Personally, the most difficult aspect of what I love to do is trying to figure out how to price my work in hopes of selling. If it was up to me, I would price my work extremely high in very small, limited editions and live off my photography alone. It is my dream to one day fund my girlfriend and I solely on money from my photography, whether it be from teaching workshops or selling prints. But I know that will not happen anytime soon and I know that many nature photographers much better than I, they are still forced to work a full-time job to fund their photography and their family. While this is a major shame for the creative entrepreneur, it allows you to value your work at as high or low a price as you wish. I am beginning to learn this as I figure out my photography website so I shall provide you with some advice I think we could both use. Let us begin to learn, together, how to value our artwork how art should be valued.
Know That Your Work Could Be Better
Before we even think about how much money we should be charging, remind yourself over and over that your work could be better than what it currently is. There is always room for improvement and changes in personal style. The more we shoot, the more we will learn not only about our photographic preferences but also about ourselves. If you were to price your 8x12 limited edition prints at $300 apiece, there is not much room to increase your prices. This is especially true if you are not selling any of your work at these prices. So instead of starting at $300 apiece for a small print, price yourself lower at, say, $50 apiece instead. You can always increase your prices later – possibly every six months if you find yourself selling out a lot – but lowering prices on limited edition work (and even on open/unlimited edition work) simply does not look good.
Discounts Only Lower Your Work’s Worth
Speaking along the lines of discounts, if you tend to offer discounts on your work every six to twelve months, you will find yourself faced with disappointment. People love a good deal, which is why so many stores like Walmart and Dollar Generals strive. Look at Black Friday and how long the lines are; before stores began offering their deals on Thursdays, people would camp outside of Apple for close to eight hours in hopes of getting the new iPhone for a few bucks cheaper. If you are found to be giving out a discount code every year around Christmas, people will be quick to catch on. Yes, the number of sales you will have at that time every year may be ten times higher than normal, but if you are doing this to limited edition work, investors willing to pay top dollar for certain images will laugh in your face. I will be honest with you: I originally had plans of selling my work as open edition prints and introducing new images on my print shop every six months. Before discontinuing the current images, I thought of doing a sale for the final few images – something along the lines of half-off for the final twenty-five prints of each image. And while I would have had the opportunity to make a ton of money and sell a bunch of prints, I would have made half as much as normal while devaluing my work. To both myself and to potential investors, my work’s value would be cut in half, if worth anything at all.
Limit The Number Of Prints Available
Rather than give your potential customers a discount on your work, give them a reason to want to buy a print. Almost as much as deals, people love to invest their hard-earned money in items they feel will be worth more later in life. Buying a camera or new phone for a few bucks off is great but the value of said item will only decrease as technology advances. The only exception to this would be items that are limited editions, such as the RED iPhone from Apple and – possibly – your prints. A huge advantage to limited editions is the amount of money that you can charge for them. If a person has a choice between a $300 open edition 8x12 print – which thousands of other people may have as well – and a $500 limited edition print of the same size – with only two hundred people having the same print – I would like to believe more people will buy the $500 print instead. Even though it is more money being spent upfront, after the artist enters stardom or passes away (whichever comes first), the value of the print can skyrocket to thousands if not millions of dollars. It is a risk for people to take – especially on young, unknown artists such as me and possibly you – but the benefit could be exponential. Either way, the customer gets a print they love to hang on their wall and the artist gets supported. Truly it is a win-win situation.
Create A Tier System
Crafting a tier system of pricing is something that we should be learning to do much better than most of us are. Remember that wedding photographers often offer three or more packages for their customers to choose from. These packages tend to go from a budget option for those who cannot afford much to a very expensive package for those willing to put more money into the photographs of the couple’s big day. As a fine art photography, you should be thinking along similar lines as a wedding photographer in terms of pricing and packages. While there are advantages to only offering one print size in one edition printed on one type of paper for one high price, people would much rather have a choice. Not everyone has the room on their walls for a large, 20x30 print nor does everyone want a small 4x6 print that only looks good on a desk or shelf. Allowing your customers to choose a print size gives them more incentive to buy your prints. Three options seem to be best as it can be broken down as follows:
Budget Option: 4x6 print, edition of 300 for $50 each Medium Option: 8x12 print, edition of 200 for $100 each Expensive Option: 12x18 print, edition of 100 for $200 each
Obviously you do not have to follow this to a T as the options are just examples. However, by allowing your customers three options, you are able to cover the three main pricing tiers and expand your product’s reach. But do not offer too many options for you could land up overwhelming your customers and therefore losing any potential sales. And if you find that you are only selling one or two 12x18 prints (staying with the examples above), and you are selling out of your other two options rather rapidly, you can adjust accordingly. For whatever prints you have available at the time, maintain the three options but for all future prints get rid of the expensive option; lower the number of prints available for the other two options by a bit and raise the prices.
Do Not Be Afraid To “Test The Waters”
The chances of you getting your pricing right the first time is rather slim as the market is constantly changing and nobody can immediately determine how much people are willing to spend on a specific artists’ works. What I can advise you to do is figure out a basic tier system of pricing – such as given above – that you believe maintains the value of your work and set it up with five photographs in your website’s store. Wait it out a few months with crossed fingers and see if anyone buys your work. If people are expressing interest in your work but are not buying anything, email them privately and ask them why they are not investing into your artwork. Maybe they believe you are too expensive or maybe they are saving up money to buy a ton of your art. You do not know until you test the waters.
Listen To Nobody
With all that being said, forget about listening to anything that I just wrote. Yeah, it took me about an hour to get this all down and for my mind to settle into place on what I wanted to write about. Feel bad for me…please? But seriously: everything that I just wrote down is what I personally believe to be best for selling your fine art work. I have zero experience selling prints and am still testing the waters, trying to find my market and people willing to invest in me. What I do know, however, is that one should always go with their gut instinct before taking the advice of random people on the internet. There are plenty of photographers out there who are very well-known that sell open edition prints for dirt cheap and offer discounts every once-in-a-while and it works very well for them. They sell plenty of prints and make a nice amount of money off their work. And there are others who sell limited edition works for thousands of dollars who use a similar tier system as I described.
Every photographer is different in their approach to selling and finding customers. It all depends on what you personally want. So, go ahead and take my advice – value yourself as high or as low as you please – or forget every word I wrote and go on with your life. It does not matter to me either way.