Selling prints on e-bay and elsewhere

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Doug Hook, Dec 20, 2006.

  1. RAP

    RAP Member

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    Well toot toot

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    How many here can honestly say we are not here to try to gain some exposure?
     
  2. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council
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    Just a thought on tiered pricing - I'm not saying it works or doesn't, but the psychology behind it is that you encourage the early-adopters, so to speak, to buy early, because the price is going to go up. You also encourage the early adopters to buy because you are demonstrating the investment value of their purchase. It's a marketing strategy. I find that it does work, combined with highly limited editions of your prints. I also like very limited editions because while I enjoy making images, I don't like doing drudgework of making umpty-dozen copies of a single print. I'd rather make an image, make some money from it, then move on to making a new image. In part I look at the tiered pricing as a way to extract extra value from someone who is making me print the same image for the nth time.
     
  3. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser Advertiser

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    I agree. One common misconception is that editioning and a tiered pricing structure are dealer and photographer schemes when actually it is collector driven. Many are concerned that an infinite number of prints in circulation hurts the value of an image.

    B.
     
  4. naturephoto1

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    But tiered pricing is not unusual and is usually driven by milestone copy numbers within the edition. It does allow the photographer and the gallery (if involved) to make more money per sale as fewer copies are available in the edition. It is a matter of supply and demand.

    Rich
     
  5. rjas

    rjas Member

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    Sometimes this forum confuses me; someone posts an experience and then they are called self indulgent and ego strokers..... I for one appreciate reading EarlyRiders post. Would it be any different if he had a story of how he failed? An old chem teacher once told me that no one should have to apologize for their successes.
     
  6. TheFlyingCamera

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    Of course we are, unless we're rank newbies fishing for basic information (no slight to the rank newbies... everyone starts somewhere). This may not be the best place to get the exposure, because photographers are not great customers for other photographers' work (we'd rather trade for prints than drop a lot of money on someone else's photos), but if you can do good work, getting other photographers to recognize it and talk about it is not a bad place to start. As someone once said, "there's no such thing as bad publicity".
     
  7. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser Advertiser

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    An old Grandmother of mine once told me that if I looked into the mirror too long or often that I would eventually see the Devil. Just another way of looking at things.

    Bill
     
  8. Early Riser

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    I agree with Blaze, FC and Bill about tier pricing. To me the whole idea of limiting an edition is basically a way to artificially raise prices. The pressure that I have gotten to limit prints was from galleries and hard core collectors, and collectors can be the worst proponent of it. It seems like they're only happy if it's an edition of one and they own it. If you don't limit your edition, you don't need to use tier pricing to maximize your return on your effort. For me figuring out how big an edition to make, and what to charge and how to increase is a serious headache. If you commit too small to an edition you could end up with nothing to show. Or it's possible to sell so many at the opening of a show, that the other galleries that represent you, who may also may be in a softer market, may end up carrying work that is priced beyond their market. I started with a large edition, and I keep reducing it, and reducing it. And that's not by choice.

    As for tooting one's own horn, we all do it to some extent. I don't see how Bill and I squaring off against each other toots the horn for either of us. I participate in these threads for 2 main reasons, the first is that for me it's a sort of self analysis of my own work and why I do things. It's sort of a therapy approach. If you go to a therapist they ask you questions. The purpose of the questions is to make you think about things in order to answer the question. Through that thinking, that introspection, you can come to realizations about things in your life. For me these threads, are the therapy that better enables me to understand my own work. They also have increased my typing speed tremendously.

    The other reason is that for other people, reading someone else's self analysis can also lead to a better understanding of themselves or their own work. In addition there is often really valuable information that is freely exchanged in these discussions. When I was young I used to contact well known photographers and ask to speak with them about photography. Many were gracious enough to see me. This new technology allows for a similar free flow of advice.

    Sometimes when you look in the mirror you learn who you are.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 28, 2006
  9. RAP

    RAP Member

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    Now Bill and Brian, thanks for the interchange. I wonder how much we would have to shell out for a workshop to learn what you two have stated here.

