Before reading the article keep in mind that I do not make a living out of photography. I am just a serious amateur that has a little bit more experience compared on selling fine art prints to an average amateur. The article consists of notes from my personal experiences and it only aims to be a starting point on your decision making process. Please do not solely rely on the information given in this article.
How to Set a Price Tag for Your Fine Art Photography Prints?
This is actually a very open question. There are many outside factors that can impact your pricing including your overall fame and the social value that is attached to your frame by your potential buyers.
Things to Consider
Before setting a price tag for your photos and before preparing them for sale, there are few things that you have to consider.
Try to be be always consistent about your pricing. Too many fixes can cause you more trouble.
Never provide different price tags for the same photo. Your costs for the same photo may change over time or based on the requirements of different galleries. However; in time, consistency is more important than how much you earn now. Selling fine art prints is a long-term commitment. Think about long term gains instead of saving the day.
Do not change the price tag often. Your fine-art prints are not consumer products. They are collectible items and their value highly depends on your pricing strategy. If you want to sell a lot of copies of the same photo either go for stock or for print editions such as posters, framed but unsigned prints etc. If you offer too many discounts or promotions, your customers will start questioning your quality and price tag.
Try not to change your phyisical or online gallery. You need a helping hand to market your fine art photos to collectors. Most galleries have established buyer base. By sticking with the same gallery, you will show the buyers your dedication to art a lot faster than when you hop around.
Do not sell your photos in more than a handful different channels. Fine art prints are collectible items they shouldn’t be too accessible. You don’t want them to become comodity items such as stock photos. It is also important that you have control over your inventory. You need to track how many signed copies you have sold totally. If you loose the track of your photos, you loose trust and value.
Consider similar photos when setting a price tag. How much did you ask for similiar items before? Were you able to sell them? Try to understand whether you are over-or-under-charging? Keep your eyes and your mind open. Listen to the the advice given by your gallery, manager or couch but never be blinded. Visit the exhibitions of your fellow photographers, rank yourself among them, see what they charge and try to set your price comperatively.
Trust is the most important factor. When collectors buy a piece of art, they trust the artist. The more they trust the artist, the more pieces of his/her art is likely to enter into their collection.
Do not sell extra copies of you art. Keep your signed copies with the number of your stated maximum. Never sell or give out extra signed copies under the table. Once you get caught you will loose all your reputation. This can happen a lot quicker than you can imagine.
Do not overproduce. Keep your copies limited to a minimal amount. How minimal? I also have no clue but I guess 50 to 100 is OK for a starter.
Do not constantly switch galleries. Unless you have a really good reason do not move your collections from one gallery to another. Thing this like a regular job. The more job you switch in a short time the more you hurt your reputation in the job market. You can commit a career suicide before you even get known..
Most of fine art print collectors still stick with brick and mortar galleries. There are many Internet savy collectors as well, but even they want to have a physical touch. They want to see a final product. They want to see the print quality, the frame quality etc. Therefore sticking with a physical gallery may be a good idea. Said that, online visibility is also very important. Onne thing is for sure: To increase your fame and reputation rapidly, you need a good looking and accessible online presence and a portfolio site. [You can start with getting a quote from Biber Ltd. ;)]
If your photos are rare to find, you can take your prices to a higher point. When you sell fine art prints, you actually promise to sell something that is as unique as possible. Now, you may say that there are millions of reproductions of many of the famous photos. That is right. I also sell the same photos as fine art prints and as stock image at the same time. Especially with the digitalization of photography, it really became hard to define what is original and what is not. In my definition there are no originals; there are only certified copies: limited editions. You can create the exclusivity with limited editions:
A limited edition is a printed edition of your photo on high quality paper and ink. It is also signed and serialized. Preferably, the signature must be on the front, on top of your frame - NOT on the back.
You need to limit the number of signed and printed images. For example; for a particular image you can decide to sell only 10 copies. What you need to do is to sign each copy with a simple serial number that indicates which copy is this image out of total copies (i.e. Can Berkol – 1 / 50). Depending both on your strategy and on your reputation you may also set different and possibly higher prices to your first couple copies.
