How an artist can improve their business

 

Folks, being an artist means running a small business.  For some reason artists have a hard time understanding this fact.  They think that being an artist is some kind of pure en-devour divorced from the reality of things such as expenses, taxes, accounting, marketing and economics.

Art Prints

An artist is someone who produces a luxury good.  These goods are sold for income and on the other side of the balance sheet there are all of the expenses involved in producing that good – gas, studio rental, time, material costs etc.

It is not enough for an artist to simply know their art materials and how to produce the product.  That is probably 50% of the business.  The other half is all of the stuff the typical artist seeks to avoid – the “boring” stuff like promotion, marketing, accounting, planning, taxes, logistics etc.

Earlier in my career I went to Boston University’s School of Management with a concentration in Marketing. We studied accounting, business strategy, market research, pricing, marketing, etc. But I went in with a strong entrepreneurial streak having made and sold various items all throughout high school. Later I applied what I learn in school and in a career in the publishing industry to my fine art photography business.

Certainly not every artist needs a degree in Business Administration to pursue a successful art career but these are the topics to study and understand though reading, workshops, seminars or simply asking the right questions to the right people.

Basic understanding of economics, the laws of supply and demand, certainly can go a long way to understanding how an artist can meet up with potential buyers of their artwork.

How does an artist get better at business?  You become better at business by understanding the market, understanding the buyers motivations and understand the niche you represent in the market place.

A few resources:
* CreativeLive – CreativeLive: Free Live Online Classes (http://www.creativelive.com)
* Dogford Studios – Selling Artwork Archives – Dogford Studios (http://www.dogfordstudios.com/category/selling-artwork/)
* Book: Show Your Work

Photography Prints

A few things to do right away:

  • One thing to do right away is to start keeping track of your expenses. Income is just important but real income accounts for your expenses. You might find that you are selling your work at a loss after figuring out your time, gas, storage and cost of materials.
  • Set yourself up as a legit small business and operate as such. Make goals and budget accordingly. Figure out where you need to promote your work, how much work you need to produce, what prices the market will support and the steps needed to take to achieve your goals.
  • Create a five year plan.  Where do you want to be in five years?  Then break down the plan into 1 year, 3 year and 5 years goals.  Reevaluate the plan every year and make adjustments.
  • Identify your target market.  Who is your buyer?  Identify the buyers of your artwork and understand their needs.  Why do they buy artwork? How often do they buy? Where do they buy? How do they buy? What needs does art satisfy to the them?  You know why you enjoy producing art – what makes buying art satisfying to your buyers?  How will you find these buyers?  How will you get your art to them?  Who will handle the transaction? Etc.

Photography Prints

Fine Art America and Pixels Unofficial FAQ Answers

As a successful, long time artist selling on Fine Art America and Pixels, I get asked a lot of basic questions about the format and set up of an account on the POD site.  I’ve covered basic art selling tips and strategies in other blog posts, and talked about what Print On Demand or POD is all about, so in this blog post I’m just going to concentrate on the basic mechanics and questions about the Fine Art America and Pixels sites.

 

BEHIND THE SCENES

Behind The Scenes is where you can control your sellers account on FAA an Pixels.  It contains your account information, public profile, marketing, stats, sales data, sale balance, pricing, etc.

To find your own “behind the scenes” first log in to your account and then hover over your name in the upper right.  A drop down menu will appear and “behind the scenes” will be the second choice.  Click on that and you’ll have access to all of the behind the scenes setting to set up your account.

Spend a lot of time in Behind The Scenes and you’ll discover all you need to know about offering your work for sale on FAA and Pixels.

PRICING

In the real world art pricing is based on an individual artists reputation, skill, past history, career point, show history etc.   While many POD sites treat all artists the same and have fixed profit margins (typically low), FAA and Pixels allows the individual artist to set their own profit margin.

This allows a more established artist to sell at higher prices or perhaps allows for a strategy of volume selling with a lower profit margin — in any case the pricing strategy is left to the individual artist.

FAA and Pixels are a middle man between the artist and the various vendors that they use to fulfill the orders.  The vendor (the one who actually prints the t-shirt, mug, or art print) gets a cut of the overall price and FAA/Pixels takes their cut for processing the orders and running the website.  Then there is the artist’s cut which you determine.  Will it be $5 or $500 for a 20×20 inch canvas print?

