Selling art: Should I specialize? Or generalize?


A recent question came up on the Fine Art America forum asking if “specializing” is better for selling artwork vs. generalizing.  First off the question confused the idea of style and a niche.

Photography Prints

A niche and style are two different things. One is based on subject, the other is a look.

A niche market is the subset of the market on which a specific product is focused. The market niche defines as the product features aimed at satisfying specific market needs, as well as the price range, production quality and the demographics that is intended to impact. It is also a small market segment.

A niche give you something to promote. Its easier to find a group to market the niche. The problem comes if your niche is too small. Like all the people who buy a macro lens and start taking bug pictures. Turns out only 10 people in the world want a bug picture in their living room and 9 out of 10 of those already have a macro lens.

While a niche is focusing on a particular subject or theme, style is the aesthetic or a set of principles underlying and guiding the work of a particular artist or artistic movement.  You style might be documentary, it might be black and white with deep depth of field, it might be bold, colorful and graphic, it might dark, somber, and moody.   It might be crowded with lots of detail or minimalist with simple shapes.

In the visual arts, style is a “…distinctive manner which permits the grouping of works into related categories.” or “…any distinctive, and therefore recognizable, way in which an act is performed or an artifact made or ought to be performed and made.”

In the end you want to focus your work on your interests.  Subjects and themes that your personal vision of the world draws you too.  From working on capturing your interests, your style will emerge. In the beginning you might try copying past great photographers that you admire but eventually you will stop looking at others work and start producing something uniquely yours.

This video blog from The Art of Photography covers this topic by describing “interpretations” by various photographers.

Work in Series

Anyone serious about a career in the artwork should be thinking in terms of series or in developing a body of work that could fit in a gallery show or book under a specific theme.

If you just want to sell random things then be all over the place. Shotgun approach. Just have lots and lots of images.

Consider that when you look at the recently sold page on Fine Art America it might seem as if buyers are choosing artwork at random but the individual buyer does not pick something at random. They have a deep affinity to the artwork they choose to spend their hard earned money on. The recently sold page shows the results of thousands of individual purchases, not some collective hive mind. The images might appear all over the place because the buyer’s interests are all over the place. You only have to satisfy the need of a single buyer, not all of them.

Sell Art Online