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man & nature # 18 ~ simple economics

Barn and storm cloudsclick to embiggenOver the past year or so there have been a fair amount of ongoing online discussions about print pricing - prices are too high / absurd, prices are too low / absurd, make only 6 prints, make unlimited prints, etc. is the general gist of it. Maybe for most, the conversation is rather moot in as much as they won't be selling prints at any price or in any size edition.

Since I am anticipating a gallery show or two (hopefully), I have been thinking about print pricing. Some may recall from a previous post that I tentatively plan to sell my decay & disgust prints - 30×30 inch image on 48×48 inch paper - for in the neighborhood of $1,800. Now, to some, this might sound like an absurdly high price but consider the economics of the deal.

The print itself will cost approx. $250 to make (from a very skilled print maker) so, doing the math, we are now talking about $1,550. Still sound like a lot? From that number, a gallery will take a 40-50% cut leaving (at 50%) $775 for me. Still sound like a lot? I will typically incur about $50-$70 of in-house work print costs getting the master file ready to send to the printer. And, realistically, add to that another $100 of general amortized overhead expense.

At this point, I am left with approx. $600. Now, think about that - if my desire is to be a self-supported artist, by which I mean to be able to fully support myself and my art, I would have to sell at the very least 100 prints a year. Even with very good gallery representation, IMO and experience, that would be a tough nut to crack.

It's no wonder then that those photographers who have at least a bit of a high-end reputation price their work in the $5,000-$8.000 range, which, if you don't do the math, sounds absurd, right? But, if you do the math, it helps explain why so many artist photographers are also working some kind of day job.

All of that said, my pricing objective is going to be similar to that of 20×200 - their math goes like this; 3 different sized numbered print editions (small @ $20×200, medium @ $200×20 , large @ $1,000×2. 3 editions = $10,000.

The concept is proving to be very successful. Last week's photograph has nearly sold out - there is only 1 large print left unsold. That's $9,000 of print sales in 1 week. That, my friends, is amazing. And, what I like most about the concept is that, @ $20 for a small-edition print, virtually anyone an be a "collector".

I don't know what the math of 20×200 is - the artist / gallery split, but, judging by the apparent success of the concept, they are on to something here. What the results indicate is that there is a demand for a given photograph at the low end, the middle, and the high-end (albeit, in this case, the low high end) of the market thus rendering the conversation about how to price one's work - low cost / high print numbers vs high cost / low print numbers - relatively irrelevant.

Do both.

Posted on Wednesday, July 23, 2008 at 08:21AM by Registered Commentergravitas et nugalis in | Comments1 Comment

Reader Comments (1)

20x200 editions can sometimes sell out in 10 minutes. If the split is 50/50(?), that's about $4500 each for the artist and gallery.

But here's the rub: most individual photographers cannot sell 200 prints at 20 bucks through their website or through a local show or gallery. Unless a photographer is somehwat well known or very savvy at marketing (preferably both), I bet most photographers couldn't GIVE AWAY 200 prints through their website.

Many 20x200 editions sell really well because of the reputation of 20x200, not because the images are brilliant. Great images don't always sell themselves -- someone with a certain status saying an image is great and marketing to the right audience is what is needed.

Also, if you're shooting for the $5,000-10,000 range and upwards, 20x200 participation will be frowned upon by the elite galleries.

July 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJoe Reifer

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