In the “behind the scenes” area you will have to put in your profit margin that will be added to the vendor cut and FAA/Pixels cut to determine the final price to the buyer.

You can add profit margins for any print size as well as for products such as mugs and phone cases.  This is the amount you will receive if the item sells.

Photography Prints

Tips

  • If you don’t want to sell a particular print size or a certain product – leave the box completely blank.  Don’t put in a “0”.  A zero means that it can still sell and you will receive nothing.
  • Don’t follow the suggested prices from management.  They are very low and you can do better.
  • You can price individual images each time or set up “Default Prices” in “Behind the Scenes”
  • You can change your prices universally using “Default Prices” and then applying the new prices to some or all of your images.

Art Prints

PREMIUM ACCOUNT

Is it worthwhile to pay $30 a month for a Premium Account on Fine Art America and Pixels?  Yes – if you are serious about running a business selling your artwork on Fine Art America and Pixels.  You can set up a free account to test out the system and upload 25 images.  A free account is great for seeing how everything works and getting your profile ready, but don’t expect to sell anything.  25 images is a drop in the bucket to the thousands of new images that get uploaded every day on these sites.

The chances of some buyer finding your images with only 25 is like a needle in a haystack.  Consider that you will be in this for the long haul and it might take many months if not years to start selling your work.  It takes time for your promotional efforts to pay off.

So any way, consider the $30 a cost of doing business that will most likely be paid off with a sale or two if you market your work.

Photography Prints

Pixels vs. Fine Art America

Pixels and FAA look awfully similar don’t they?  Except for a few logo differences and colors they are virtually the same site although Pixels has more of the product stuff such as mugs and t-shirts whereas Fine Art America sticks to the more traditional art offerings such as canvas prints and framed art.  But its the same company, same artists for the most part and same vendors fulfilling the orders.

If you sign up to sell your work with one of them, you will be on the other one too.  All of the “behind the scenes” stuff is shared.  Make a change to a price or upload a new image on one site and it changes on the other on too.

Why do I get so many visitors from the same cities?

If you watch the visitor count in “Behind The Scenes” you see your images being visited by the same cities over and over. Especially if you promote your images on social media such as Twitter. Instantly after Tweeting you’ll see 20 or so hits from these cities.

Are these real people looking at your work? Most likely not. Most of the views are from search engine bots that constantly scan the web for new content and uses these software bots to analysis and index web pages and images. Most of what you see recorded in “behind the scenes” will be these software robots or “bots”. To get real people to see your work you have to stop wasting time looking at “views” and get out there and actively promote and market your artwork. Don’t worry about view counts, worry about attracting buyers. It only takes one view from an active buyer to make a sale or you can get thousands of bot views and not sell.

How and when will I be paid?

If you are fortunate enough to make a sale, you will receive notification via email.  You can also check sales in “behind the scenes” under “sales” or under “balance”.  Payments are made each month on the 15th via PayPal.  But you won’t be paid right away.  FAA/PIxels has a 30 day money back guarantee so you have to wait for that period to end.   It could be up to two months before you are paid depending on when the order comes in.  And the buyer could cancel to order, have used a bad credit card or returned the item.  So basically don’t count your chickens until they are in your PayPal account.  Fortunately returns are rare but they do happen and they stink!

Sell More Art – Understanding Buyer Motivation

Modern Farm House Style Decor https://edward-fielding.pixels.com/art/farm
Modern Farm House Style Decor
https://edward-fielding.pixels.com/art/farm

Recently on the Fine Art America artist forums a member was talking about setting up an art auction site. Other members had a lot of questions about establishing trust, curating the art, and other concerns. Things provided by well established art auction houses.

The “entrepreneur” brushed off these concerns saying “we are the sellers here, not the buyers.”

Sorry folks but if you don’t understand the motivations of the buyer, you are not going to do much selling.

Train photography by Edward M. Fielding
Train photography by Edward M. Fielding http://www.edwardfielding.com

Motivations of the Seller

As an art seller it doesn’t take too much soul searching to understand why you want to sell our art. There are several reasons. The major one being money. You need money to pay for equipment, supplies, food, rent, models, studios space, gas, trips to the dentist etc. Everyone needs money for their time and effort.

