I believe that photography is all about loving what you do and doing what you love, but for some of us, we want to sell our photography. The illusion of course, is that if we are good enough we will have a multitude of orders. That's is not the case. I was going to review the book “Marketing Fine Art Photography” when I opted to send a few questions the Author's way instead. Here's a few pointers on how to Market your photography with Alain Briot. He's a landscape photographer, but his marketing insights is valid for anyone interested in selling their photography.
Alain, can you tell us a bit more about yourself?
I am a fine art photographer, a writer, a teacher and a business man. I received my artistic training at the Academie des Beaux Arts in Paris and I continued my studies in the United States all the way to a PhD in the Humanities. I then decided to start my own business instead of becoming an Academic. I studied business at the school of hard knocks. I have made a living selling my fine art photographs, teaching workshops and writing books and essays since 1997.
In your opinion what is a “Fine Art” photograph?
It is a photograph that expresses an artist's emotional response to a specific subject and which is done to the highest standards of art and technique.
Do you think photographers should sell their prints on a part-time basis or do you think it's best reserved for those who make photography their vocation?
Both approaches are valid. I have some students who sell their photographs part time and others full time. I also have students who sell their work and do not need the money. For them it is about the satisfaction that comes from knowing that someone is willing to spend money to own their work. There is no right and wrong way to do it. What matters is knowing what your goal is.
Do you have a basic formula for pricing one's prints?
Quality + leverage + reputation + personal style + vision + marketing = price. The higher these variables are, the higher the price is. The lower they are, the lower the price is. It is important to price your work accurately otherwise it will not sell, either because it is priced too high or too low.
Printing and Matting. Do you recommend outsourcing it to a third party or the Do it yourself way? Why?
Doing it yourself saves you money and increases your profits. This is the approach I recommend.
In your book, you offer many ways to sell one's photography. Galleries, Art shows, online…. In your experience what has been the most profitable avenue and the least profitable?
It is a matter of personal taste, knowledge, experience and above all of how good your marketing really is. I started with shows and made an excellent income that way. I now sell on the internet and through my home gallery and I make an excellent income that way. Galleries do not work for me because I do not like giving half of my selling prices to a gallery. This business arrangement forces me to create twice as much work to make the same income I make selling my work myself. However, I know photographers for whom selling their work through gallery consignment is both enjoyable and profitable.
You said to “know your customer”, How does one go and learn about their market?
Through research, practice and experience. I am selling to real people who I can picture in my mind, not to a faceless crowd whose members are anonymous. I teach my students to follow the same approach.
Speaking of market, could you comment on the current status of the Fine Art market? Is it increasingly hard to make it because of the staggering amount of photographers?
Having more and more photographers trying to sell their work definitely makes things more difficult. However, what this really means is that marketing has become more important than ever. It is crucial to keep in mind that as in any market, 20% of the businesses make 80% of the income. The goal is therefore to become part of those 20%. You do this by creating a better product and by marketing more effectively than everyone else.
In your experience what are the most financially successful photographs? Those who prime composition, subject matter, processing or all 3?
Emotionally powerful photographs outsell all other types. This is because art is an artist's emotional response to a specific subject and this is what educated art buyers are looking for.
What is your best advice to handle competition?
Work harder, be smarter, do what they are not willing to do and do not pay attention to how much they make. At the end of the day what matters is how much money you have in your pocket, not how much money is in your competitor's pockets!
Sometimes, images you think will be popular aren't and vice versa. How does one judge the sales potential of an image?
Experience, market testing and the pricing formula mentioned above. if you score high on all the variables of the formula your work will sell well provided you know how to market it.
What's the most common marketing mistake you see photographers make all the time?
There are actually four: looking only for new customers instead of marketing to previous customers, not having a lead generating system, competing on the basis of price and believing that your business is different from other businesses. These are the four most common mistakes made by all businesses, not just by photographers. In my books, workshops, Mastery Workshops on DVDs, etc. I teach you the correct way to market and sell your work so you don't make these mistakes.
Some think that art is from heaven and that marketing and money are evil. How can one adopt a more holistic approach to art and marketing like you have?
By understanding that this belief leads to business failure. What makes a business successful is marketing and generating a significant profit. Marketing and making money are exciting because they give me the freedom to grow and to continue doing what I love while offering better and better products to my students and my collectors. My clients enjoy my marketing because it helps them invest in artwork, workshops and educational materials that enrich their lives and further their passion. I teach my students to follow the same approach.
Some photographers undersell themselves and their services. What is your advise to re-mediate their feeling of unworthiness?
Set a price for your time, not just for your supplies. My time is currently priced at $400 per hour. Whatever I do, this is the price I charge, in addition to my supplies. As it turns out, most often my supplies are ‘free' in comparison to the cost of my time. I started low and I have increased my prices every year. I do it on my birthday because it is a celebration. Decide what you want to charge per hour then follow the same approach.
Any closing comments?
Financial success in fine art comes from selling the finest work at the highest price and I will show you how reach this goal. You do not need to study at the school of hard knocks and make all the mistakes the way I did. I offer you a better way. Through my educational materials, workshops and seminars I will teach you how to be successful now, not later. A good place to start is by subscribing to my free newsletter. You will get 40 free ebooks when you sign up, several of them on how to market fine art photographs. Do it now. This is the right time to move ahead and to make your dreams come true: www.beautiful-landscape.com.
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[highlight] Marketing Fine Art Photography: Mini review[/highlight]
Thank you so much for answering the questions, Alain. Alain is the author of “Mrketing Fine Art Photography”, an ebook (or book) that was much needed. It's the most complete ressource I have found on the subject. Alain's forte is Landscape Photography, but the knowledge he shares in the book is applicable to anybody who wishes to sell their prints and more.
“A poor photograph well marketed will always outsell a good photograph poorly marketed”
As a marketing for photographer's book, it is an essential read. It gives you your options, how to get there, what to do, all in a no nonsense approach. It's very in depth, it goes into how to present yourself, leave behinds, how to transport your work, etc. Talent is not enough, being a good photographer is not enough, “A poor photograph well marketed will always outsell a good photograph poorly marketed” is Alain's own words. And it's so true.
It's the best kept secret of commercial photography, the fact marketing trumps art. As passionates of the art, we wish it was about the art, but really, it's not. The best marketer wins. I wish it was the opposite, but it's a sad fact. Actually, Alain is very up front about it: Marketing costs time, that means time away from actually shooting. It's the dilemma of the pro photographer, there's more “pro” involved than “photographer”. But in the en it all boils down to intent, what each of us want from our photography.
If you want to sell your prints, be a fine art photographer part time or even full time, get the book or ebook. It's a complete resource and gives you the luxury of looking at the before-and-afters of Alain's life. His mistakes and his breakthroughs, his “school of hard knocks” in other words. It's a fat book, with lots of text but also lots of areas you didn't expect to be covered like taking care of your prints while transporting. The information contained in the book is highly valuable as it takes you from A to Z, from Intent to pricing your Prints.
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I can't recommend this enough for those who are interested. Selling your photography requires commitment but the book makes the road clear. The amount of information is well worth the asking price.
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