Selling Artwork: So you thought it would be easy…

Find it hard to sell your artwork?

So you’ve recently retired and are looking for something to occupy your time.  Perhaps you’ve taken up painting at the local arts center and feel ready to start moving those canvases out of the garage.  Or you’ve always liked to take pictures on vacation, bought yourself a fancy camera, booked some exotic vacations to the national parks, visited a Peter Lik gallery and thought,  if he can do it why not me?

Sell Art Online
Did you think it would be easy?  Selling artwork or photography in a global market against college trained artists with decades of practicing their craft?  Did you research the market and see with the total sales of landscape photography is and how many landscape photographers are chasing the same dream?  Well at least as a retiree you have several advantages over the full time artist community:

  • You are in it for fun, no need to make a living at this after all you are retired
  • You probably have a roof over your head.  No need to pay thousands a month for a shoe box apartment in Brooklyn.
  • You have savings.  No living from pay check to pay check from your bartending job.
  • You can afford the newest, latest and greatest equipment.  No saving up for a daily camera rental for you.
  • You didn’t spend $150,000+ getting an arts degree. So you start $150K of the game.

But what made you think it would be easy to sell your artwork among the zillions of other people trying to sell their artwork?

It is not like the chances are great anyone makes it in the arts business and the art world is not a lucrative industry.  What ever career you retired from was a lucrative career – the arts are not.

The median income of those with art degrees who made their living as artists in New York City in 2012: $25,000

The median income for an artist in Canada in 2012: $21,603

80/20 Rule 

Did you think you could just make it and the sales would appear?  By any measure artists of all levels of success spend most of their time promoting and marketing their work.  Twenty percent of the time they are spending on actually making art.   The rest of the time they are trying to keep from getting kicked out of their apartment studio or trying to sell their work.

The 80/20 rule also applies to who gets all of the financial rewards.  80% of the rewards go to the top 20%.  The bottom 80% have to fight it out for the $20 left over.  Who is going to fight harder?  The retiree looking to make a few extra bucks for greens fees or the recent art school grad trying to make it to avoid moving back into their parent’s basement?

This blog post was inspired by this excellent article by Alexis Clements 

https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/chances-success-arts-21st-century/#!

Stock Photography Reality Check Part One

So you think you might like to dabble in stock photography?  Here is a bit of a reality check to keep your expectation in line with reality.

What is stock photography?

Stock photography is the solution to expensive custom photo shoots.  Not every commercial photo use such as a magazine advertisement,   online ad,  local ad circular, small business business card etc. has the budget for a full on custom photo shoot.

Brand name fashion ads in Vanity Fair and Vogue, yes, but not Joe the Plumber’s ad in the yellow pages.  So stock photography provides a library of already made photographs for designers to use.  They might not get exactly what they want but it will be close enough.   Also what they get won’t be exclusive but their lower budget clients will have to deal the very real possibility that other pizza joints will use the same shot of a steaming hot slice of pizza.

In the old days, stock photographs were on slides and the stock agency would do a search for their clients and show they possible images on slides.  They would also publish stock books showing the images available.  All the images were provided by professional photographers.

Then came the internet, cheap, unlimited storage and access to photographers of all walks of life.  This allowed the stock libraries to expand and to accept images from professionals and amateurs alike.  These new stock providers were dubed “microstock” because the economics of lots of images procured inexpensively allowed them to offer the images to their clients for less then stock images previously cost.

Will I make a zillion dollars selling stock?

The microstock industry has matured to the point where there are millions and millions of images available for licensing.  In the very early days, one could up load a crummy photo and it would sell over and over.

Now a days your images are in competition with millions of other images.  The reality of today’s microstock market, is that you can see a few sales here and there but you can’t expect to give up your day job for microstock.

Are there more sellers or buyers?

The reality is that there are zillions more images available to license then the buyers will ever need.   Just like most things on the Internet – eBay, the fine art photography market, people trying to sell used Ikea Lack coffee tables on Craigs list – there are far more sellers than buyers.

