting a lot of positive feedback on the work. Before the event I'd checked out that the gallery had a track record of delivering the sort of ticket price I was asking and they did. What it didn't occur to me to ask was whether they hasd a track record of delicvering those prices for photography, and they did not. So they had customers who might have been perfectly happy to spend say $1000 on a painting or a sculpture, but the photography they actually sold was probably all under $200. So I had a major mismatch between my channel and my prices with the result that I got to drive another 600 miles a few months later to collect my work.
  6. Thank you so much George and David
    You both have given me a lot to think about, and it was just what I needed/wanted.
    I think you're right David, I should play a little with what I have going, and see what happens. Plus, I'm not one to jump into anything too quickly and that advice makes me a little bit more comfortable. Maybe I'll think a little more about an art fair booth, or even asking around town if I could display a few, and test the waters so to speak.
    I honestly cannot see my current photography selling high end. At least not the way I shoot, and what I shoot currently. To me, my photographs seem... too immature? Simplistic? for any serious or even semi serious art collector to consider. Who knows where I'll go next creatively speaking, but I doubt I'll have a suitable series or body of work to sell to a more high end demographic any time soon.
    I came here with an all or nothing thought process. I'm either going full out or I'm staying put, and after reading, sitting on it for a while, and lot's of thinking... baby steps wins :) an option I didn't even give myself prior to posting here, and for that I thank you all. I feel comfortable and confident again, and a lot less stressed about moving forward
  7. Melinda, I would just like to say I think you are being very courageous for photography just being a hobby! I am currently in school for photography and I am finding it very hard to show people my work outside of school, and I don't know why exactly I just haven't built up my confidence enough. My main goal when I graduate from school is to work in a gallery and eventually have my work displayed in a gallery. Since this post was a year ago I was just curious how everything panned out? Hope this gets to you!

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