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.
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.
Marketing Fine Art Photography by Alain Briot
The cover image is my all-time best selling photograph.
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!
Antelope Light Dance
My second best selling photograph
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.
We’re working hard to follow these exact guidelines. I’ve spent the last 6 weeks refocusing our brand in this direction and we’re just launching right now, and we’re very excited! What a great book, we highly recommend it.
Thanks, here, there are a lot of good point.
Probably the premise is the most true, artists often don’t know marketing and aren’t in comfort with it. All the 14 point are true.
I’m quite pleased I found these tips. I’m really close to launching my site. I will be selling prints of my work. I can and will be successful. I’m making sure to be around others that help my train of thought stay like this. They believe in me for a reason. I recently came to the terms that I am good, I do have an audience that wants what I have, and I’m going to make a living doing what I love. Thanks so much for your help. Will be up and running soon at http://www.bostonsphotos.com
I’ve seen quite a few people that have been linked from here, due to my comment. Thanks to all for stopping in. The site will be launched by the beginning of next week!https://farm3.staticflickr.com/2465/3874078467_1edb390e18.jpg
From 2000 – 2014 the fine art photography market has taken a 80% loss in revenues, so don’t take it personal if things go slow, even the most successful photographers have been struggling to survive in today’s climate. Times are tough but for artist it’s even tougher to make ends meet. I felt it was important to share this comment with those photographers entering into this field since I truly care about the success of all artist around the world, since your work is so vitally important and serves an important roll in our society today.
80% Loss thats huge…well you just have to follow your dream 🙂
Where does that figure come from, how was it calculated, and how reliable is it?
Thank you Alan for inspiring artists like me who love making work, but are unsure about marketing. And for your lovely photographs.
You are welcome Erica 🙂
Thank you Alain,
Very informative in a concise, easily relatable format. I am looking forward to reading your book. People say that it is tough to be in the arts. It is tough to be a stock person at a grocery store, it is tough to be a physician. Everything has it’s challenges on the road to success, and success means something different to everyone.
You are welcome Michael
Great post, if anyone could give me some feedback on my website, would be very much appreciated. Very difficult to be a creative photographer and a business person at the same time. http://www.pcarverphotography.com
Alain, Thanks for the points. I am handling the business affairs of my father’s photographic collection. My favorite photo of yours is your second all time best seller. Phenomenal image and the light seems to create an angelic figure, just amazing. I am in the midst of getting my MBA and our marketing professor had some similar advice. Well done and continued success.
I am getting ready to send out a package of 14 images printed on 14 individual postcards along with a cover letter and business card to up to 200 businesses. It is very costly to complete this package so I wanted to know if I should offer a discount on packages like you suggested; and if so, what should I offer? I want to have this cover letter completed and ready to mail these 14 images to these 200 businesses the first week of December 2017. What are your suggestions regarding packages to offer in this first mailing, and do you believe 14 images is too much to send the first time. It is a nice cross section of my work in both color and black and white of unique architecture, classic cars, tall ships, nature and horses. I want to compose this letter in the next two days so I would love to have your feedback at your earliest convenience. I enjoyed reading your 14 tips. Please advise. Leona Webb 11/22/17 7:08 p.m. EST. I look forward to your response. I generally sell photographs 24″ x 36″ and larger, however, do smaller as well. Thus far, I have been successful with lawyers and doctors. (734) 904-4612
These are some great insights you are sharing in your post, thank you Alain. I am also curious to learn more about what the fine art photography market has been like over the past couple of years. Would someone share some of their most recent experiences?
All the best, Cato