    Is it just that easy? Put up a website, do good work, and print sales will just flow? Boy do I wish! I have recieved some positive input on my website that I hope is truly honest and sincere and my work has been published by BrownTrout Publishers, an international publisher, my own calendar yet! I had expected print sales to trickle in but not like molasses.

    As for availability of materials to print on, I think most agreee that digital prints do not have the same depth and tonality as silver gelatin. So then if digital papers were all that is available, what would we all do? Go alternative, platinum, coat our own, go digital or hang up our cameras for brushes?

    Photography is truly the only really time sensative medium there is.
     
  10. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council
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    Already heading down that route - coating my own Pt/Pd, and loving every minute of it. Frankly, it also makes it easier to justify the limited edition numbers and the prices. You do have to find an audience that understands a bit more about photography, and knows more than "Ansel Adams" and "silver-gelatin" catchphrases. Then again, when you show them the work, it speaks for itself. But it isn't for everyone, since it requires either a lot more digi-work to make enlarged negs, or shooting LF, which is definitely not for everyone.

    I wanted to learn alt-processes against the possibility of the end of traditional paper and other analog media - kinda like how I wanted to learn photography originally just to use as subject matter for painting and drawing. Well, watching that first Pd print expose in the sunlight, and seeing it go POOF! in the developer was as addictive as watching the first enlargement emerge in the developer tray when I learned how to do my own darkroom work. The experimentation brought its own unexpected rewards. But at least now I know I can get from a to b without being beholden to a particular product (well, except for now my addiction to Bergger COT 320 paper... but that would be easier to replicate than something like AZO, for example).
     
  11. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    Computers change everything. You could even have the price increase on each sale, from multiple sales venues (if they were linked to the main site), if you wanted to.

    Ansel had the best solution...no new prints made from old negatives after a set date, like your 70th birthday for example. This way, if you've managed to cultivate a money-lusting herd of collectors/investors during your career, there should be quite the frenzy of orders just before you turn 70. I think Ansel bowed out with over $1,000,000 in sales in his last year...and that was the early 1980's wasn't it? Call it a retirement plan :smile:

    Murray
     
  12. kjsphoto

    kjsphoto Subscriber

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    On the whole topic of limited and tier pricing I have to agree with Brian and Bill.

    I have been told outright several times by people that have collected my work and collectors in general when I was doing market research that they would not buy anything that was not limited period.

    In a way I think limiting to smaller edition help me to get out there to make more image, which is a good thing as you are always pushing yourself to find more images.

    I started a few years ago limiting to 60 and today I have dropped all my limited edition to 24 and I am thinking of even going smaller. It is marketing for sure but since this is what the collectors what I have no problem in doing it. When you rely on your prints sales for your living, you have to be smart about how you sell and how you market your material or it just sits in the drawer and collects dust.

    Kev

    Kev
     
  13. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    I'm 46, and I would be very hesitant to take pricing advice from a collector older than I am. Would they be looking out for my best interests in the long term, or just making sure they have a slam-dunk investment for their looming retirement years? Younger collectors who have a little money to play with and the time to watch their investment grow might be a better track for me. IF I decided to play the game at all...

    I'm a father with have a day job, and my wife is a stay at home mom. I'm also in mid-career photography-wise but unknown outside my geographical area, so I would have to be 'creative' when it comes to marketing my wares. Interesting stuff to mull over!

    Murray
     
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  15. blaze-on

    blaze-on Member

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    I understand the concept of tiered pricing or I would not have commented.
    Give me some credit Scott.

    If you're a name player, or have established yourself in the marketplace, fine.
    If not, and until you get there, why not just print or limit the edition of 20 or 30 and set a price based on your current status and be done with it. The buyer/collector is still receiving a limited edition print. I think your chances of selling more than the first tier is greatly increased. Should your status increase in latter years then the remaining prints from that edition can be priced on the current level. It is of course my slant on it and what I intend to do and not do.

