So you have started your own photography business and you are starting to get noticed. Someone walks up to you, at a show or gallery and ask’s “How much is that print?”
You feel a slight cringe coming on as you tell the customer your asking price, all the while thinking…”am I charging enough for my work?” Well maybe not.
Pricing can be one of the most difficult things you will do in your business. Here are a few ideas that may help you decide. Ask yourself a few questions.
1. Do you think your work is really good, or just plain old run-of-the-mill stuff?
2. What type of customer are you targeting?
3. What do other photographers charge for similar work?
4. How much time are you wasting with your customer?
I want to talk about each one just a bit.
Do you think your work is really good? You need to develop an attitude that projects to your customer a sense of confidence in your art and your business. Being timid and indecisive about your work or business is something that your customer will pick up on right away. Having a lot of experience in what you are doing is a key to developing that attitude.
What kind of customer are you targeting? Well Let’s look at the different types of photo consumers.
There are basically 4 different types of photography buyers.
First is the average consumer,also known as the “tire-kicker.” You know the type, they hang around your booth, at a show, ask a lot of questions and in the end, buy nothing. Generally they have very little knowledge about the subject of photography or art. This type of person stares in dis-belief of a photograph of a vase on a table selling for $400. They mostly buy photography in the form of postcards, calendars, posters or trinkets at a gift shop for less than $50 each. This market has been called a real “career killer” by some photographers. Now if the object is solely to make money, then the millions of consumers may seem like a gold mine just waiting to be tapped. Not so fast. It may bring a lot of customers but the low per item price point will mean that you have to develop a large volume to make up for the lower profit on each item. You may find that your “photography career” may turn into a “distribution career” rather quickly. What fun is that?
The “art collector” is the next class of customer. They are the top of the food chain. They acquire well known works whether on a large or small scale and they see it mostly as an investment potential. They have a great appreciation for the medium and are well informed about the craft, history and who’s who in the photography world. They usually only buy the works of well known photographers and unless you are that well known, this is probably a class of customer you should not target, at least not yet.
Art Aficionados are the middle class of the photo art world. There are 3 types.
The “high-end” aficionado is one who knows the art world well. They do not collect or invest because of limited funds. This is a opportunity for the accomplished, but still relatively unknown, artist who has exhibited before and has been well received. The key here is getting the exhibitions. Showing your work at public TV or radio events or other high society educational or other functions is a great way to get the exposure you need. Donating your artwork to fund raising drives that attract affluent benefactors is another avenue. It does not bring in any money but the key here is to get that exposure. Exposuer, exposure, exposure, need I say more?
The “pretend aficionado” is one who is attracted to art but really does not know that much about it. The problem is that they do not know, that they do not know. They speak confidently about artworks yet have no awareness when they make factual errors. This type of person should normally be over looked but they do buy photo art from good photographers even though they are really not very experienced in doing it.
The “wannabe” is one who loves photography but is still learning about it. This makes them somewhat cautious in what they are thinking of buying. They often haggle over the price and at times, it can be frustrating. Their taste in photography has not really developed but like I said, they are learning. They are not afraid to spend money but they tend to go for the lower priced pieces that the “high-end” aficionado would not bat an eye at. They look for bargains at fairs, cafe’s, street markets and other venues, often in the presence of the “tire-kickers” mentioned earlier.
Spontaneous Buyers simply buy things on the spur of the moment. Maybe they are on vacation and want that memento or they are looking for something to put on that blank wall in the upstairs hall. In general they are unreliable and unpredictable, but their randomness can account for appreciable sales if you position your sales locale well.
The idea here is to pick the type of market that will allow you to set a price for your work and that will get you a profit margin that you can live with, comfortably. As far as prices go let me quote here a bit from the book titled “How to Make Money with Digital Photography” by Dan Heller, published by Lark Photography Books and copyright © 2005 by Dan Heller. Dan writes:
“Let’s go back to the first couple of years of my photo career. I priced my prints low to attract sales, but this just turned into a sinkhole of time and effort. So much so, in fact, that I considered not selling prints at all just to stop those tire-kickers from taking up all my time while yielding no profit. However, instead of withdrawing completely, I figured that I’d just raise my prices so that people would be less inclined to ask questions if they weren’t actually considering a purchase.
I raised the price of my smallest prints (8 x 10 inches) from $25 to $200, and I added bigger print sizes (all the way up to 40 x 60 inches) with ridiculously high prices. Ironically, I found that higher prices had quite a different effect than I’d anticipated. Immediately, the tire kickers went away and surprisingly, the sales started to climb. Unexpected, yes, but what was most interesting was how the demographic of my clients moved from the generic “consumer” to those who were artistically inclined. They did not bog me down with questions, they just bought the prints..
The average consumer is unlikely to spend more than $50 for a print, but those who are familiar with fine art don’t wince at higher prices. Similarly, they don’t ask the questions that consumers do because they already understand the market and, by extension, the product.”
Now maybe, just maybe you now have some idea of where you might set your price points. Getting your name and artwork out there is the key to success.
As you can see a lot of what I have been saying came directly from what I learned by reading all the books Dan Heller has written. I have adopted the “Dan Heller Philosophy” of the photography business.
So there you have it, a bit from me and a bit from my business “guru”, Dan Heller. Incidentally, Dan’s website has a lot of the information I have given you and in more detail. You can also get a feel for the kinds of prices he charges (satisfying question #3) and you can order his books directly from the website, or from your local book store. They will be happy to order you a copy.
Dan Heller Photography
As for question #4, remember the “tire-kickers?”
Good luck and your welcome.