The other motivation is a personal satisfaction of knowing that someone else appreciates the work you are producing. Other motivations include career advancement, prestige, reputation, fame, branding and other achievements. But all in all its rather straightforward. You are producing a creative product and need to find buyers who will support your ongoing efforts.

Motivations of the Buyer

Motivations of the buyer can range from wanting to cover a crack on the wall to wanting to make a financial investment. The motivations determine if someone buys art on sale at Walmart, buys from an artist at an art fair or buys at a high end aution and stores the art in a bunker for ten years.

If your method of selling does not match the motivations of the buyer, you are probably not going to sell much art or photography. Let’s some reasons people might want to buy art.

  • They need a gift for a wedding, graduation, birthday, housewarming etc.
  • They want to decorate a room.
  • They want something cheery to greet them in the morning.  Something uplifting that will make them laugh or smile.
  • Something that will remind them of something – a trip, a place, a time, a location.
  • To impress.  They want to impress their friends and co-workers with their good taste.  The art enhances the owners self-esteem or self-perceptions of its owners.
  • To collect.  They enjoy collecting art of a certain genre or theme.
  • To inspire.  They want art or photography that will inspire their own work.
  • To think.  They want art that will make them think and question.
  • To relax.  They want art that is calming or relaxing to look at.
  • As an investment.  They want to park their money somewhere and hope it appreciates.
  • Price.  The art was a good deal or it was in their budget.
  • To make a statement – social or political statements, philosophies, beliefs or values that the art embodies.  The art expresses the buyers views.

When it comes down to it “the art we buy is as much about who we are as it is about the artists who create it”

Winter Arrives - Barn wood frame
Winter Arrives by Edward M. Fielding – Barn wood frame http://www.edwardfielding.com

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Stop complaining and do something about it

Complaining is easy. Executing is hard.

I think at this point I’ve heard every complaint there is for not creating great photography or not selling your work. Let’s recap.

  • I don’t have a good enough camera
  • If only I had a F1.8 blah blah blah expensive lens
  • If only I lived in a more exciting location
  • If only I had a home studio
  • If only I had that new camera
  • If only I had a full frame camera
  • If only I had that mirrorless camera
  • If only I could afford expensive vacations
  • If only I lived in the country
  • If only I lived in the city
  • If only I went to photography school
  • If only the POD featured my work
  • If only I showed up higher in the search engines
  • If only I could write better
  • If only I was better looking
  • If only my friends were models
  • If only I had a cute dog
  • If only I got started earlier
  • If only there wasn’t so many competitors

Photography Prints

Blah, blah, blah.  Come on already.  If you are not executing a plan to improve your photography and improve your photography sales in this day and age, then I’m sorry, you are just being lazy.

At no other time in history has it been so easy to learn about photography – for free and to learn how to sell your work.

At no other time in history as it been so easy to bring your photography to the market and promote your work.

At no other time in history has the market for fine art photograph or stock photography been so open to so many people.

At no other time in history has it been so easy to learn, improve, create and sell your work.

Art Prints

Seriously, with digital photography there is no need for a darkroom full of smelly chemicals or the need for special equipment or the costs of film, paper and chemicals.  At not other time in history can someone rapidly improve their skill quickly because of digital photography.

Sell Art Online

The Internet provides all the information one needs to learn and get feedback on their images.  Online classes such as CreativeLive provides professional level instruction for free or little cost.

Art Prints

Online market places from Ebay to Etsy to Pixels to Fine Art America etc provide simple access to buyers of artwork.  Stock agencies provide any image supplier from professional to amateur access to the professional image buying market.

Sell Art Online

Sure you can complain that you haven’t found overnight success and the competition is fierce but when was it not?  Artists have always had to hustle and work there way to the top one step at a time.  We’re not digging ditches here.  We are creating imagery.  Of course there will be a lot of competition.  At some point you just have to realize it ain’t going to be easy and you have to work harder and smarter than your competition.