How many images do I need in my microstock portfolio before I start seeing sales?

When I first started selling some of my work as stock, I figured I’d upload 40 or so images and I’d be soon laying on the beach watching my bank account fill up.  Then the reality struck and I realized I’d have to become an image factory if I was going to sell anything.  It was around 400 stock images in my portfolio before I started to see steady sales.

But you can’t stop there.  You have to continually feed the beast just to keep your head above water.  Images flood into the stock agencies every day, you need to provide fresh inventory to your portfolio just to be notices.

It’s gotten to the point where the stock agencies play games like rotating the contributors in the search.  They want to keep the good contributors interested so they try to make sure everyone gets a sale once in a while to hold their interest.

What are the best selling stock images?

The best selling stock images are the ones that are the most costly to procure.  Custom photo shoots with models cost a lot of money but at the same time in the advertising world, photographs with people are the most valuable – images with people are the most sought after.

Every amateur photographer wants to shoot landscapes, flowers or birds so of course the stock agencies are saturated with these images.  If you want to stand out, shoot people or other hard to obtain subjects.

You also want to create images with copy space so designers can add text.  A good way to learn about what types of images make good stock can be found in these books:

Selling Art: Why a few artists succeed on Fine Art America while most don’t

In an interview on the One Million by One Million Blog (http://www.sramanamitra.com) Fine Art America and Pixels.com founder Sean Broihier explains why some artists on the site pull in $10K a month while others see little sales:

Sramana: What accounts for the success of some artists and the lack of success of others on FineArtAmerica?

Sean Broihier: There is a disproportionate distribution of wealth because we do not have a huge bulk of buyers relative to artists. There are some artists who are making an enormous amount of money and some who are making relatively little money. It all comes down to how the artists take advantage of the tools we give them and how they market themselves. The artists who are making $5,000 to $10,000 a month are putting in the required time and energy to generate their own sales. They are doing email campaigns, they are going to art fairs, making TV appearances, and attending trade shows. We are just doing fulfillment orders for those types of artists.

We are a marketplace that gives you tools to be successful. With so many artists on the site, we cannot provide them all with individualized sales and marketing attention. All we can do is give them tools to help them be successful. People who sit around and take the wait-and-see approach will have one or two sales a year. As for anything in life, you will not be successful unless you put effort into it.

Earlier in the interview Broihier explained how the number of artists signing up every day on Fine Art America and Pixels outpaces the number of buyers.  In other words, artists on average see less sales unless they are going above and beyond with their marketing, branding and offerings.

Sean Broihier: The vast majority of orders go to non-artists who have found us through Google or Facebook. You would expect that if you had five artists, you would have 25 buyers to keep them happy. However, because we are free to join and everyone has seen how fast the business is growing, we have attracted a ton of artists. The pace of buying has not kept up currently. Obviously, we are growing quickly. If word got out that FineArtAmerica was doing incredibly well, then I could have another 200,000 artists sign up overnight. I am not necessarily going to see a correlation in the number of buyers signing up at the same time.

See the full 2012 interview here: http://www.sramanamitra.com/2012/03/22/doing-5m-a-year-with-3-employees-fineartamerica-ceo-sean-broihier-part-1/

POD Report: Who owns Society 6?

Society6.com, was acquired in June 2013 by the Leaf Group, formerly Demand Media Inc, which is an American content company[2] that operates online brands including eHow, LIVESTRONG.COM.

Society6 provides artists with an online commerce platform to feature and sell their original images or designs on consumer products such as art prints, phone and tablet cases, T-shirts, mugs, blankets, tapestries, wall clocks, duvet covers, shower curtains and throw pillows.

The Leaf Group also owns SaatchiArt.com, which it acquired in August 2014.