    Yes it may entice your loyal following to jump on the first offering. But it has an overtone of arrogance, implies an importance or value that may or may not be real. But maybe that doesn't matter. It's still a marketing gimmick more than anything, and may have a backlash at some point. It concerns me so therefore it will not be a consideration for me.

    How many will actually sell more than 10-20 prints of the same image? It surely happens but rare unless it's your "Moonrise" shot and you've been producing many years.

    Anyway, to each their own.
     
  16. TheFlyingCamera

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    Matt- I wasn't intending to insult you.

    I don't expect to sell more than 10 prints of a single image for several reasons. A: I'm not that famous, not yet. B: as I said before, making that many prints of the same image bores me to tears. C: I remember reading an article either here or somewhere else within the last year/18 months that said most serious gallery owners/auctioneers/art advisors were recommending to their clients that they not buy anything in an edition larger than ten. I don't have representation at a big-name New York gallery at this time. Do I want it? Yes. In the meantime, while I'm looking for it, I'll keep my editions small, and tier my pricing to encourage early sales of images.
     
  17. Lopaka

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    Interesting discussion about editions. I always thought that to sell limited editions, you had to have established some reputation. At least some of the value of a limited edition print is that after you have sold the last number of the edition - there will be no more made, and the buyer needs to have some confidence in that fact.

    Bob
     
  18. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    Any idea what the basis of that ecommendation is Scott?

    I may be foolish or something else, but I have still haven't gone to selling/printing limited editions. What happens if you sell all in the edition and decide you want tor print more?

    There are some that destroy the negative after the final print as "evidence" that the edition is true. What's the driving force behind that?
     
  19. Jim Jones

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    If I say, "Me, for one," it sounds like I'm tooting my own horn. However, I'm here to learn, and to occasionally contribute an idea that others haven't posted yet to a thread. While schools may offer a more structured and orgqnized education in photography, I've found APUG leads to more informative than many years of college.

    The best exposure is a framed print in the marketplace. A little image on a computer screen is too much like listening to Mahler's 8th Symphony on a clock radio.
     
  20. Early Riser

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    The editioning thing is getting nuts. If you do studio type constructed photos then maybe an edition of 10 can work for you because if you're actually building a photo you are surely guaranteed an image of your satisfaction. But if you travel a lot and only come across maybe 8 good images a year, then your entire print production is going to be 80 prints? You'd have to sell them at very high starting prices. Prices that can easily scare off buyers unless you're a serious name.

    A few years back I was about to sign with a very well known gallery in London. It was a done deal between the director of the gallery and me, however the owner had one request, lower my then edition size from 100 to 30. I told him that he could maybe just sell my 20x24" prints, which were limited to 20. He said the whole edition had to be 30 or less. I really wanted him to represent me, it was a prestigious gallery and it would certainly help my name, but at the time I was in about a dozen galleries and if I dropped my edition size I'd have to drop galleries and seriously raise my prices which might price me out of many galleries. I declined and the deal ended.

    All of the talk about tiers and editions are also really a talk about pricing. Pricing most products is easier, you define the cost of goods based on materials, labor, distribution, marketing and profit. Also for most products there are easy price comparisons to similar products in the market and those similar products have many of the same costs as yours. With the exception of labor and distribution, many of those costs are exactly the same.

    When it comes to photography, the costs can vary widely, granted the film and paper is not a major cost, but the range of equipment can vary greatly, as can the cost of the facilities you work out of, your living room or a 5000 studio or a remote location that was costly to get to. And the amount of time invested can vary greatly. But the biggest influence on price is the perception aspect. So much of what a print can sell for is based on what people are willing to pay for it regardless of what it cost to produce. If you take a print from an APUGger, a well done print somewhat Ansel like in subject matter, it may sell for $150- $1000, if that same print was signed Ansel, it would sell for $25k, 50K or more. I see work at galleries all the time, and it's the kind of stuff that would get torn to shreds in the critique section here, but with a "name" attached to it, it's a priceless work of art. At a certain level in the art world, sometimes the quality of the work matters little and the perception matters all.

