Incense

by Bart Arondson

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I'll be doing a gallery show in the spring at my university, any advice on how to price my photos? I am not a photography major, so I don't have any resources for advice on things like this. I am so very excited to see my work in a gallery, it is an unreal opprotunity. I'll be doing a mix of sizes, some canvas, some mat board mounted, some framed. I've partnered with a student organization that raises awareness on human trafficking and have used the topic as my inspiration. Photos are dark and emotional and I've put my entire heart into working on this concept. I had to do many shoots to get the variety I was after. (I am still working on the project currently.)

My audience will be students, professors, possibly university big whigs and donors. I've seen pieces in this same gallery priced around $20, but I've also seen them in the thousands.

Another consideration, I have decided to donate a portion of my profits on any work that I sell to the organization I'm partnering with. I haven't set a percentage to donate to them yet, any advice there?

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Don't know anything about pricing, but I did think of something else which might be relevant. A contract with the gallery could be useful to prevent misunderstandings. An example contract can be found here docracy.com/0adc4pb2g7g/… –  Bart Arondson Dec 12 '12 at 10:00

3 Answers 3

Your baseline should be whatever it costs you to print, mat and frame the photograph.

That's a starting/break-even point. Then double it if you're feeling generous, triple it if you're not.

As far as the donation, I'd do 30% of the profit, but I have no idea what you'd do. Whatever the percentage, make sure you prominently display the fact that 'A percentage of every sale goes to raising awareness'.

Don't be disappointed if sales aren't what you hoped they'd be. Remember that while purchasing one of your pieces is the sincerest form of flattery, not purchasing isn't necessarily a negative critique.

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Why is there a downvote on this one? pls explain when doing that, if it is not an unrelated post/spam –  Michael Nielsen Dec 12 '12 at 21:46
    
Pricing art is unrelated to the materials cost. This is entirely the wrong approach. –  mattdm Feb 2 '13 at 14:44
    
My point was that the price of your materials is a lower bound for pricing photos. If that is entirely the wrong approach then please give an example of the right approach. –  BobT Feb 3 '13 at 3:15

It's important to remember that you are not selling printing services - people aren't paying for the prints, you are selling images created by your vision, your talent and your expertise, not a piece of framed paper - so there should be no relation between the cost of printing and framing and the price of the pictures (except that the price must be higher then the cost).

The correct price is (as always) whatever buyers are willing to pay - and like any business this is more about marketing then the quality of your work.

If the gallery is arranged like a good museum, you are well dressed and act the part and the audience members are professors and bigwigs, you can get pretty high prices - if the gallery is arranged like a street fair and full of poor students you won't get much.

And about the donation - if you are going to be donating for your entire career, then 10% is very nice and generous. If this is a one time donation, something higher may be appropriate. If it's a fundraiser, maybe go up to 100% of the profits

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You'll need to price your photos at some multiple of their manufacturing costs. It might feel odd to charge $200 if something costs $50 to make but it isn't. When you treat your photography like a business you soon realize that you have many other legitimate business expenses. Not even counting expenses like a new camera and lens (which you may have bought for personal, not business, reasons) but real honest, expenses of the gallery.

Let's say you are selling your prints for $200 and they cost $50 to print, mat, and frame. You have $150 in profit on each print. Right? No! You need to look at the bigger picture.

What do you do about unsold inventory? In this example you have 9 photos in the show, that cost about $500 to produce. (Why not $450? Because you need to buy extra materials in case you ruin some doing the matting and framing. (I have ruined frame pieces, mats, glass and prints in my studio right now...)

So you sell 2 prints at $200 each. That's $400 in income from the show and $500 in expenses. The show was a $100 loss for you. Even if you took the risky route and only bought materials for the 9 photos you still are at a $50 loss.

This might seem like a contrived example but it is real. I'm a gallery represented artist. My gallery owner promotes me heavily and my pieces sell well. However after 3 years I'm still showing a loss. The items I need to get under control are ruined framing materials but more importantly unsold inventory! I have a lot of "sure things" in my unsold print box.

Don't let me dissuade you, I'll keep doing this. But don't think that even a bare print should sell for $20, please...

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