A lot has been said the last day or two in comments to my posts, in reference to the sales of photographs. I think, in this post, I will tell you how I have managed to pick a few bucks in sales. To begin with, I feel I should mention that when I decided many years ago to study with the New York Institute of Photography, I had no intention of wanting to get a job in photography. I didn’t want to work for a magazine or newspaper, and have to go on assignments. I simply just wanted to be a good photographer.
It has worked pretty much the way I wanted. I took what I learned, combined it with my natural eye for composition and managed to take good photographs. Over the earlier years I mostly gave away my prints, for birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Oh, lest I forget, I filled our walls, too.
Later on, about 15-20 years ago, a friend of mine who was an artist, a sculptor, suggested I enter an art show and sale that he was participating in. With some arm pulling, he convinced me that would be a way to sell a few prints. I had no display materiel, back-drops, etc. I only had a card table. The fee for the show was about 20.00 for a 10×10 ft space.
For merchandise, I had printed out twenty-one different 11×14 prints and had them mounted on foam-board and shrink-wrapped. I done the mounting and shrink-wrapping myself, borrowing the material from my friend, and using a hair-dryer to seal them. I was good to go, ready to present my work to the world. 🙂
The show was a week-end deal, from 10:00 until 6:00Pm on Saturday, and from noon until 5:00PM on Sunday. I had my prints priced at 25.00 each. I sold my first and only print at about 3:00 on Sunday afternoon. At least, my first foray into the world of arts and crafts shows wasn’t a complete bust. But to be honest, when I made that one sale, I was elated. Holy Smokes! Somebody liked my work well enough that they wanted to buy it. What a great feeling!
I realized then that I really wasn’t prepared. With only 21 prints to choose from there just wasn’t enough choice. I had only one size, 11×14. I decided the next time I would have more variety in pictures, and also in sizes.
The next time I was in better shape. I got some backdrop made of lattice-work, hooked it together so it would stand up and hung a few prints. I got a larger table with boxes where people could sort through the pictures. Sales started to pick up. But still not enough to really make enough money.
I decided if I was going to do this, I needed to get smart and do things to look a little more professional. At first, I was having some prints framed at a professional frame shop. That worked, except that because of the costs, I couldn’t sell them at a price where it was very cost effective. So, I invested in a mat-cutter. I learned to cut my own mats, and do my own framing. I had a few outlets where I could buy frames at wholesale prices. In place of shrink-wrapping, I discovered a company, Clearbags.com. that sold crystal clear bags or envelopes to slide my mounted prints into. I also invested in some professional back-drops, whereas I could hang framed pictures in an attractive setting.
When things really got rolling, I was selling framed prints, mostly matted 11x14s. They will fit perfectly into 16×20 frames. Matted 8×10 prints will fit into 11×14 frames. These are standard sizes. This way you won’t be spending money on custom made frames. Personally, I always bought my frames, standard off the shelf sizes, at Hobby Lobby, when they were on sale 1/2 off. You can also buy pre-cut standard mats so you won’t have to do any mat-cutting if you don’t want.
I was also selling note-cards with envelopes, with of course my own pictures. It pays to diversify, to have more choices for the customer. They may not want to pay for large print, but they just might consider a few note cards, that cost you 35 cents and they pay you 2.95.
I own a Epson Stylus R1900 Photo printer. It will print up to a 13×19 print, that will last 100 years. For larger sizes, I use a very good on-line company. Reliable Photo, whose prices you won’t believe. I am talking really low prices for top quality, beautiful prints. Avery, the company that makes paper, labels, etc. had free software so you can design your note cards, and by the way, business cards.
As you have probably realized by now, it takes considerable investment to really do it right. But you can start out small, and probably do a better job than I did, then gradually add and grow. Check out some arts and crafts shows near you, and see how some of those photographers and artists operate.
A few years ago, I was doing about 25 shows per year. Averaging two shows per month. We had a van and traveled around west Texas, usually picking out shows that were within 150 miles of us, so as not to travel too far. I averaged anywhere from 700.00 to 2,000.00 in sales per weekend.
My car with sign
Some other tips. Always carry business cards, and don’t be afraid to hand them to anyone. You want to keep your name out there. I even invested in magnetic signs for my car. they cost me 30.00 each. Now I am not going to say that someone saw my sign and called me about a picture. Probably, not at all. But my name is out there and people recognize me.
You might frame a few prints and ask your favorite bank, or restaurant, etc., if you can hang some framed prints there. Offer them a percentage of a sale. You can ask a larger price to cover that. Personally, I have a large collection of my work hanging in the Crockett National Bank, here in San Angelo. As I get new works, I frame it and swap it out, so my display changes every month or two. I don’t have an account there, but the bank president had seen my work and liked it. He initially asked me to display my work for a month, but I have been there now for over a year now. By the way, when I sell something he doesn’t want any commission. He benefits from the people to come in his bank, when I tell them my gallery is located there.
A web-site is good to have, too. It is a good place to refer people to, so they can see your work ahead of time. In reality, I have sold images over the internet but not enough to make a living at it. On occasion, a magazine will contact me and that can be lucrative. I have been published in Photography Forum Magazine, Wild West Magazine, Texas Farmers and Ranch Magazine, and National Wildlife Magazine. Plus I had a photo on the cover of another issue of National Wildlife Maazine.
Ross McSwain, who writes the “Out Yonder” column for the San Angelo Standard-Times, wrote a book about west Texas. He asked me to do the cover for the book, plus illustrate several chapters. It sold unter the title of “See No Evil, Speak No Evil”. Now he is doing another book. It will be called “The Best of Out Yonder”, and again he has contracted me to do the cover and other illustrations. It will published in 2012.
For me, though, the shows were where I made the most money on a regular basis. But now I now longer need to do them, and at my age, I now longer want to do them.
Now, just word of mouth and local sales work for me. For example, on two occasions, I have had people buy literally a house full of pictures. They had bought new homes, and wanted my work in each and every room. My only advertising, is my cards, my sign on my car, and the fact that people know that for nature photography, I am the person to see.
I hope this article instills a little eagerness on your part to get out and let the public see and buy your images. I did it, and so can you.
Now I want to wish all of my readers, my fellow bloggers, and everyone else, a very Merry Christmas to you and your families.