Milestone: 1200 Art and Fine Art Photography Sales

Allow me to toot my own horn, as I can’t wait for others to do it. I sell my photography, design work and art on a variety of platforms from Rights Managed Stock via Arcangel to rental art via Turning Art as well as on Red Bubble and Society6 but by far my most successful selling platform to date has been Fine Art America and Pixels.com.

I have my largest portfolio on edward-fielding.pixels.com and this site offers the most combinations of museum quality prints in the form of framed and matted prints, canvas, metal, wood and more.  Plus decor products such as throw pillows, phone cases, bags and more.

In the past few months I’ve punched through the 1,000 sales mark and my collectors keep growing, discovering new, never sold before images from my portfolio of nearly 5,000 fine art photographs and artwork as well as repeat sales of fan favorite images.

Decorators have also discovered a few of my images for their clients and have received a professional discount for large volume buyers through Designer Prints which is a service to those in the trade who need to purchase in volume for their clients or for resale.

Here are some of my top sellers:

Art Prints

Sell Art Online

Photography Prints

Sell Art Online

Sell Art Online

If you want to sell your own artwork take a look at some of my advice on selling artwork articles:

About Fine Art America and Pixels

Selling Art – Search Engine Optimization SEO

5 Don’ts of Selling Artwork Online

Can I make a living at this?

Understanding Print On Demand – Part One

Want to sell your artwork online? Do some math first

Art Prints

I had to chuckle when a new artist on Pixels and Fine Art America was complaining about their lack of sales on the forum recently.  They couldn’t understand why they hadn’t made a sale yet despite having over 1,000+ views.

Really?  1,000 views and they expect the sales to come flooding in?  Think about how many people walk by an artwork at a gallery or even at a mall store window before something sells.

And that’s real people.  People in a retail environment.  People with a wallet in their pocket or cash in their purse.  People who are already in the mood to do a little shopping.

What is a 1,000 views on the Internet?  Most likely its bots.  Little software robots that index the internet every day.  They come to a page, scan the contents and report back to the search engine from which they came.  They are not buyers.  Bots are most likely 99% of the traffic that an internet page receives and bots are not buyers.

Then there are the lookers, tire kickers and browsers.  People looking for free clip art, people looking for free screen savers, people who are just curious, people who are simply at work – bored and playing around.  And perhaps a few are serious buyers.

So out of that 1,000 views, how many are valid potential buyers?  Perhaps three?

Sell Art Online

Now take that three and consider the competition.  Pixels and Fine Art America says they have upwards of 125,000 living artists who use their site to offer their artwork for sale.  125K artists who are uploading something like 6,000 new images on a daily basis.

So this is the kicker from this artist who can’t believe they haven’t sold anything yet.

“Granted, I only have 8-9 drawings posted” and only joined in 2016 and has zero followers.  In other words hasn’t done much at all.

Sell Art Online

POD means Print On Demand not ATM

Uploading images to a POD site and “offering” work is not the same as marketing, promoting and selling your artwork.  POD sites are not ATM machines.  They don’t spit out money without putting in some effort.

Despite what you might have heard, art does not sell itself.  It needs to be seen and it needs to be seen by a lot of people before the right buyer reaches into their pocket and parts with their hard-earned money to purchase said artwork.

Do you have any idea how many buyers there are in the world wanting to purchase your artwork?  Does it appeal to hundreds? Thousands? Millions? A few? Just one? No one?

Some of the work I offer in my portfolio of nearly 5,000 pieces of photography and artwork has never sold – perhaps yet or perhaps never.  Some have sold a few times and a few have sold nearly fifty times.  Some sold in as little as three days, others took three years to find a buyer.

Some have less than 100 views and have sold.  Other have thousands of views and haven’t sold once.

Photography Prints

What does it take to sell artwork on Pixels and Fine Art America and other Print On Demand or POD websites?

There really is not secret formula to selling artwork on POD sites.  Good work, that is in demand, lots of it plus marketing, promotion and time for people to find it is the secret.

  • Professional, top quality work
  • Unique work that sets you apart from the pack
  • Work that fits the audience of the website
  • Lots of inventory to choose from
  • Promotion
  • Social Media activity
  • Marketing
  • Good titles, keywording, descriptions
  • Time for the work to be found by search engines and potential buyers.