    My own pricing has been torturous. The first thing a gallery tells you starting out is that you can't start too high because it's fatal to lower print prices. After that they tell you to raise your prices because people won't respect the work if it's too reasonable. (Also their profit won't be high enough to make it worth their time and investment in you). I'm at a point now where my galleries in higher markets want me to raise prices but I know it'll hurt sales for me in the softer market galleries. To be honest, through the whole process of converting from ad photography to "art" (it's just the easiest term to use) by far the hardest part for me has been editioning and pricing. And after 4 years of it I still don't know if I'm dong that part right.
     
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  21. TheFlyingCamera

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    At some point you have to bite the bullet and do that major price hike and get into the prestige gallery. There's a reason they're still in business with a brick-and-mortar retail operation in SoHo or Midtown in Manhattan - they're making the sales to cover their rent and then some. Those galleries will only take you on if they KNOW they can sell your work to their clientele, and for prices that will make both of you money. Just as a gallery has no obligation to accept a given artist, the artist is not bound by some devil's pact signed in blood and the artists' first-born child to any particular gallery, if the gallery doesn't perform for the artist. Good galleries will prompt you to make and show them new work on a regular basis, and will work with you. Since galleries are not much more than ad agencies for their photographers, they're really only as good as their last show.

    If in the end it means you lose the smaller market galleries and your "affordable" sales there, then you do that. Maybe you don't do that now, at only four years in the "art" business, but at some point you'll have to, unless you want to intentionally limit your sales and your income. That's a value-call for you to make, and not one that anyone else can make for you, or for anyone to judge you by.
     
  22. TheFlyingCamera

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    I think it was an article in Photo District News, and the justification for it was that if you were buying art that was also investment grade, then editions of more than ten were just not limited enough. It's rather specious logic, but that was what they were saying. I don't know why ten is just so much more limited than fifteen, or twenty, and how it became THE magic number, but that was the report in the article.

    The whole idea of the limited edition is that you DON'T print more, once the edition is done. If you sell the entire edition, and didn't make enough money, then raise your prices next series.

    The driving force behind destroying the negative in some way (or at least rendering it unprintable with a hole-punch or scratching an X through it or something) is to make buyers feel comfortable that you're not making more prints of it, so they're willing to pay more to buy the print, because they KNOW that once #10 or whatever is sold, there will truly be NO MORE COPIES made. It's just another trick to "add value".
     
  23. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I'm "stickifying" this thread, as I consider it far too valuable to be allowed to "sink" to the later pages.

    I'll amend the thread title too, to better reflect the full range of the discussion.

    I would also like to encourage any of the participants here to condense and/or expand it into an article.
     
  24. RAP

    RAP Member

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    Talk about an all night party!
     
  25. naturephoto1

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    Hi Matt,

    Though I have sold most of my work at Art Shows rather than galleries, I have work that continues to sell for over 9 years. My editions are printed off of a Chromira (or even a LightJet) with an edition size of 250 of all sizes that make up the edition. Some images are available in as many as 5-7 sizes and the public determines the number of copies sold of each size (it is a running total). I have many more than a dozen images that have sold 30 or more copies. In fact, I have many images that have sold 60 to 80 copies; a number that have sold 80 to 100, and 2 that have sold over 100 copies. In fact 2 images as far as I know have generated over $50,000 in sales and there are quite a number that have generated $25,000 to $35,000 in sales.

    Additionally, with my first meeting with a gallery they did not have any argument regarding the edition size. We are presently in negotiation, but will have to adjust my pricing across the board so that I am able to sell both through Art shows and galleries (the prices will be increasing substantially).

    Rich
     
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  26. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser Advertiser

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    Actually AIPAD (Association for International Photographic Art Dealers) guidlines, "On Collecting Photographs" allow for varried editions at different sizes and in special portfolios. I don't have the guidebook in hand, so maybe someone with one in their grasp can be more specific. It is a very good booklet to have and can be ordered from their website I believe. Basically it means you can offer one edition at a size of 8 x 10 and another at say 11 x 14.

    Bill
     
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