Making money without very much money.

Joined
Jan 27, 2006
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462
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Kingsville, Ohio
Framed prints make money only for the framing companies. It's a waste of capital unless you have a subject that is truly unique. Even then, it's very tough.
Focus on unique. The world is flooded with photos. Only the unique, the image that no one else can make or otherwise have with a click of a mouse is what you need to market.
And when you find that, let us know so we can also make them!
 
Joined
Feb 5, 2007
Messages
2,722
Location
Banff National Park, Alberta
Framed prints make money only for the framing companies. It's a waste of capital unless you have a subject that is truly unique. Even then, it's very tough.
Focus on unique. The world is flooded with photos. Only the unique, the image that no one else can make or otherwise have with a click of a mouse is what you need to market.
And when you find that, let us know so we can also make them!

I agree.

There's going to be exceptions to every rule but if something can be shot with a point and shoot without the aid of a tripod it probably won't sell well. If you shot something with a blue sky, that is technically sound, well composed, perfectly exposed and aesthetically pleasing (in other words a good photo that can only be shot by an accomplished photographer) it probably won't sell because the average dude on the street will say "that's nice but I can take that with my camera". Never in a million years could they, but they'll think that.

I've noticed that things like long exposure, ultra-wide shots, telephotos of exotic animals (bears, raptors) wild sunset colours, high contrast dramatic black and whites sell well. Most people are not out at sunset and sunrise, more than that if they are they can't get proper exposure, either the sky is blown out or the forground is black. Many will see a bear or an owl, but can't get a decent shot with a point and shoot or a kit telephoto. Many have found the black and white option on their cameras but can't get those deep blacks and vast shades of grey that a proper B&W conversion affords. So when they see those things, they have a better chance putting down cash. Point and shoots and rebels bought at wal-mart don't go ultra wide, so that is a novelty to the average person. Most people don't have a tripod or if they do don't even know how to make a 45 second exposure. Every photo I've ever sold falls into one of those categories.

No matter how good it is, if the average person looks at something and can figure out how to shoot it (or thinks they know how to shoot it) they probably won't buy it.
 
Joined
May 1, 2005
Messages
1,200
Location
Warwick, N.Y.
Real Name
John DeSanto
To take Carl's thought's one step farther...

High end photography equipment only makes money for the camera manufacturers - no matter what you tell the missus.

High end printing and printers - ditto.

Framing? - What Carl said.

High end subject material - What Mad Hatter said.

Bottom line: If people don't see value in something, they won't buy it. If they think they can do it themselves, they won't buy it. If they have a friend who can do it, they won't buy it. Throw a depressed economy into the mix, add 8 megapixel cameras in every cellphone, a liberal dose of Facebook's crappy resolution, dslr's that make everyone think they are great shooters and the instant ability to look at other people's crappy pictures - and poof, there goes the market.

But the market is what it is - and I tell this to every photographer who comes to me looking for a job: It doesn't matter if your friends or your wife or your parents think you take good pictures. It only matters if a total stranger is willing to plop down several hundred dollars and walk off with your work. If that happens, you're good. If it doesn't, your not.
 
Joined
Feb 5, 2007
Messages
2,722
Location
Banff National Park, Alberta
It really seems to me that one of the very few markets left is wedding photography. From my standpoint that is one of the very few things that people are still willing to shell out for.

I think I do a fairly decent job when it comes to concert photography. I used to get a few published here and there, but with the publisher an accomplished photographer, with a staff photographer, and with a new reporter who is also an accomplished photographer they get more than enough content from folks who are on the payroll they don't need to shell out for a freelancer. I phoned the other major paper here in the bow valley and the publisher became a whole lot less enthusiastic about the concept of me submitting work when she found out I wasn't about to give my work away for nothing. In the Canadian indy music scene there isn't alot of money out there, alot of really good bands don't even tour in the black so they aren't going to be paying for photos, most acts have a guy they call once or twice a year for a studio shoot and that's it.

There's micro stock but even that has IMHO limited returns for a giant sized amount of work. And I don't like shooting people in staged shoots. And people shots are what sell.

