Editions and Pricing

As I gear up for the exhibition at the RMSP gallery, whether to limit the edition size of the prints displayed and how to appropriately price them has been something I’ve been giving some thought to.

Let’s start with limited editions. I struggle to understand the physical reason to limit editions of photographs. When prints were made from an object, such as a metal plate or a wood block or a potato then that object would wear and as such the quality of the print would degrade. In that case limiting the number of prints to the number of good prints that could be made makes sense. For a photograph and particularly a digital photograph this argument doesn’t hold water and so the reason to limit an edition is to help control the price. Buy now before they’re gone for ever! Buy one of the first 10 before the price steps up. That kind of thing. I have little experience with this kind of motivation to buy from a sellers perspective, as a buyer it doesn’t interest me. If what I’m buying is reasonably priced then I’ll buy it, otherwise I won’t. Limiting the edition doesn’t impact that choice for me. Brooks Jensen has an excellent piece on what size an edition should be. You can find the pdf of that here.

It seems common practice even amongst early career fine art photographers to both edition work and also to charge what one could argue are significant prices for their work. I’m not against making a living from photography, far from it but I do wonder whether the price prohibits any work getting sold at all. For instance are you more likely to sell 10 prints priced at $25 or one at $250? Perhaps when you have an established customer base that you know will support your pricing it makes sense but until then what to do? I’m not much of a salesman and as such what is important to me is not wringing every last dollar out of the transaction but making people feel like they got something that was worth at least the dollar amount that the paid.

The actual price should be dictated in part by your fixed costs – this will be different for everyone, but if you’re having someone do the printing for you then you ought to at least cover that cost, if you’re printing yourself then the base price will be fixed by the materials, paper, ink etc., your time and any other overhead – the cost of keeping the lights on and the printer running. How much beyond these costs you want to go is largely dictated by how much do you want to make and how much do you think the market will pay. I think that the answer is that there’s not one answer but to have something that will work for people with a variety of budgets from $20 to $1000 and more.

The scheme that I’m circling around has, I hope, something for everything. Paper sizes from 8×10 to 24×36 with options for print only, ready to frame and framed. The pricing scheme that I have in mind at the moment would give me a range of ~$20 to ~$1500. As I said above I don’t see a reason to limit editions and so for now I don’t plan to limit my prints.

So what do you think – reasonable or crazy? I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.

5 thoughts on “Editions and Pricing

  1. Yes, also my problem here too.
    I did some googling about some tips for pricing my prints, but anyway not many hmm “direct” guidelines if I should say.
    However, I’ve made a plan now on two fronts:
    1. website and offers for regular prints with a range of prices (not expensive and not cheap, except of two images so far).
    2. few prints that I “promise” not to print them again to anyone else in case a customer buy any of them, and their prices are higher.

    The thing that I think it must play a role in the price is the fact that a photographer did work “hard” for his or her shots. Lot of people looked at some of my printed panoramas that I’ve made a decision to print them only once and said “why such a price?” … most people (here locally) think that what I do is simply, photoshoped. They have no idea about panoramas and that the image they see is composed of of at least 120 images and with a long story that can take sometimes a month (when complicated things happen) I stitch it into one image with different viewing angles making interesting geometrical shapes. Needless to say that the equipment I use for panorama making are not cheap … and not light. I’ve been taking some of these shots and panoramas from Ireland and filling my luggage with tools instead of clothes and carrying them wherever I go on legs in Ireland hunting for pictures….

    my point after this long story… don’t sell yourself cheap. Think of this scenario, just as an example:
    you make low prices and you make a base of customers… then? You won’t gain much I guess that way, there must be a spike at some point that you have to offer something special with relatively higher price, or you’re going to raise the prices for your own services gradually, and here in this second option, the base of customers might start to shrink.
    From my side, I suggest a firm stand from the beginning and let people know your ranges from the beginning. Who accepts your prices now might not complain later for some extra charges in case you had to do so, and people who think cheaply of art, won’t approach you and spare you the headache let’s say.

    It depends after all on the local people around you and their perception for the hard work done to achieve such art. Here, I can say, people still think of photography as buying a toy and clicking away some snapshots and don’t realize the necessity for high prices of some prints.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comment here. I’m finding it a tough subject to wrestle to the ground since I want to offer value but at the same time I do want to have the time put into making the photograph reflected in the price. Perhaps the time put into creating the photograph could be amortized over a nominal edition of say 250 images, so that it’s not some number divided by infinity. That would then give you the cost of materials, time etc. plus some ‘margin’.

      A shame that the audience there (Kuwait?) don’t value photography. Persistence my friend!

      • Thanks for the thoughts.
        Well, if you have a base and you are sure to cover the expenses in 250 copies or more, guess that would be fine.

        I was recently in some expo (my first time to be in some expo) and I’ve sort of came out with ideas and an impression about the audience type we have here (yep Kuwait). Maybe the majority, like to see art (specially on computer monitor) but might not care much to see it hanging on their walls or on their desks. One of my plans now is to start proposing for companies and other institutes and maybe interest them in what I do (since I do mainly architectural photography and landscape). The dominant field of photography that would really give a living for a photographer here, is to be a portrait photographer. Not my thing unfortunately.
        The story about photography and its future in here might take a long post, however, from the last expo I’m trying to find a ground and a base and I’m trying to make contacts with some professionals to establish a ring or a network to, somehow, control the future of the art. There were loads of photographers in the expo, some are good and some are bad, while some were unique, and some were repetitive. Sounds good (and many people now just grab a camera, any camera, and start shooting and printing), but it is a chaos in my eyes. There must be a trend and a way to guide the new comers. This is one of the ideas I’m trying to work on right now.

        Another thing, is the color management issue. I’ve been into many printing shops and none (and I mean it) was able to understand what I want or what is even color management. Just 3 hours from writing this post, I was in a shop that is famous among fellow photographers for printing their images and with a little discussion about proofs and profiles, I realized that either they want to monopolize the market regarding their quality printing, or simply, they know nothing and adjust colors in a trial-and-error method. All of this, too, makes me eager even more to have my own digital dark room and my own profiling tools (and I’m planning to get those). I don’t even know yet what’s the standard for color profiling that should be used here; would it be D50 or D65, or even something else?

        Art appreciation in Kuwait is a shaky concept. Maybe you can find it more among the high class families, and probably they buy, to brag, and some few arts scholars and pioneers. However, from what I reckoned after the expo, some people did have interest and had some discussions with me about the make of such panoramas; however, the sensitive question is always there: did you do it in Photoshop? This question is weird a bit because, whether I say “yes” or “no” I’m going to be a half-liar! Thus, my answer would be a short explanation: “Photoshop is used at the end of the process to adjust colors and clean the digital noise, but the whole thing is done out of Photoshop”.

        Well, long post, sorry!
        Good luck with the sell. Hope you go out of stock 😉

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