SaatchiArt is an online art gallery featuring a wide selection of original paintings, drawings, sculptures and photography that provides a global community of artists a curated environment in which to exhibit and sell their work directly to consumers around the world.

Links to my portfolios on:

Society6

SaatchiArt

POD Report: Redbubble – Funny name for a site selling art right?

Let’s face it.  Red Bubble is a weird name for a site that sells artwork.  It’s one of those names born in the era when all the good names are taken.  You know like a name that actually give you a clue of what the heck the site is all about.

Apple, Amazon – names chosen just to be listed first on alphabetical lists.

Redbubble is a global online marketplace for print on demand products based on user submitted artwork. The company was founded in 2006 in Melbourne, Australia, and also maintains offices in San Francisco. The company was listed on the Australian Stock Exchange in May 2016 (RBL.AX).

Redbubble (formerly stylized as “RedBubble”) operates primarily on the Internet and allows its members to sell their art work as decoration on a variety of products. Products include prints, T-shirts, hoodies, cushions, duvet covers, leggings, skirts and scarves.  An executive described the company as “a community of artists who upload their artwork in digital form.” The company offers free membership to artists who maintain the copyrights to their work, regulate their own prices, and decide which products may display their images.

redbubble coupon

redbubble stickers

redbubble review

redbubble phone number

sites like redbubble

redbubble com log in

What is your value proposition?

As an Artist Your Value Proposition Separates Your Work from the Crowd

What is it about your work that makes it deserve a sale? Think about the last time you purchased or supported another artist’s work. Why did you do it? How did it make you feel?  What was the value of the purchase to you?

Consider that buying artwork is not like buying a commodity product like salt or gas.  Art is not purchased because it’s the lowest price or you had a coupon.

Sell Art Online

Out of the zillions of available art works and photographs on the market that you could purchase, for some reason this particular piece of artwork compelled you to love it and purchase it.

Some of the factors involved might be:

  • You met the artist face to face
  • You saw a documentary about the artist
  • You read an interesting article about the artist
  • The artwork provoked a strong memory
  • The artwork was the perfect size or color for a space in your home
  • A friend recommend this artist
  • The artist reminds you of a more famous artist that you can’t afford
  • The artwork created a gut reaction
  • The art makes you happy
  • The art makes you think
  • The art sets a mood
  • The art matches your decor
  • The art matches your theme
  • You like the artist positions
  • You like what the art has to say about the world
  • The art is modern, the art is retro
  • The art gives you a positive feeling

etc, etc, etc.

One thing to remember when selling art is people buy or support art for a very different set of reasons than anything else they spend money on.  Not only are they receiving a product for their money but they like to know they are supporting an artist so they can continue to create.

Art Prints

Support Artists To Support Your Set of Values

If you see work you like, you should support this work, even if you don’t end up owning it, because this artist is creating the kind of beauty you want to see in the world. By helping this artist survive and continue to make work, you’re helping someone change the world in the way you want it to change.

Sell Art Online

Your Value Proposition

Your value proposition as an artist sets you apart from your fellow artists and photographers.

VALUE PROPOSITION – (in marketing) an innovation, service, or feature intended to make a company or product attractive to customers.

In an never ending flood of amateur snapshots uploaded daily on social media, a professional level quality and execution.  Consistently, editing, selection and subject choice can be enough to pull your work out of the masses and into the realm of quality worth spending money.

Your followers will come to expect focused images with good composition, free of dust spots, grain and poles sticking out of people’s heads.

Sell Art Online

My value proposition as a fine art photographer would go something like this:

Using professional equipment, honed post-processing skills, years of study, effort and passion for my subjects, creativity and a unique vision, I offer a unique and compelling images suitable for display in the finest homes and offices.

Further my collectors come to appreciate my style of clean and uncluttered compositions.  They might also take comfort knowing that my work has been shown in galleries, on book covers and magazines around the world.