To sell photography as art work is just a hard row to hoe. I don't think there's anyone out there who does that exclusively, most are into stock, teaching and paid gigs as well.

One thing about framing that I've noticed is that you'll never make everyone happy. Some people will buy on impulse, they'll want the whole package that they see hanging on the wall. They just want to take it home no fuss no muss. Some people want a frame that will match their decor, they might like the picture, they might have even bought the picture but they don't like the frame. Some people want to be able to pick the size. Obviously to have all this stuff ready on spec will kill you. If you're displaying somewhere you have to do it right, frame it professionally (or do it your self but make sure it looks great). A frame from wal-mart will look like a frame from wal-mart and people will expect that sort of price line, $65-$75 will be all you'll get. You've gotta have that one pic, framed nicely at a size you feel is optimum and will do justice to your shot in order to have a prayer at it. Sadly now that you have that invested it's tough to even break even when you sell the matted shots.
 
Joined
Oct 9, 2005
Messages
29,610
Location
Moscow, Idaho
This debate/soul searching is no different that that being played out in corporate HQs, universities, travel agencies, restaurants, newspapers, state tourism offices, etc., etc., etc. How do be different and how to appeal to those they want to serve. (I use serve very broadly and generically!). Part of the struggle is where to locate yourself on the quality spectrum; how to create need; and how big/small you have/want to be. There are other issues for sure--I'm simplifying, but what may be key for "us" is delivering a product/service that we enjoy doing versus "just" making money.
Like many in this long post, I don't make money with my photography (quite the opposite); I use it as a gift to friends and community. And even there we find the "uncle Bob's" and "iPhone crowd" who seem to think they can do it all. I'm finding I have to be one "trick" ahead of the (m)asses!

That's a hobbyist's perspective.
 
Joined
Feb 6, 2012
Messages
13
Location
idaho
That hump is certainly something that I'm going to work on getting over.



Thanks for this post. I agree with almost everything that you've said. I have read countless times of the cheapening of the market and am very aware (especially more so now) that people don't want to buy art. Although it is mostly for the reasons you said, I can't imagine the current economy helps much either.

I'm not discouraged by this craft fair. I was not expecting to sell many images at all. The goal was 5, as I have said before, I believe I will have sold about 3 by the end of the week. And if I don't, that's fine too, because it just means I need to work a whole lot harder to get rid of this stock. If I had more than 3 days, more research would have told me essentially what you have in this post. I would have changed my strategy or maybe I wouldn't have gone. But I certainly don't regret going, and I don't think anything that I did personally was a reason for not selling images. The other photographer, whose work was priced much higher, didn't sell images either. Moral of the story: I'm done trying to sell art at a booth.

I can't imagine doing many, if any more, of these shows. If I do, I will focus on the marketing aspect. My town is full of people who are potentially excellent candidates for family portraits, and I plan on capitalizing on that. I also have not attempted the sports images venue yet, which I think (hope?) will be much more popular.

As near as I can tell, I'm not losing anything by testing the waters here. I didn't apply to any art schools and I didn't select photography as any potential majors. This is a hobby, and to set up a long term business plan of 6-10 years is completely unreasonable. Even if I was working a job (and not going to college next year) and planned to hang around, I just don't know if that kind of long term plan is something that I'm interested in. If that means I can't make a dime in photography than so be it. However, I certainly am going to attempt it, apply some serious time to market myself towards family photos or another venue and see if I can make that work. I think I'd rather try to discover this for myself, even if the odds are stacking up against me.

My advice: Don't listen to the advice of others if it is laden with negativity. Whether it is photography or cleaning bathrooms for a living, if your heart sings while doing it, you can't fail, simply because the benefits are in the doing and not in the final product. Do NOT ever forget this. We seem to think that we have the ability to plan our lives accordingly. Not going to happen. Our job is to expand and extend and we can only do this by living our potential and not sacrificing our lives for the almighty dollar. Stay focused on what makes your heart sing, know that the universe will respond accordingly and then be excited as hell knowing that it has already started.
 

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