 

 

 

Recently sold on Pixels – April 2017

Vintage trout shop sign in West Yellowstone, Montana.
Vintage trout shop sign in West Yellowstone, Montana.

Beautifully framed with a white rustic frame and gray mat – 40.000″ x 24.125″ print of Vintage Trout Shop Sign West Yellowstone by Edward M. Fielding to a buyer from Calgary, AB – Canada.

How will you frame yours?  Framed or frameless? Matted or metal, canvas or acrylic print or a paper print framed locally?  Hundreds of option available.  http://edward-fielding.pixels.com/featured/vintage-trout-shop-sign-west-yellowstone-edward-fielding.html

Vince Lombardi Football
Vince Lombardi Football Quote

14.000″ x 6.125″ print of Vince Lombardi Football Mug to a buyer from Victoria, TX.  Formatted for mugs yet looks just as good as framed print!  http://edward-fielding.pixels.com/featured/vince-lombardi-football-mug-edward-fielding.html

Vintage Typewriter
Vintage Typewriter by Edward M. Fielding http://edward-fielding.pixels.com/featured/vintage-manual-typewriter-edward-fielding.html

Recently sold  greeting card of Vintage Manual Typewriter to a buyer from Toronto, ON – Canada.

http://edward-fielding.pixels.com/featured/vintage-manual-typewriter-edward-fielding.html
Photography Prints

Some of the more unique images in my portfolio.  Sold a 9.625″ x 10.000″ print of Instant Artist to a buyer from Eureka, CA.

http://edward-fielding.pixels.com/featured/instant-artist-edward-fielding.html

Westie Phone Case by Edward M. Fielding
Westie Phone Case by Edward M. Fielding

Sold a IPhone 7 Case of Portrait Of A Westie Dog to a buyer from Roslindale, MA.

http://edward-fielding.pixels.com/featured/portrait-of-a-westie-dog-edward-fielding.html

Surfboard Fence Maui Hawaii
Surfboard Fence Maui Hawaii by Edward M. Fielding http://edward-fielding.pixels.com/featured/surfboard-fence-maui-hawaii-edward-fielding.html

Edward M. Fielding sold a 30.000″ x 20.000″ print of Surfboard Fence Maui Hawaii to a buyer from Redwood City, CA.

http://edward-fielding.pixels.com/featured/surfboard-fence-maui-hawaii-edward-fielding.html

Old 45 Records Square Format by Edward M. Fielding
Old 45 Records Square Format by Edward M. Fielding

Sold a Throw Pillow – 20″ x 14″ of Old 45 Records Square Format to a buyer from Woonona, NSW – Australia. And a duvet cover!

http://edward-fielding.pixels.com/featured/old-45-records-square-format-edward-fielding.html

Additional sales:

Art Prints

Photography Prints

#pixelspros

WOW vs. HoHum Photography

Vintage Tractors artwork

WOW Photographs vs. HoHum Photographs

I had a recent discussion with some Fine Art America photographers about WOW photographs vs. HoHum photographs and if it made since only to upload your WOW photographs for sale to the public.

What’s a WOW photograph? Well, basically any photo that grabs peoples attention. Something that makes people stop and take a look in this modern world of image overload. A WOW photograph is  captured and of a subject matter that is interesting and unique.

  • HoHums are scenes that that have been shot a million times and don’t offer anything new.
  • HoHums are shot in 12 noon with harsh over head light while WOWs are shot at sunset.
  • WOWs look good as thumbnails and grab attention.
  • WOWs are a unique way of looking at a iconic subject.
  • HoHums are background noise, WOWs are the main event.
  • HoHums say “look I saw this”, WOWs take you there.
  • WOWs make you want to go somewhere and take the same shot.  HoHums make you wonder why the photographer even brought the camera to their eye.
  • WOWs are determined by the photographer and the buyers.  Not all WOWs are landscapes.  For someone looking for artwork for their diner, the gleam of bacon on a mouthwatering breakfast sandwich might be the WOW they are looking for.
  • HoHums have been seen a million times.  WOWs bring a different take on the subject.
  • WOWs favor the well prepared photographer and the busy photographer always looking for the next WOW subject.

The group concluded that while HoHum photographs might sell once in a while, usually because there is no other competition yet in the category but WOW photographs will sell over and over.