Art Prints

The fact that professional image buyers have selected my work to grace book covers and illustrate magazine articles doesn’t make someone love it, but it does provide affirmation that their choice is a solid one.  After all, if it’s good enough for a book publisher to bet the success of a book launch on, it’s probably good enough to grace a guest room.

Art Prints

See my portfolio at: https://edward-fielding.pixels.com/

 


Art Prints

Can you sell something you know nothing about?

Including your own art?

Imagine walking into a hardware store, finding a clerk and asking about hammers.

“For this job do I need a claw foot hammer, a roofing hammer or a electricians hammer?  Is a fiberglass handle better than wood? What the difference between this triangle head and this round one?”

And the clerk just stares at you blankly and says “Idonntknow”, shuggs his shoulder and goes on break.

Art Prints

To sell art you need to know at least as much as your customers know.  Is you knowledge of photography limited to knowing where to buy a camera?  If a potential customer ask you a question about your photography would you have an interesting response?

“What motivated you to take this image?”

“I don’t know.  I just was thinking it might be a good thing to take a picture of and everyone else was taking a picture of it.”

To be a credible artist, at least do some soul searching and be able to talk about your work enough that the potential buyer get the impression that you are seriously working on your art and craft.  Be prepared to answer questions like:

  • What style is your photography?
  • Who are your influences?
  • Which photographers do you like?
  • Do you know the history of photography as an art form?
  • What are you goals with your photography?
  • What are your passions?
  • What is the last photography monograph you purchase?
  • What is the last photography show you attended?
  • What do you want the view to feel when they look at your photography?

Sell Art Online

Selling Art and Photography requires thinking like a buyer

Do you consume art and photography like you expect your buyers to?  Do you purchase original art?  Do you follow great photographers on social media?  Do you read about compelling photographers?  Do you visit galleries and museums to see what is going on in the world of photography and art?
Photography Prints

To ask a buyer or collector to purchase your artwork, you have to provide more of a reason than “here is a image – buy it” – you need to think and act like a buyer.  Think and act like a participant in the world of art and photography, not just like a stock boy putting another can of soup on the shelf.



 

Selling Photography, Is it really that easy?

How to create the perfect photograph

Today it is rather easy to offer your photography for sale but are you ready to actually sell your work?

Selling Photography – These days it is so easy to set up an account with a POD such as Fine Art America or Pixels that I have to wonder if camera manufacturers will be begin trying to market cameras as a cash machine.

So many camera owners (notice I didn’t say photographers) seem to think all it takes to sell their photography is pointing their camera at something, uploading the images and voila! people will buy.

Art Prints

Most of them find it not so easy to sell their snapshots.  Sure maybe once in a while they get lucky and someone buys one of their garden flower photos or their “Look! I saw a duck!” type images but I’d say the serious art buyer is looking for more depth than a camera operator.  They want some proof that they are buying from a serious artist.

Photography Prints

What’s missing from the typical amateur cameraman goes beyond quality.  Professional quality is that base line standard as you are competing on a world market with professional photographers.  Beyond basic quality standards, buyers are also looking for :

  • Authenticity
  • Intent
  • Passion
  • A unique vision
  • A body of work

    Quality buyers see right through a facade of someone simply trying to cash in with their latest camera purchase.  By looking at an artist’s work you can tell if this person is a weekend warrior who dusts off his camera a few times a year when off to the next national park or cruise trip vs. a working artist.

    Art Prints

    Art comes down to authenticity.  Is the photography a result of an intended, well-thought out, pre-visualized idea?  Or is it just a lucky shot?  Is the photographer authentic,  do they know their subjects, have they spent years learning about their subjects?  Does their passion for the subject show through their images or are they simple recording their travels not really seeing the essence of what they are photographing?

Look at their body of work.  Is it a bunch of random images toss together or do you see a reoccurring pattern of ideas and concepts?  Do you see a unique vision or simply a collection of random snapshots?

