Selling prints at an art show

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Nov 7, 2017
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Background: I am not a pro, never sold an image, and don't want to. But my 16-year-old, who has already surpassed my skill level, has other ideas. She's done a few paid portrait shoots, events, and a theatrical performance, and has booked a small wedding. We have a local "fine art show" coming up. I'd say it's a notch below a juried show, but just a notch. I'm wondering what realistic prices might be for 5x7s in 8x10 mats? Photos of local sights, mostly, maybe some more abstract stuff. She doesn't want to invest a bunch of money in larger prints or framing, and will mostly use this as an opportunity to better understand the market, but she has an opportunity to sell without paying for a booth, so figured "what the heck?".

Any thoughts would be appreciated. Or other advice to pass on to a "pro" who is just starting out, other than "don't do it!". :)

Thanks!
 
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I sell an occasional print, but mine are big and expensive.
At Small local shows people are often buying the artist as much as the art.
Make sure all prints are signed.
Prices are all over the place. If she can do a quick walk around try to mirror what others are charging.
Too low, and your fellow artists feel cheated. Too high, and you don’t sell a single piece.
If she actually wants to sell much, she needs to be set up to take plastic.
Without seeing the work, and without knowing the community, pricing is just a guess.
$20 each, 3 for $50 would be a wag to start.
Please let us know how she does!!
Gary
 
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Thanks Gary. We were thinking $15 - $20 based on some research, so glad to hear we’re pretty close. She has to kick thirty percent of sales back to cover the ‘free’ both, which is fair, I think. She does Venmo but no plastic yet. Good tip on signing the photos. I wouldn’t have thought of that, but I suppose it projects confidence and value on some level, even though she’s an unknown.

She will spend a lot more time scouting the show to learn what others are selling - subjects and price - than she will selling her stuff. That opportunity kind of dropped in her lap, but it’s not the priority.
 
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If this is a high quality event than my thoughts are 5x7 is too small to sell. For me I wouldn't want anything less than a 11x14 and it needs to be nicely matted. And if a premium event $100 for a 11x14 is not unreasonable but it must be nicely printed and matted.

Various materials and finishes with pricing:
https://www.bayphoto.com/prints/photographic-prints/

My 2¢.
Totally agree, I rarely ever sold any 8X10 and smaller. To me the subject suggest the minimum size. No mention of how the images will be presented, matted or on boards or just in a quality sleeve with protective backing. Great to see such young interest. Just my adjusted for inflation, .08¢.
 
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Mike/Tom, thanks, and great perspective. I don't doubt your guidance on this, but I know she'll keep it small and casual this time and try to gauge interest and gain a better understanding of the market.
 
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Mike
Mike/Tom, thanks, and great perspective. I don't doubt your guidance on this, but I know she'll keep it small and casual this time and try to gauge interest and gain a better understanding of the market.
Ok. A small print on a large matt board is also a nice artistic statement.

Here's some guidelines.
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/tips-and-solutions/display-your-photos-like-a-pro

Here's an example.
pb-wood-gallery-oversized-mat-frames-alt7_z.jpg
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
 
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So the show is over. The kid had 20 matted prints. About $100 all-in. Sold 6 for $20, but had to kick $36 back for the table, so she's down $16, but she also has some inventory, which may sell at another time. But the real benefit was meeting a local B&B owner. He bought one photo, but wants to talk to her about some much larger prints, of his building and other local points of interest. She also got one other person who wants to buy a larger print.

I think she also got some better intel about what may sell. Unfortunately there was only one other photographer there, and their work was very different. No help in seeing that, except maybe to inform that photography is not a big seller at these types of things.

There was also a lesson in the mattes. She went cheap/simple, which has it's merits, but didn't look so good. OK at $20 price point, maybe, but not the way to promote yourself and your work. So that was good learning.

Thanks again for the advice.
 
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Welcome to being an artist. You do the work, and sell the work- and at the end of the day you lose money.
But not bad for a first time out- sounds like she made some good contacts and learned. A successful start!
By the way- what is the difference between a large cheese pizza and an artist?
A large cheese pizza can feed a family of four.
gary
 
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@gchappel Very good Gary. 😁

Yes, I would say a success for sure. Definitely more about bigger picture, pardon the pun, than making money at this point.
 
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@gchappel Very good Gary. 😁

Yes, I would say a success for sure. Definitely more about bigger picture, pardon the pun, than making money at this point.
I did art fairs (big and small, regional and local) for 20 years - though not in photography. I also was a member of an art co-op for 12 or so years and president for 5 so I have a fair sense of that nether region of art and sales . . .

I think she did fine - particularly for a first time out. I never judged whether an art fair was successful - it was the season that was the measure. You always hope to break even, but just sometimes you don't - wrong crowd, wrong time of year, wrong art, wrong fair. And sometimes things just click and you move a lot of inventory and meet a lot of nice people.

But then there is this - many, many artists use art fairs (and this was very true of the co-op as well) as a place to land commissions. Your daughter has a lead and that is worth the $16 loss at the fair. Trust me, advertising would be A LOT more expensive.

Here are some suggestions -

Hopefully she will follow up with the B&B. She should be reasonable but not undervalue her work.

One thing she could do is offer to do the framing at cost (commercial framing can get pricey and there are on-line vendors that can be reasonable and it is pretty simple to frame images once you have all the parts).

She might ask the B&B to allow her to post a tasteful small sign identifying her as the photographer with some contact information. We sold a number of both photographs and paintings that were hung on a spare wall at a local hotel People like to bring back images from where they've been. If he would prefer not to do that, she could ask if he could keep her contact information on hand for an guest who inquire.

She should leverage social media if she uses that. Post in advance of the next time she is at a show. Ask the B&B if she can post about the images if she gets the commission. Use instagram to document when and where she photographs and collect information from buyers (if they agree) to be added to a mailing list.

There are other benefits to this beyond learning that photography can generate income (or not!). This may sound weird, but I've read a lot of applications for internships and the kids who stand out are the ones who have stepped outside the school/club boundaries. You need to learn how to sell yourself (which is what business does) and differentiate yourself from the (literally) hundreds of other applicants. It demonstrates independence which grades and test scores just don't measure in the same way.

Anyway, the take-away is that I think she did really well.
 

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