Sell Art Online

This sunset shot of a lobster pound in Clinton, Connecticut is a good example of a WOW shot. A great detailed subject with lots of interest to people who live near the ocean and shot during a beautiful summer sunset. It has sold multiple times.

Sell Art Online

This steam train dream concept shot is a created WOW because of its uniqueness and well crafted drama. It has sold multiple times.

Art Prints

Even food photography can be taken to the WOW level with good composition, preparation and lighting. This shot of balsamic roasted onions has sold over and over as a stock photography image.

Art Prints

WOW photography takes advantage of composition, lighting and subject to create a since of drama and intrigue.

To Get to WOW You Need to Shoot a lot of HoHums

I shoot a lot of HoHums. Every photographer does. Even Ansel Adams, who shot all the time considered 12 images to be a good crop for a year.

But the HoHums typically either get trashed, sit on the hard drive or maybe become stock photographs. The WOWs are the images that grab ones attention from just a thumbnail in Abobe Lightroom. They are the ones that get the extra attention of post processing in Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop and perhaps even OnOne Perfect Effects.

HoHums are practice.  HoHum photographs are for learning what not to do.  HoHums are experiments.  HoHums get you comfortable with your equipment.  HoHums are training.  HoHums are neccessary so that when a WOW opportunity presents itself you are ready to capture a WOW.

Now the Catch 22 on online selling is that you need enough product in your store  to attract buyers.  Online selling deals with the concept of Long Tail retail and marketing – i.e. having a deep inventory of products to appeal to a diverse market.

If you only upload the 10 WOWs you’ve achieved so far, you won’t have enough inventory to attract anyone to your portfolio, so you have to upload some photographs that are to exactly going to knock the socks off anyone.  But as long as they are not utter trash its ok.  Keep the quality consistent even if the subject matter might not be earth shattering.

The problem newbies have is they haven’t shot enough to pick out the best.  Probably they are not ready to sell to the public but they want to and thus start uploading utter crap that only turns off buyers.  Better to wait until you have a few WOWs under your belt before leaping into the world of selling your work.

Just keep in mind that you are not offering your work in a vacuum.   You are competing with all of the WOW photographer created by professional photographers.  You have to bring your A game if you want to WOW buyers.

Tornado by Edward M. Fielding
Once in a life time WOW moments like this can only be captured if you are prepared. Art Prints

Can I make a living at this?

Can I make a living selling my photographs online?

In danger of sounding like the overgrown fifth grader, PeeWee Herman, my response has to be “I don’t know, can you?”

I can’t predict people’s future or have any idea of someone drive to succeed.  When someone asks “can you make a living licensing stock photographs from microstock sites” or “can you make a living selling artwork or photographs from PODs or Print On Demand sites” the answer has to be – “maybe”.

Some people do very well on stock photography sites and fine art sites like Fine Art America, Pixels, Red Bubble and Society6.  Some sell  enough to make a living at it even if its a modest one.  Then again some sellers live in third world counties where the cost of living is low.  Or they have a very spartan existence and eat ramen noodle three times a day.

The idea of living off of one’s artwork or photography buy simply uploading a few images and then kicking back on the beach is a fantasy.  Any photographer I’ve seen that has been successful has had to really hustle to make a living – they shoot weddings, they shoot events, they teach workshops, they shoot non-stop.

Alamy recently had an interview with a photographer that reached $250,000 in sales but that was after 15 years and uploading 27,000 images into his portfolio.  27,000!  Imagine finding, creating, processing and uploading that many images.  Imagine the time and effort involved.  Its not easy!  It takes dedication and working at it every single day to find worthy subjects.

From what I’ve seen, most photographers starting out in the game thinking they are going to make some money with their camera tap out the depths of their imaginations with garden flower photographs.  If garden flowers are the best you can come up with, you are going to be sorely disappointed.

Then there are the landscape photographers who dust off their cameras a few times a year when they are off on a holiday.  They stand in the National Parks next to hundreds of other vacationers getting the stale Kodak moment shot and then expecting to retire on the results.  Hate to break the news to you but very few people make a living as a landscape photographer.  Unless you have a sales force and chain of galleries in vacation spots like Peter Lik or magazine assignments from National Geographic and Outside Magazine, you probably will not be making a living as a landscape photographer.