Art Prints

Personally I can’t stand gallery shows that have a single image from a number of artists as it is not until you see a series of images from the same artist or photographer that you can understand their vision.  The amateur photographs portfolio will be all over the place while in the profession or more serious artist, you’ll see a unique pattern as they display their vision of the world.

I think buyers pick up on this intuitively.  They prize images from serious artists pursuing their own unique vision over the random snapshot.

Would be photography sellers would be advised to work on their own personal vision before attempting to sell their work.  Develop a body of work with a distinctive style before expecting someone to pay for it.

 

Greeting Cards

Greeting Cards – I just moved into a planned community and at the activity center there were two turnstiles of handmade, photo greeting cards from a couple of the community residents.  Beautiful images from the area – lakes, loons, moose, barns etc.    But I nearly choked when I saw the prices – $2.50 a card!

Why so cheap?  With a typical Chinese-made greeting card from Hallmark selling in the $5 – $7 range why would someone offer their unique, artist handmade cards for so little?  It boggles the mind and makes one understand the concept of the starving artist.  Surely at the low volume of selling to random condo renters at the activity center, these people can’t be making any money on these greeting cards.

Sample Greeting Card – https://edward-fielding.pixels.com/products/i-forgot-your-birthday-edward-fielding-greeting-card.html

I regularly sell greeting cards on Pixels and Fine Art America with $3 artist profit built in for me the creator.  The prices and profit margin drop significantly if you buy a box of 10 or 25 to encourage a larger overall sale.  But they don’t approach $2.50 retail price unless you are going to buy several cards.

Photography Prints

Artists have to consider how many of a certain item they are going to sell when they price them.  Sitting at the kitchen counter making up hundreds of cards and thinking about how much you will make when they sell is one thing but if they take five or ten years to sell through the batch, then what?  How long are you going to wait before you make back your time, materials and squeak out a decent profit?

Certainly consider pricing and your competition which is a mass produced card from the supermarket or Hallmark which can be a few dollars at the low end but up to $10 on the high end.  And you are selling in reality small versions of your artwork.  Hard to sell a nice big print for hundreds of dollars when you are basically giving away the small sizes.  And yes, people do frame greeting cards so price accordingly, they are art, not mass produced throwaways.

See all of my images available as fine art prints on paper, canvas, metal and more as well as products such as towels, phone cases, totes, pillows and yes, greeting cards here – http://www.edwardfielding.com

Article on the greeting card market from The Atlantic:

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/02/why-are-greeting-cards-so-expensive/273086/

Art Sales – Different Strokes for Different Folks

Art Sales – Selling art is a lot like going fishing.  You never know what sale might come along but there certainly are ways to increase your success rate.  Think about two different Fishermen – Bob and Pablo.

Fisherman Bob  sits on the dock near his house all day using the same bait. He picked the location because he didn’t want to invest in a boat and it’s easy. He catches nothing but minnows but at least he got out of the house for the day.

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Meanwhile, Fisherman Pablo buys a boat and heads out to the deep end of the lake where the big fish live, he tries various lures until he finds what works,  pulls in a boat load of lunkers and invites the neighborhood over for a fish fry.

Art Prints

Selling art is no different.  It takes more effort, more investment and more experimentation to figure out what will work best for your art business.

Photography Prints

You can sit around for years using the easiest or first sales channel you found waiting for sales to magically appear, perhaps using a bait-less hook or you can study the competitive landscape and various sales channels and figure out which will work best for your art and your promotional efforts.

Photography Prints

Whatever sales channel you choose (or multiple), it still requires work to get noticed.  You need the right bait – great artwork and you need to drop your line where the fish live.  You have to offer different bait or lures for Bass then you would for Trout.  You have to make your bait more attractive than the natural alternatives and often you have to make full fish hungry with offers they can’t refuse.  You also have to make it easy for the fish or art customer to eat or buy your work.  Let’s face it, if you are a fish or a person buying art we all like convenience.