The only contradicting catch here is the new trend of collectors. There are a number of collectors specializing in digital collections. Those guys are asking to acquire all the rights of your digital originals. It is another arena and actually most of the things I share here may be obsolete for them. I honestly do not have anyexperience with digital collectos so I'm not sure how their buying process works.
To make things more exclusive you can create special collections or in other words thematic series.This way you can also provide some more reason for a collector to buy more than one print.
Setting the Price Tag: Identifying Costs & Base Price
What makes a good price tag? How can you set a price?... As I mentioned, it is really hard to give a specific answer to this question. Nonetheless a quick consideration of your costs maybe a good starting point. You can set a base price based on your costs. Generally, your costs will consist of the following parts:
Matte is the part that sits between the frame and the photo.
The paper, the ink etc. These can change the price dramaticaly.
Do you want a glass cover, do you want the glass to eliminate the glare?
Commissions & Fees
What do you pay to your gallery, are there any fixed commissions or any monthly fees?
Setting the Price Tag: Identifying the Regular Price Tag
To set a final price you can start thinking more commercial. Usually consumer products are sold for a price tag with 10% net profits. Fine art photos are collectibles and not commodity items. They must be rare and expensive. But how expensive? You can add a bit more percentage but if you are starter I would not suggest that you put a very high profit percentage. 50% profits may be more than enough for a starter. 50% may actually sound a bit high. You may consider lowering your profit margin based on your level; however your current price tag will be a direct indicator of your future price tag. When you create a price tag you create a set of expectations for buyers. If you set your price tag too low, you will ignore your own expectations and it will be much harder for you to achieve your dream prices in the future. Basically, respect yourself and do not settle for less than your worth.
Setting the Price Tag: Identifying the Price Indicators
There are few issues that affect your pricing. The most commons are:
Awards & Recognitions
Do you have any awards or recognitions? Do you hold a special title or are you a member of a known photographical society. For example, are you a Magnum Photographer? Your status can dramatically increase the overall price you can set for your photos.
Did your photo win an award, are they published anywhere? If a particular photo has won a prestigious award then you can price that photo a little bit more expensive than other photos of yours.
If you decide to produce only 10 copies of a specific image whereas you normally produce 100 copies than you can definetly set a higher price tag for that exclusive image.
Shipping & Packaging
Where would you ship the item, how much does the protection material cost? Is this going to be a gift item? Are you expected to provide a special message for the gift receiver?
Along with Taxes this is the part that you have to show extra. (i.e. if your regular price is $140 for a frame you can put your price tag as $140 and then you can indicate that there is Shipping & Handling + Taxes in addition to the price).
Also this is the part of your price that you can provide promotions and offers.
Setting the Price Tag: Example Pricing
To summarrize with an example, if you have a photo that have cost you $50 to print & frame with a monthly gallery fee that equals $10 per photo your base cost is $60 for that particular photograph.
With a 50% profit margin your regular price would be around $90. If this photo has won a prestigious award and let’s say it means another 50% price increase at your heart, your price will increase to $135. If this is a very rare item comparing to your other images and let’s say you have decided to add another 50% to $135, your price tag will be around $203.You can round this down to $200.
Your final tag must be $200 indicating that there are extra costs for taxes and shipping and handling. Let's say there is %18 sales tax, you can set price tag for $236 tax inclusive.
If you are shipping this image to Australia and let’s say the shipping will cost additional $100 with packaging. Your total price tag will be $336.
Setting the Price Tag: Promotions
Personally, I do not suggest making a lot of promotions. The golden rule is to keep the price consistent - especially in single item purchases. Never make promotions on your regular price. If you want to make promotions you can offer free shipping and packaging. You may also send an accompanying print with the sold image - maybe one of the lesser selling prints. You can also provide percentage sales on multiple item purchases.
If you decide to give one of your prints as a gift for no charge; keep in mind whether you sell it our give it away it is still a limited edition and it counts towars your total signed copies.