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Selling your fine art

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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Selling your fine art

I start with an apology. Im sorry if this is not the right place to post this, If there is a better forum please direct me to it.

I would like to get advice from people in the trade on how to go about selling my work. I have been seriously considering investing some money in making a few nice prints and framed prints of some of my work and trying to sell it. What is the best way of doing this? Should I go to the local galleries before printing anything and see if they are interested in having my work on their walls. Should I print a few off for an upcoming art exhibit (like the yearly art walk downtown or the county fair). Should I call around to local businesses and ask if they would be willing to display my work on their cafe walls and reception areas? I also wonder about what I should bring with me when I try and meet with someone that might showcase my work. Should I have full size prints in hand, a digital portfolio or a collection of prints that range from 12 - 18'' on the long side.

I was originally thinking (and hoping) of selling my work locally in limited prints but am open to the idea of creating a web site and selling online...

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this, its your opinions and advice that really matter to me because its the work coming from this forum that is continuing to inspire to get outside and do what I love

Feb 18, 2017 at 05:00 AM
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Selling your fine art

I suspect this belongs in the Pro Digital Forum and the moderators will move it. In any case I can make a few comments that might be of interest.

Selling photography is difficult and there is a lot of competition in most areas of the country. You will be lucky to break even unless you are really good and spend years promoting your work. I do know some semi-pros who make some money with sales.

There are sales opportunities at flea market/art walk and similar venues. Typically you will need to invest several hundred dollars in a display canopy in addition to a selection of prints. From what I have seen of this, the typical sale is a canvas print at under $100. It takes quite a while to make any significant money and most people who do this seem to just enjoy the flea market vendor experience.

By all means, make the circuit of the local galleries. In my area that is all but impossible. The major galleries sell investment art from known artists; i.e., the masters such as Adams, Cartier-Bresson, Stieglitz and the like. There are several smaller "vanity" galleries. Typically these are artist coops and the artists pay to have their work displayed. Sales are way less than the member dues. If you live in a tourist area, you might find opportunities in local galleries but even then the competition is usually tough.

Internet sales are also difficult. It is easy to use Zenfolio or one of the other hosts to set up an online sales webpage. There are tens of thousands of them. You will need a unique, specialized product and you will need to learn and spent a lot of time on promotion.

In addition to the tens of thousands who have had the idea of making some money on photography sales, there are countless others whose goal is just to get their work displayed. I belong to several local galleries and art leagues and some have an annual member's exhibition. I also submit work for national, juried shows. I am very selective as some of the juried shows seem to exist primarily to make money off applications. I apply to those of reputable, well known organizations, museums and galleries. Application costs are typically less than $50 but acceptance rates are typically well under 10%. I have had considerable success in being accepted, which just means additional costs for shipping my framed works. Out of roughly 15 exhibiions over the past 3 years, I have only had one print sold and that was bought by the museum. I spent 10 times that amount in application, printing, framing and shipping costs.

Best of luck with your endeavor.

Feb 18, 2017 at 12:12 PM
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Selling your fine art

I will echo what Jim said at a smaller scale.
I tried a local Art & Wine Festival about 10 years ago, a slingle day event
I borrowed a canopy tent, bought the partitions & rented a credit card machine/account
I printed up about 20 of my best , framed about half, just matted the rest.
I had lots of traffic, oohs & awes, but few buyers.
Had a lot of fellow photogs asking questions like "what lens", "camera", etc
Sold about a half-dozen.
The women buyers were more interested in what goes with their decor.
The guys were interested in something for the main cave, so bold & dramatic were their choices.
I knew i wasn't going to break even the first time.

I then signed up for a much larger two day event and began to plan.
What I quickly realized was that I was going to have to sell over $2000 worth to just break even.
That was not going to be sustainable for me in the hopes of somehow breaking out.
Having a regular job & a family to feed was a big consideration.
So I canceled.

Like Jim said, plently of high caliber (and some low) competition.
Many of them were established photographers who ran workshops so this part of their business model.

The funny thing is Paul Marcellini was just starting out & we traded a few message/encouragements.
Not having the other obligations & being younger are a factor. BUT, Paul is pretty good so that worked for him.

I wish you luck & hope you break out. But make sure you do the planning & know what you are getting into.


Feb 18, 2017 at 08:48 PM
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Selling your fine art


You should be rubbing elbows with a local gallery owner and getting feedback on what sells in the area as well as getting some strait forward feedback on your work in particular. Your tastes in what is art may not jibe with that of prospective customers.

I've also noticed that the people who often have a show in a local gallery tend to be those who are active in various charities, clubs, etc. and are therefore already known personally by a potentially larger pool of clientele.

Feb 19, 2017 at 03:35 PM
Javier Munoz
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Selling your fine art

Fine art is a tricky definition.
If by fine art you refer to high quality landscape/travel pictures then is quite difficult to break into the business. You often have to price low and sell high quantities. You are also competing with stock and Ikea's kinda stuff. There are obviously exceptions but pretty much all of the photographers that make a living out of this kind of shooting will tell you that you need years of networking to start seeing the light. And the success is rather gradual.
The fine art that is more personal, niche and less mainstream (more artsy and edgy) is equally difficult to sell because you have less potential customers, you have to equally work the networking (actually is 100% essential). You have to develop contacts to gain access to a certain type of people (not quite the 1% income people but high-income people). Usually helps to live in a big city or in a place neighboring a big city. You sell less copies but pricing can go higher (actually it has to go higher). You really have to have a strong personal vision to succeed in this one and a rubbing-arse-proof nose.
I have known photographers on both sides. The "artsy" ones that I have known achieved success rather suddenly (like from poor as rats to decent income). They meet the right people in the right gallery and things were fast from there. I am sure there are many in-between situations.
Long-story short, yes is quite difficult. Yes, networking is more important that talent. Yes, perseverance is as important as networking.

Feb 21, 2017 at 01:21 PM

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