Who You Looking At? A Fine Art Marketing Approach
One of the most enervating questions I found I had to answer for myself was the question of how I was going to price my artwork. You can find a lot of answers on the internet because of course this question has been asked many times and will continue to be asked as long as artists create and publish. But of course, no resource on the net can actually name the price. The problem is that you’ll have to find out for how much you will be offering your art.
So I studied a book about Fine Art Marketing by Alain Briot, which was quite interesting and after reading that I came up with a price for my prints. Which was still a bit under what I should have taken according to the calculation methods of the book, but here is the main problem. The Ego.
At that point, I wasn’t sure people would want what I do. I wasn’t even sure it was any good. The only reference I had were the opinions of family and friends and that, of course, is not enough. Today I am more confident about my work and I could ask more. But I won’t. I think actually I’ll ask less. Why?
I found some interesting lectures by Brooks Jensen, the publisher of LensWork magazine and in them, the question was asked, which market you were going for? Would you be trying to sell for a higher price to a few who could afford that or would you ask a lower price to reach more people? I must say that the second market agreed with me a whole lot more than I think the first one ever could. Don’t get me wrong — I wouldn’t mind selling a print for a million bucks, but then again I always hated it when I heard that a vintage guitar was auctioned for a ridiculous amount of money because that meant that guitar would never be actually played again anymore. The same is true for prints sold at very high prices. We are talking investment here, not art to be framed and hung in walls.
But even if your art is not selling at investment prices (mine sure isn’t), it is worth thinking about selling for a lower price or at least selling something for a lower price. If you are selling your prints for say 500 Euros, you would have to ask yourself what that means for other people. For some, it is a month’s rent or food for two months or a quarter of their monthly income. For somebody else, these are the proverbial peanuts. The group of people for who 500 Euros are mere peanuts is probably a lot smaller than the other group, who would have a harder time shelling out that kind of money or more for our art.
So either you are trying to find those few that don’t have a problem paying higher prices for art AND who do like your photography. Or you try to find the larger group of people who pay lower prices for art AND who do like your photography. Which is probably easier.
But it doesn’t stop here. You don’t have to just lower your prices. You can offer a range of products with lower to moderate to higher priced items and reach all of these people. I find this idea of reaching more people with my art by making it affordable for everyone very appealing.
To do this, I am looking into possibilities of publishing other than just the framed inkjet prints I am doing right now. Postcards, folios, zines, canvas prints books or digital publishing are all valid means to get your work out there and the customer can choose how much they are willing to pay for enjoying your art. It is not just “This is what I have — take it or leave it.”. I like giving everybody a choice how much they can afford and/or are willing to pay. This way my artwork will be seen and hopefully enjoyed by more people, what at the end of the day might even just mean more profit.
And even though we are calling ourselves artists and insist that we’d do this anyway — profitable business or not (and I do claim this is true for all artists who consider themselves passionate and serious about their art) — profit is not a bad thing. Although the sales will never pay for all those years of studies, all the equipment, the travels, the creativity, and whatnot. And they shouldn’t have to, this is not part of the actual costs. But even if your price is not a four- or even five-digit number for a 13 x 19 print, you will be making money, because the actual cost for paper and ink isn’t even that high. Even if you factor in the time spent in post-processing, those high numbers are — again — an Ego problem. Are you only a serious artist, if your prices are very serious? As mentioned above, there might be a few people who can afford that AND who like your photography, but those are hard to find and you might even have quit printing and publishing before you have found them. So I think it is best to cater to people from all walks of life and with all kinds of income. You can increase your price at all times if you find your printing can’t keep up with the demand, But until then why not sell for a lower gross margin and just see more of your images go out in the world where they can actually be enjoyed by real people?