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The more informative your advertising, the more persuasive it will be. – David Ogilvy
You have created some great photographs and you are considering selling them. Doing so makes sense. You have skills and you want to recoup the investment you made in photographic gear. Maybe you want to make your hobby ‘pay for itself.’ Maybe you want to generate extra cash. Or maybe you want to start a photography business.
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Whatever the case might be, selling your work involves marketing it. The problem is that marketing is a challenge for most photographers. This is because marketing has very little to do with creating fine art photographs . Many photographers, in fact most artists, abhor marketing their work. In fact, most have never studied marketing. I know. I was one of those artists. When I started selling my work I believed that marketing was putting a price tag on my work. No, cross that. At first I did not even use price tags! Just deciding what price to charge for my work was what I considered to be marketing.
My early attempts at selling my work were rather disappointing to say the least. So much so that it was the lack of sales that forced me to change my mind. I realized I had to study marketing or die trying to make a living as an artist. I did study marketing and to make a long story short I became financially successful selling my work, making a six figure income only two years after taking the decision to embrace marketing.
In 2011 I published a book titled Marketing Fine Art Photography in which I detail how to market your fine art photography successfully and profitably. I wrote this book to save you from having to go through the tribulations I went through early in my career. The goal was to save you from having to attend the school of hard knocks, an institution whose door is better left unopened.
About This Essay
The goal of this essay is not to repeat what I say in my book. The book is over 300 pages long and has 23 chapters so doing so is not doable in a web essay anyways. Instead, the goal of this essay is to introduce you to some of the fundamental concepts of marketing. I selected 14 that I consider to be the most important. There are more, but those are a good start.
About the 14 Commandments Below
Each of the 14 paragraphs below consist of a title followed by a short statement, usually one or two sentences long. The reason for these brief statements is to keep this essay interesting and to the point. If the information I am presenting here is not for you, then reading this essay will not have taken much of your time.
If, on the other hand, you like the materials presented here and want to learn more about each of the 14 aspects of marketing listed below, then this essay will work as a first step in your marketing studies. Do keep in mind that each of these points, and much more, are addressed in detail in my book, together with examples, photographs and illustrations.
1 – Sell quality, not quantity – Art is a luxury, not a commodity. Luxury items are sold on the basis of quality, not on the basis of quantity.
2 – Don't sell on the basis of price, sell on the basis of uniqueness – To achieve this you will need to work hard at developing a personal style that is unique to you.
3 – Don't be faceless – Show yourself. At shows, be present in your booth. On the web, show a shoulder-up portrait of yourself on your website, on your artist statement, on your Facebook page and everywhere else you have a presence and sell your work.
4 – Increase your prices regularly – Everything increases in price and therefore so do your expenses. If you don’t increase your prices you eventually reduce your income.
5 – Don’t be passive – Take charge of your business. Enforce your policies and don’t try to be all things to all people.
6 – Think like a business owner – Think like a business owner, not like an employee. Business owners are responsible risk takers.
7 – Ask for the Sale – Don’t let potential customers walk away without trying to close the sale. The least often asked question in sales is ‘do you want to purchase this product or service?’ Make it your most often asked question!
8 – Know your audience – You are not selling to a faceless crowd, you are selling to people who like you and your work. Learn who they are and know why they like what you do.
9 – Sell emotion – Sell emotions, not gear and technique. People purchase photographs for emotional reasons, not logical reasons. Print size, camera used, printer, ink paper, etc. do not sell photographs. Beauty, emotional impact, personal vision, meaningfulness and other emotional reasons do.
10 – Never stop marketing – Market when business is great and market when business is poor!
11 – Believe in Yourself – Believe that you can. Whether you believe you can do it, or whether you believe you cannot do it, you are correct!
12 – Show what you want to sell – You sell what you show. Therefore show what you want to sell. You can’t show all the photographs you have taken, so you will need to make a selection!
13 – Offer packages – Packages always outsell a la carte. This means that a package price for 3 or more photographs, for example, will sell better than 3 single photographs. You can offer packages of photographs in any quantity from 2 to 10 or more.
14 – Continue to Study Marketing – Marketing changes as economic conditions changes. While the basis, such as these 14 commandments, remain the same, how they are implemented, to what extent and with what emphasis changes. For these reasons you need to continuously study marketing in order to remain competitive.