To make any real money with your camera, you have to shoot people.  Learn to make people look good and you’ll make money with your camera doing portraits, senior portraits, weddings, fashion, etc.

Then there are the gadget hounds.  The guys with the latest and greatest cameras and lenses.  You know the guys who spend more time on the camera forums arguing about which lens is the sharpest than they spend actually taking pictures.  These guys spend all of their disposable income so they can have bragging rights the next time they are on vacation.  They are busier looking at people’s camera straps then the vistas before them. They are the ones who wander up to you while you are trying to compose a show with “I see you have the Canon X123” and try to get you to talk about camera gear.  The working photographer has no time for this, they are busy working!

If you decide to go professional with your photography, every purchase counts.  When you are in business for yourself every lens has to pay for itself.  The hobbist can buy a macro lens and play around shooting insects in the garden but the professional has to ask – what is the market for ugly bugs?  When will I make back the hundreds of dollars I just spent on this lens?

The best advice I can give is to do your research.  Here are a few books to get you started.


Five reasons people give away their art

Back in the day I was the Director of Market Research at BYTE magazine.  My job was to prove the value of our readership for the ad sales staff.  I used to cringe when the young, inexperienced sales people used to come back to the publisher with some truly awful deals that would basically be giving away ad space.  Any fool can give things away for less than their value.   A seasoned professional or informed amateur recognizes the value of their work and the market needs.

The Line Up
The Line Up – call in the usual suspects – http://edward-fielding.pixels.com/featured/the-line-up-edward-fielding.html

Why do people give away their photographs and art?

The global art market achieved total sales of $63.8 billion in 2015.  People want to buy art and photography for their home and office.  They need to purchase art and photography for commercial purposes such as advertising, web pages, brochures, magazines, books, etc yet some people continue to give away their artwork and photographs or seriously undervalue their work.

Why is this?  I can think of five reasons:

Ignorance – They don’t understand the value of images in today’s marketplace and don’t realize the value of what they have. I recently sold an image for $360 profit a friend gave me. He didn’t understand the value of the image he had and I offered to sell it for him.  Images have value in the fine art market and commercial market.  It is just a matter of realizing it.

Exposure – Photographers and artists are often under the impression that giving away their images will somehow lead to future sales or recognition. The problem is that millions of images are given away every day on social media and there isn’t enough “exposure” to go around. What’s the value of this exposure? Perhaps 1 cent in today’s market. People value what they pay for – no one brags about art they got for free. And no one who has gotten something for free is going to pay for it the next time. They’ll just look for another free source the next time. And the value of someone looking for freebies as a “collector” is worthless. You want to cultivate a follow of people who value what you are offering, not people looking for freebies.

They are amateurs or hobbyists – The amateur or hobbyist is not looking to make a living on their photography or artwork.  They simply enjoy producing images for fun and are happy enough for others to look at their images.  They don’t want to the pressure of having to ask for money and would rather just give away their images.  They live for likes and shares.   The problem with this mindset is that it brings down the over all market and prevents the amateur or hobbyist from ever becoming a professional.  After being conditioned with instant success from likes and shares of their freebies, they are unprepared with standing up for the true value of their work and asking for money for their time, skill and effort.  The advanced amateur or hobbyist is setting themselves up for being asked to shoot weddings, soccer games, portraits for free.

They want to build up a portfolio – This might be the best reason to actually giving away services for free.  If you need to create a portfolio and need access to models or locations or maybe even a good project idea.  But there is no reason to give your time and effort for nothing.  Barter and exchange services instead.  Trade headshots for modeling time.  Create a video for a local business in exchange to some free time at the gym or on the massage table.  Don’t work for free, instead exchange one valuable service for another.

They don’t know how easy it is to take their goods to market – Some artists and photographers simple don’t know how easy it is to participate in the art and photography markets.  In the old days perhaps the only way to sell your art and photography was to take your portfolio around to galleries or sell directly to the public.  But with the Internet there are countless markets amateurs and professional photographers and artists can participate .  Stock agencies cater to professional image buyers and online galleries and print on demand sites sell directly to the public.  I explain how to sell via POD sites in these blog posts: